Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

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"Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" is a poem written in 1922 by Robert Frost, and published in 1923 in his New Hampshire volume. Imagery and personification are prominent in the work. In a letter to Louis Untermeyer, Frost called it "my best bid for remembrance".[1]

Overview[edit]

Frost wrote the poem in June 1922 at his house in Shaftsbury, Vermont. He had been up the entire night writing the long poem "New Hampshire" and had finally finished when he realized morning had come. He went out to view the sunrise and suddenly got the idea for "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening".[1] He wrote the new poem "about the snowy evening and the little horse as if I'd had a hallucination" in just "a few minutes without strain."[2]

The poem is written in iambic tetrameter in the Rubaiyat stanza created by Edward Fitzgerald. Each verse (save the last) follows an a-a-b-a rhyming scheme, with the following verse's a's rhyming with that verse's b, which is a chain rhyme (another example is the terza rima used in Dante's Inferno.) Overall, the rhyme scheme is AABA-BBCB-CCDC-DDDD.[3]

The text of the poem describes the thoughts of a lone rider, pausing at night in his travel to watch snow falling in the woods. It ends with him reminding himself that, despite the loveliness of the view, "I have promises to keep, / And miles to go before I sleep, / And miles to go before I sleep."

Use in eulogies[edit]

In the early morning of November 23, 1963, Sid Davis of Westinghouse Broadcasting reported the arrival of President John F. Kennedy's casket to the White House. As Frost was one of the President's favorite poets, Davis concluded his report with a passage from this poem but was overcome with emotion as he signed off.[4][5]

At the funeral of former Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau, on October 3, 2000, his eldest son Justin rephrased the last stanza of this poem in his eulogy: "The woods are lovely, dark and deep. He has kept his promises and earned his sleep."[6]

In popular culture[edit]

American composer Randall Thompson included the poem in his choral work, "Frostiana: Seven Country Songs," which was originally conducted by Thompson with Frost in attendance. Another choral interpretation, titled Sleep, was written by American composer Eric Whitacre. Due to copyright, the text of the composition was re-written by Charles Anthony Silvestri to comply with the wishes of Frost's estate.[7][8]

In the 1977 Cold War thriller Telefon, the last stanza is used as a trigger phrase to activate brainwashed sleeper agents.[9]

In the Quentin Tarantino's 2007 film, Death Proof, the final stanza of the poem is used by 'Jungle' Julia as the secret phrase that her listeners must say to receive a lap dance from Julia's friend while they are out on the town. The night passes and the only person to approach the girls and repeat the line is the homicidal 'Stunt-man' Mike, played by Kurt Russell. This is a pop culture reference to Telefon.[10]

Jawaharlal Nehru had copied the last stanza of the poem in his own hand, sometime before his death, and always kept it by his side.[11]

In the pc/console game The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim there is a side quest entitled Promises To Keep in which the player may obtain a horse named Frost.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Tuten, Nancy Lewis; Zubizarreta, John (2001). The Robert Frost Encyclopedia. Greenwood Publishing. p. 347. ISBN 0-313-29464-X. Retrieved 9 December 2011. 
  2. ^ Frost, Carol. "Sincerity and Inventions: On Robert Frost". Academy of American Poets. Retrieved 2010-03-04. 
  3. ^ Poirier, Richard (1977). Robert Frost: The Work of Knowing. London: Oxford University Press. p. 181. ISBN 0-19-502216-5. "In fact, the woods are not, as the Lathem edition would have it (with its obtuse emendation of a comma after the second adjective in line 13), merely 'lovely, dark, and deep.' Rather, as Frost in all the editions he supervised intended, they are 'lovely, [i.e.] dark and deep'; the loveliness thereby partakes of the depth and darkness which make the woods so ominous." 
  4. ^ Davis, Sid (November/December 2003). "My Brush with History - “We Heard the Shots …”: Aboard the Press Bus in Dallas 40 Years Ago". American Heritage.com. med.navy.mil. p. Found in American Heritage.com November/December 2003 issue. Retrieved 30 June 2013. 
  5. ^ Davis, Sid; Bennett, Susan; Trost, Catherine ‘Cathy’; Rather, Daniel ‘Dan’ Irvin Jr (2004). "Return To The White House". President Kennedy Has Been Shot: Experience The Moment-to-Moment Account of The Four Days That Changed America. Newseum (illustrated ed.). Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks. p. 173. ISBN 1-4022-0317-9. Retrieved 10 December 2011. 
  6. ^ "Justin Trudeau's eulogy". On This Day. Toronto, ON, CA: CBC Radio. 3 October 2000. Retrieved 10 December 2011. 
  7. ^ Whitacre's foreword to Sleep, Walton Music, 2002.
  8. ^ http://ericwhitacre.com/music-catalog/satb-choral/sleep
  9. ^ Canby, Vincent (December 17, 1977). "'Telefon': Spies With Ants in Pants". The New York Times. New York. Retrieved 10 December 2011. 
  10. ^ "Trivia", IMDb .
  11. ^ "Nehru and Stopping by woods in a snowy evening". Retrieved 29 July 2013. 

External links[edit]

  • Frost, Robert, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Representative poetry (online ed.), University of Toronto . Text of the poem, along with the rhyming pattern.
  • "Woods", Frost, Poets, UIUC . Discussion and analysis of the poem.