Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening - 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.

I must confess, I have no love for Frost's poems.  For whatever reason, their rhymes, imagery, and sentiments often fall flat to me.  I feel as the composers who abandoned tonality in music must have felt when the tonal system, even as expanded as it had become, held no artistic value for them.  I do not know why Frost's poems fall so dead to me.

I cannot deny that the scene is a lovely one, and one that I have myself taken before.  I have stopped on a snowy evening, and stood for a while, with no specific thoughts.  I was merely watching, much as Frost is.  And yet, I cannot enjoy the poetic sentiment he expresses.  It's the strangest feeling for me, as I know the exact feeling the poem describes, but bizarrely, this poem's delivery of it does not engender that feeling in me. It's not that I don't appreciate rhyme, because I think rhyme can be especially effective.

Perhaps it is just an age gap.  I know that in my own poetic attempts, any time I've tried to describe nature, it ends up sounding "nice" in the most damning sense of the word.  It sounds too sterile.  I can't capture the quiet contemplation of a snowy evening with stupid words like "quiet contemplation."  It just doesn't work for me and I don't know why.

What about you, reader?  Does Frost fall flat to you as well?  Or is there something in his easy lyricism and clean cut nature that speaks to you?


  1. Maybe it is my age, but I love this poem. I especially came to love it when I read it to children from a picture book illustrated by Susan Jeffers. In her pen and ink illustrations, she slowly reveals all the animals of the forest as the man stops and takes time to stop and listen for a while. I read this to children every year at the winter solstice. It is a good reminder for me, too, to slow down at that very busy time of year.

  2. The first time I heard the poem it didn't touch me, but this particular one has cropped up a number of times. I feel like it's grown on me.

  3. To be honest, I do not read this as a contemplating image of nature. I go more for the metaphoric narration, which I find most intriguing and in no way superficial. The way Frost transports into images of nature the biographical images and inner conflicts of the narrator is stunning.