Focused on a close reading of the first line does it matter who owns the woods the speaker is enjoying?Robert Frost's "Stopping by a Woods on a Snowy Evening"

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The first stanza of the poem by Robert Frost "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening" reads

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.

The poet, which also serves as the main character of the poem who is experiencing the situation, apparently is a peasant or a commoner who happens to be walking through a patch of land that is owned by someone who is known by him. If this landowner is well known enough to be recognized, or thought to be recognized by this commoner walking his woods, then it can be safely assumed that this landowner is well known per se. Therefore, this well-known or partly well-known landowner must have some power over the common man: He owns something that not many other people can have. Something that is beautiful, and uniquely belonging to him.

The feeling that the poet brings out in admitting that the woods belong to someone else place him in a distant and isolated position, regardless of whether he is actually there in front of them. He cannot love them too much because, though they are naturally free for anyone to admire, they are still someone else's property.

Yet, the poet allows himself to admire them, regardless. This is a symbol of the small freedoms that, even those who seem less worthy of the beauties and benefits of life, give themselves to make their lives more colorful.

He, who cannot stop by the woods for too long, indulges in the small freedoms that nature provides,along with the gifts that it offers us in the form of the elements: Snow, the sun, the rain, the dew. All these compose an everyday ensemble that provides a background for everyone's life.

Therefore, as far as how the poet perceives the ownership of the man who owns the woods that he loves, we do not see resentment, as much as we see longing. We see that he longs to be able to enjoy the woods, and it would be an everyday blessing for him to be able to enjoy the sight everyday: But the woods are neither his, nor part of his journey- for he has "miles to go before he sleeps".

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The speaker, presumably Frost himself, says that this is the darkest evening of the year, which makes it December 21st or 22nd. By this date the deciduous trees of New Hampshire would be barren. Frost can only be stopping to look at fir trees, which are grown commercially in New Hampshire. He is concerned about being seen by the owner of these woods because the owner would probably think he was planning to cut down a young tree and take it home to decorate it for Christmas.

This alternative explanation suggests that these must be fir trees, and most likely either Balsam firs or Fraser firs. New Hampshire is famous for its spectacular fall foliage, but by the winter solstice its deciduous trees would be “bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang.” Evergreens, however, look especially picturesque with their boughs bending under virgin snow. According to the New Hampshire Christmas Tree Promotion Board:

Christmas trees are grown all over New Hampshire, from the rugged Great North Woods above the White Mountains [where Frost lived for many years] to the scenic Lakes Region, in the pastoral Monadnock area and on to the farms of the Merrimack Valley and the Seacoast. Most of the farms are family owned and operated and range in size from less than an acre to 100 acres in size. The New Hampshire farms grow a number of different species of Christmas trees, although Balsam fir and Fraser fir are the most numerous.

The practical, profit-minded owner of these trees would never imagine that Frost might be stopping just to admire a pretty sight--falling snow accumulating on the branches of evergreen trees at the beginning of winter, making the kind of picture often seen on Christmas cards.

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