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.
Summary of the poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”
Popularity: Written by Robert Frost, this poem was published in 1923. It was written to capture the conflict between man and nature and also to highlight the difference between wishes and obligations we face in our lives. However, it has become one of the most popular poems in English literature.
“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” as a poem about nature: As the poem is about nature, it has been written from the perspective of an adult, who stops by the woods to enjoy the mesmerizing beauty of nature. The expression of stopping given in the first stanza continues until the traveler decides to restart his journey. The expression of not knowing the woods and then realizing one’s duties mark the central point of the poem. However, what stays in the minds of the readers is the eye-catching and bewitching beauty of woods in the snowy evening.
Major themes in “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”: The poem comprises the thoughts of an adult, why he stops and why he wants to stay in the lap of nature, forgetting all his worldly affairs. The traveler wants to take a moment to pause in the quiet woods to watch the snow falling. He says he knows whose woods are these, but he is sure the owner of the woods will not notice his presence because he is in the village.
He is tempted to stay longer, but the pull of obligations and considerable distance force him to leave the woods. As he says that he has to travel a lot, it means he has to perform a lot of duties. Therefore, he puts his wishes aside and starts his journey again. This poem is about the boundaries and limits in which human beings pass their lives, and which do not allow them to get derailed from their respective paths.
Analysis of Literary Devices in “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”
Seemingly simple, this poem by Robert Frost is loaded with meanings on account of the use of the following literary devices.
- Metaphor: The poem doesn’t have any metaphors. However, there are two extended metaphors in the poem. The last line of the third stanza, “sweep of easy wind and downy flake” and the second metaphor is used in the last line with repetition, “and miles to go before I sleep.” Here, miles represent life’s journey, while sleep represents death.
- Personification: Robert Frost has personified the thinking of the horse mildly in the second stanza when it stops, and in the third stanza he gives a sign to the rider. “He gives his harness bells a shake/ to ask if there is some mistake.” It shows as if the horse is a human being who understands his owner’s needs or inquires if they have to stop.
- Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers feel things through their five senses. The poet has used the images for the sense of sights such as woods, house, lake, and These images help readers see the woods a source of solace and comfort to a lonely traveler.
- Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of the same consonant sounds in the same lines such as the consistent use of /w/, /wh/ and /s/ sounds. The following phrases are examples of alliteration from the poem: “watch his woods”, “sound’s the sweep”, “His house”.
- Assonance: Assonance is a repetition of the vowel sounds in the same line such as the sounds of /e/ and /i/ come in quick succession in “he will not see me stopping” and in “he gives his harness bells a shake.”
- Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds such as /w/ and /th/ sounds in “Whose woods are these I think I know” and /w/ sound in “to watch his woods fill up with snow.”
- Euphony: It refers to the sound that is pleasing to the ears. While the journey through the forest is of the loneliness, according to Robert Frost woods are not haunting or even scary but provides comfort and calmness. The woods also represents an uncorrupted world that the traveler wishes to stay. Therefore, it is euphony.
Concluding the analysis, it can be stated that Frost has beautifully used various literary devices to make his poem a great piece of literature.
Analysis of Poetic Devices in “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”
Although most of the poetic devices are part of literary devices, yet some devices are only used in poems. The analysis of some of the major poetic devices used in this poem is given here.
- Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of a different number of lines. It could be three or four lines. Here, a stanza comprises four lines each.
- Quatrain: A quatrain is a four-lined stanza taken from Persian poetry. In this poem, each stanza is also a quatrain though the rhyme scheme is a bit different.
- Rhyme Scheme: The whole poem follows the AABA rhyme scheme. Frost has used end rhyme in every first, second and fourth line of the poem. The third line of each stanza rhymes with the next stanza. Such as, “know”, “though” and “snow” rhymes with each other in the first stanza and” here” rhymes with “near” in the second stanza.
- Trochee: Trochee is the use of one stressed and one unstressed syllable in a single line as given below in the next poetic device.
- Stressed and Unstressed Syllables: These two types of syllables are used in trochee such as the first is stressed and the second is unstressed syllable in “Whose woods these are I think I know,” and this pattern continues throughout the poem.
- Repetition: There is a repetition of the verse “and miles to go before I sleep” “and miles to go before I sleep “which has created a musical quality in the poem.
- Refrain: The lines that are repeated again at some distance in the poems are called refrain. Therefore, the repetitions of the last two lines of the poem with same words are also an example of the refrain.
This analysis shows that this poem, though, seems a simple and innocent composition, points to the reality of making decisions in complex situations in order to fulfil our responsibilities.
Quotations for Usage from “Stopping by Woods in a Snowy Evening”
- The two lines given below can be quoted when discussing an adventure undertook in the past. The expressions of woods, a frozen lake and darkest evening indicate that a chivalrous act is done.
“Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.”
- These two repetitive lines can be used to point out the urgency of achieving work or a goal before the deadline or the end of the day.
“And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”