Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
|by Robert Frost|
|First published in||New Hampshire|
|Rhyme scheme||AABA BBCB CCDC DDDD|
|Read online||Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening at Wikisource|
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.
"Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" is a poem by Robert Frost, written in 1922, and published in 1923 in his New Hampshire volume. Imagery, personification, and repetition are prominent in the work. In a letter to Louis Untermeyer, Frost called it "my best bid for remembrance."
The text of the poem reflects the thoughts of a lone wagon driver (the narrator), 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."
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". 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."
Structure and style
The poem is written in iambic tetrameter in the Rubaiyat stanza created by Edward FitzGerald who adopted the style from Hakim Omar Khayyam, the 12th-century Persian poet and mathematician. Each verse (save the last) follows an AABA rhyming scheme, with the following verse's A line rhyming with that verse's B line, 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.
Use in eulogies
In the early morning of November 23, 1963, Sid Davis of Westinghouse Broadcasting reported the arrival of President John F. Kennedy's casket at the White House. Since 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.
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."
Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, towards his later years, kept a book of Robert Frost close to him, even at his bedside table as he lay dying. One page of the book featured the poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening", and the last four lines were underlined.
In Popular Culture
- This poem features heavily as one used as a signal to activate Soviet sleeper agents in the 1977 movie Telefon.
- A framed print of the final stanza is presented to Sherlock Holmes by Joan Watson at the end of S01E20 of Elementary.
- "Robert Frost: "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"". Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation. Retrieved January 6, 2019.
- Tuten, Nancy Lewis; Zubizarreta, John (2001). The Robert Frost Encyclopedia. Greenwood Publishing. p. 347. ISBN 0-313-29464-X. Retrieved December 9, 2011.
- Frost, Carol. "Sincerity and Inventions: On Robert Frost". Academy of American Poets. Archived from the original on June 15, 2010. Retrieved March 4, 2010.
- 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.
- "My Brush with History - "We Heard the Shots …": Aboard the Press Bus in Dallas 40 Years Ago" (PDF). med.navy.mil. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 26, 2012. Retrieved June 30, 2013.
- 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 December 10, 2011 – via Google Books.
- "Justin Trudeau's eulogy". On This Day. Toronto, ON, CA: CBC Radio. October 3, 2000. Retrieved December 10, 2011.
- "And miles to go before I sleep". October 9, 2011.
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