Monday, May 13, 2013

Stopping by Woods

Nearly twenty years ago, I fell in love with a poem.

As infatuation goes, it was probably just ink deep, but still it had a profound effect on me.  I knew I wanted to get to know this poem a whole lot better because of the way it made me feel. 

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
So I memorized it.  Once memorized, I was convinced the poem was then mine.  Mine to turn over in my mind and have it work it’s magic on me over and over again.  I was free to recite it as often, as slowly, or rapidly as I pleased.  Or, if I so desired, I could stop mid sentence and ponder on the feelings and thoughts the poem evoked.  Naturally, I wanted to analyze what it was I was drawn to that made this poem so special.  Much of that contemplation time alone with my poem came as I was doing work around the house.

I would like to introduce you to my poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, by Robert Frost. There are other poems that I love, but this one stands out in my mind, much like Dr. Burton’s Fully Empowered, by Pablo Neruda, did for him.

My husband and I visited the Robert Frost farm in New Hampshire last October where I was able to get a clearer picture of what Frost was describing.  His use of imagery and descriptions were almost exactly what I envisioned in my mind before I actually saw his woods.  I will attempt to describe the messages I gleaned from the poem that made it so personal.

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.
I had come upon these woods, which means that I had come from some other place, which I imagined that I was born into this world.  “He” became the God I now found myself separated from.  “He” was in the village, where angels thronged to be near Him.  Now, here I found myself alone and isolated in His woods, or rather, the earth.  He would not mind my being here because it was He who sent me here.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
My little horse, I imagined as my spirit that has become vey accustomed to being near Him and his angels, that it is strange to be away and so alone.

Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
My mortal existence here, represented by the space between the woods and frozen lake, is to be distantly endured from the light and knowledge of my Father, making it the darkest period of my eternal existence.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
My spirit prods my mind to remember from whence I came and why I am here.  I find myself in this beautiful but short-lived moment, yet extracted from my Father’s bosom.  Why did I ever agree to leave His presence?

The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
I remember that I am not here alone.  I am in the company of loved ones who will ease the time I spend in these woods.  Oh, the profound love and joy that I have found with my precious husband and then later, our children!  This life has turned out to be a lovely experience, far more precious than I dreamed.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
How can these woods be both lovely and yet, dark and deep?  As wonderful as this life is, my spirit still thinks of the glorious light from whence I came and my Father, who I still long for and hope to someday return.  But for now, I must live this existence with its trials and temptations that plot to lead me further into the dark woods.

And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
I remember that this sojourn is short and must be lived completely.  I continue to live, love, to experience joy and sorrow, peace and trials, and be touched at times, as if a reminder of His Spirit.

The curator at the Robert Frost farmhouse explained that the poem has often been interpreted as to be about suicide, which he told us is not so.  The story goes that Robert Frost is returning home from the nearby village before Christmas, sorry he did not have the money to buy his wife and children a Christmas gift.  His melancholy mood and the beautiful New England winter inspired his beautiful poem.  I am certain he would not mind me taking liberty to make his poem my own.

-“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost


  1. I really like your interpretation of this poem! It is one of my dad's favourites so I heard it a lot growing up though I've never thought about in the way that you explained.

    1. That is the cool thing about poetry, it can mean different things to different people.

  2. I also love this poem but what I love the most is how you made it your own! Thank you for sharing your feelings so beautifully. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

  3. Literary pilgrimages are my favorite sort of travel writing. I know you claim neophyte status when it comes to the academic study of English, but don't underestimate the depth and breadth of your life experience.

    Experiencing nature, unmediated, is exactly what the transcendentalists were going for. Well done.