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What are the meter and rhyme scheme of "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening?"

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marryj | eNoter

Posted September 11, 2012 at 6:51 PM via web

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What are the meter and rhyme scheme of "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening?"

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 11, 2012 at 7:46 PM (Answer #1)

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"Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" is written in a very deliberate meter and rhyming scheme. First, the meter is iambic tetrameter, meaning that each line is composed of four iambs, or "daDUM" syllables. This is clearly seen in the first lines of the poem:

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;

Each line has a soft first syllable, then a hard second, repeating in this form four times per line. Written out, the first line would look like this:

Whose woods these are I think I know.

--with the syllabic stresses on each second syllable. This gives the poem a strong rhythmic structure and an internal beat.

The rhyme scheme follows the "Rubaiyat Stanza" structure, in which the second-to-last line in each stanza rhymes with the first two and fourth lines in the next stanza. This helps to link the stanzas through rhythm and a subconscious forward momentum, where the rhymes of the next stanza are predicted by the current one. This can be seen here:

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.
(Frost, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," eNotes eText)

The rhymes of "here/queer/near/year" follow from the first stanza into the second, and the second stanza predicts the third with "lake." The only stanza that breaks this pattern is the last, which has no following stanza to predict; thus, the rhyme scheme is commonly depicted as "AABA-BBCB-CCDC-DDDD."

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 21, 2014 at 11:51 PM (Answer #2)

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The rhyme scheme seems intended to suggest very subtly the look and feel of falling snow. For example, the first stanza's rhymes are AABA. Then the B is caught up in the second stanza and becomes the dominant rhyme in BBCB. And in the third line the C becomes dominant in CCDC. The only exception to this scheme is in the final stanza which rhymes DDDD, whereas we might expect it to be DDED. 

Why doesn't Frost rhyme AAAB, then BBBC, and CCCD, if he wants to suggest falling snowflakes? It would appear that he wants to "catch" the B and then "catch" the C, and so on, before it falls completely. If A can be visualized as a falling snowflake, then B would be a snowflake falling behind it--and so forth. Then when he gets to D in "sweep" in the third stanza, he repeats the D rhyme throughout the entire last stanza and even repeats the entire line: "And miles to go before I sleep, / And miles to go before I sleep," in order to give the impression of finality. The falling snow has, in effect, piled up on the ground, and he is leaving the beautiful scene behind him. In other words, the DDDD represents, not falling snow, but fallen snow.

This is a lot to read into Frost's rhyme scheme, but it may help to explain the strong effect of this apparently simple short poem. We feel as if, with Frost, we have taken a few minutes out of our own lives to watch, and also to feel, the beautiful winter snow scene which everyone else in the world, including the man who owns the woods, is missing.

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