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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 sounds 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.

In Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Frost uses the woods as an


extended metaphor for approaching death. The title of the poem leaves out the
article of the woods indicating that the woods are some kind of interminable
force that has no real start or end. This could reflect an imperceptibly slow death
of old age, rather than an accident or other sudden death. This is reinforced by
the snowy evening, which is apparently crucial enough to be mentioned in the
title. The title ties it to the metaphor of death by old age, using the word
evening to imply a sense of approaching finality. Even the presence of the
snow fits into the metaphor, with the snow linking it to winter and thus likening
the whole poem to a cold and slow ending. Frost (no pun intended) continues the
extended metaphor with the unnamed man in the village possibly being a
reference to God, with the insinuated doubt in I think I know referring to
possible scepticism or uncertainty about the possibility of someone being the
master of death. The idea that He will not see me stopping might hint that God
is in no rush to kill him and is instead ignoring him to let nature take its course.
This furthers the extended metaphor of an inexorably approaching mortality.
Frost also uses the speaker and his horse to address the issue of loneliness in old
age. Throughout most of the poem, the speakers only companion is his little
horse which gives his harness bells a shake in response to the stop. The horse
with its animal instincts towards self-preservation may reflect the speakers life
before the onset of old age. Frosts personification of the horse by way of the
word ask suggests that this younger, more life-loving personality is wellrespected but ultimately subservient to his current one, but Frosts use of little
also indicates a certain fondness the speaker has for his former life. Furthermore,
the Rubai rhyme scheme for the first three stanzas could reflect the dullness
that the speaker feels in his old age, as if time itself becomes flattened with
merely a moment to break the monotony.
The last stanza expresses the idea that the speaker is torn between the worlds of
the dead and the living. The appeal of death seems to grip the speaker, as he
muses that the woods are lovely, dark and deep. The juxtaposition of the
words lovely and dark as two contrasting images add a richness of
description that is quite far gone from the sweep of easy wind earlier on. This
reflects the nature of death as something too great and momentous to ignore.
The second line in the last stanza remains a little ambiguous, and some might
interpret it as a reluctance to die on the part of the speaker. The promises to
keep may refer to some unfinished duty to someone and the speaker being
reluctant to die so as to fulfil that duty. I disagree with this however, due largely
to the change in rhyme scheme from the Rubai style to a DDDD rhyme scheme.
This indicates a change in the attitude of the speaker as the focus shifts from the
landscape to the speakers inner voice.