Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening – Robert Frost | Poetry Analysis

This poem was suggested by Aanya @ Soaring Firebolt. She is an avid reader and her blog is a delight for any Potterhead!

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Born on March 26, 1874, Robert Frost was an American poet well known for his realistic depictions of rural life and his command of American colloquial speech. Frost frequently wrote about settings from rural life in New England in the early twentieth century, using them to examine complex social and philosophical themes. His work was initially published in England before it was published in the United States. He is is the only poet to receive four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry. He died on January 29, 1963.
[ Bio and image(Frost celebrating his 85th birthday) from Wikipedia]

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” was written in 1922 and published in 1923, as part of Frost’s poetry collection New Hampshire. The poem revolves around the thoughts of a traveller who stops in a forest forgetting all worldly affairs and soaking in the silent beauty that the dark woods offer. The experience and feeling of stopping in unknown woods and subsequently leaving unwillingly due to one’s responsibilities mark the central point of the poem.

According to Litcharts, “The poem is told from the perspective of a traveler who stops to watch the snow fall in the forest, and in doing so reflects on both nature and society. The fact that it(nature) seemingly lures the speaker to linger in the dark and cold suggests that nature is both a tempting and a threatening force, a realm that resists people’s efforts to tame it while also offering respite from the demands of civilized life.”

Like The Road Not Taken, this too is an ambiguous poem that is seen as being open to multiple interpretations. While many readers assumed it could have something to do with death (or at least fatigue with life), Frost denied it, leaving his readers guessing and eventually coming up with their own interpretations. According to Owlcation, “The words, sounds and images appeal to all—from those who regard it as no more than a serene winter scene featuring snowy woods, a horse and a rider to those who feel a morose shudder when they read the final two lines.It is this ambiguity that makes the poem a classic and keeps it relevant so many years after its publication. The narrative sets up a subtle tension between the timeless attraction of the lovely woods and the pressing obligations of the present moment.”

Over the first two stanzas, the speaker describes his thoughts about who owns the woods and ponders on what his horse must think of him stopping without a farmhouse nearby. The phrase, ‘the darkest evening’ here apart from describing the atmosphere and woods could imply that the speaker is going through a dark period in his life. Owlcation states that, “darkest” could also be referring to the narrator’s emotional state or perception of the undisclosed task at hand.”

While the next stanza appears relatively simple and normal considering the circumstances, it is not so. Frost being the remarkable poet he is, is known for the deep and poignant messages he often conveys through seemingly prosaic words. Similarly, here the horse can be considered a symbol of intuition and sacrifice who is the perfect creature here to force the rider back to reality, putting forward the notion that they probably shouldn’t be here in the dark woods.

The subsequent stanza leaves the horse’s emotions ignored and instead the speaker falls into a reverie again as he basks in the mesmerising beauty of the cold, dark woods. Andrew Spacey on Owlcation captures it masterfully, “The final stanza features the speaker again reaffirming the peace and haunting beauty of the snowy woods. Perhaps, on another night, they would have dismounted and strode into the trees, never to return.The idyllic lure of nature and its ability to distract from the everyday are strong themes here. The narrator; the rider; the contemplative master of the horse is already committed to the duties of their ongoing life. Their loyalties forbid them from entering the dream world.As much as they would love to melt into the snowy scene before them, they cannot—at least not now. The final two lines reinforce the reality of this situation. It will be a long time before the narrator disengages with the conscious world.”

Delving deeper towards the societal aspects of this poem, the last stanza seems to have more than what meets the eye. From Litcharts, “Though the speaker knows that he or she “has promises to keep”—suggesting certain societal demands that pull the speaker to continue—the woods are a tempting place to stop and rest. However raw and cold, then, nature also allows for the kind of quiet reflection people may struggle to find amidst the stimulation of society.”

This poem is written in perfect iambic tetrameter and utilizes a tight-knit chain rhyme characteristic to a form called the Rubaiyat stanza. Other poetic devices include metaphors, personification, imagery, alliteration, assonance, consonance, euphony etc.

Referred Sources:

Robert Frost is a phenomenal poet and his works never fail to keep me enraptured. I hope you found something relatable in this poem because being forced to fulfill one’s obligations in opposition to doing what one truly loves is, I believe, something we can all relate to. Thank you so much for reading.


13 thoughts on “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening – Robert Frost | Poetry Analysis

  1. Robert Frost’s writing is profound. I enjoyed this poem and the other one of his you shared!
    Before reading this blog series of yours, poetry never was something I found interest in, but now I’m absolutely intrigued!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This poem is another classic, and you analyzed it so well! I never really thought about how the poem could convey how society was in a dark phase at the moment, or how the horse was an anchor back to reality. Very thought provoking! My favorite thing about poems is the fact that they can capture a huge essence in just a few lines. An impressive feat, and as you explored, this poem does it so nicely!! Wonderful post 😀

    Liked by 3 people

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