Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening - Rober Frost poem analysis and summary

This article talks about the poem 'Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening'. The poem has multiple layers of meaning within it and although at first glance appears extremely short and simple, it demands an extremely careful examination. Read this article to get an analysis of this beautiful poem.

Stopping by the woods on a snowy evening is one of Robert Frost's most admired poems that is taught in numerous schools and colleges around the world even after nearly a century after it was first published. The poem has evoked various kinds of emotions in various readers over the years. In part, the beauty of the poem rests upon the different interpretations that can be drawn about the poem and the fact that no interpretation can be taken to be fully correct.

Summary of 'Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening'

The poem talks about a traveler who is the narrator of the poem. The traveler is supposedly male, although the gender is irrelevant here and is not even mentioned. He travels on his horse and on the way comes across a breathtakingly beautiful scenery of a forest covered with winter snow. He doesn't move forward for a long time as he admires the beauty of the forest and even his horse is worried as it is shown giving its harness bells a shake. The forest is extremely desolate, with just the narrator and the horse present in it. Ultimately the narrator is reminded of his numerous promises i.e. responsibilities and therefore proceeds on his way.

Deeper meanings

The poem (on the surface, at least) is a celebration of the calm beauty of nature. The lovely forest covered in snow entrances the heart of the narrator as well as that of the reader. Yet there is probably a deeper meaning hidden somewhere in the poem. One school of analysts see in the poem the moral that we always need to move forward and fulfill our responsibilities despite whatever distractions (in this case the forest) might come in our way. Another school sees in the poem a suicidal tendency. This second interpretation needs to be elaborated further.

A suicidal tendency?

The interpretation regarding the suicidal tendency arises mainly because of the last stanza of the poem that still sends chills among the more sensitive readers. The woods are described as 'lovely, dark and deep'. The narrator wants to stay there longer knowing that staying out in the open on a cold night might lead to his ultimate death. Yet he expresses that wish. Was it a death wish that was thought about and then discarded or delayed for some time? Did the narrator want to become one with the forest, merging into it? What does 'sleep' mean in the context of the poem? Does it simply mean taking rest or does it mean the irreversible and eternal sleep into which the narrator wants to descend? When asked if the poem contained any suicidal tendency, Frost once answered with a simple 'No' thus fuelling doubts and interpretations.

A poem worth admiring

Over the years, thus there have been different opinions as to what Frost meant by that celebrated last stanza. But Frost himself wasn't planning on committing suicide anytime soon as he wrote quite a few beautiful poems (lots of them in fact) after writing that stanza. The stanza, like the rest of the poem, is beautiful in terms of the words used and the rhythm based on which it is arranged.

Let us finally look at the poem as a whole –

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
By Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

(Poem has been taken from the web page of the Poetry Foundation.)


Author: Umesh04 Nov 2019 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 5

The author has well illustrated the deep meaning residing in the realm of this poem and well explained the philosophical undertone in it.

Poetry is a strong medium of expression and a good poem is characterised by its depth and inherent meanings intended by the poet. The analysis and understanding the real meaning embedded in a poem is the real joy of reading and that is the interest a reader generally derives from it. Every poem has its own effect on the reader and sometimes is everlasting. I also have such a poem in my memory and it comes to surface many times while my mind goes swirling in the past. It is the poem belonging to 18th century 'Ode on Solitude' by Alexander Pope which begins with the line 'Happy the man whose wishes and care ... '. This poem somehow made a very deep effect on me and I still possess it like a jewel in my heart. In essence, poems are the soft but effective medium of influencing human beings.

  • Do not include your name, "with regards" etc in the comment. Write detailed comment, relevant to the topic.
  • No HTML formatting and links to other web sites are allowed.
  • This is a strictly moderated site. Absolutely no spam allowed.
  • Name: