In Frost's "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening," is the speaker wishing that he could die, or is it just that he wishes he could live a quieter life?

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One way to read Frost's poem is as a meditation on the beauty of nature -- a beauty captured in and conveyed by the poem itself. Pausing to admire beauty when work and obligations require our attention is difficult, but both the action of the poem's speaker and the beauty of the poem itself imply that there is value in doing so, even when our daily obligations demand our attention.

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The “miles to go before I sleep” line is very often seen as a metaphor for death, but the problem is that Frost did not have that attitude about life – he was an observer of natural order, especially where Man and Nature touched – either where Man conformed with the rhythms of Nature, or where Man’s “nature” contradicted Nature’s rhythms.  Very often he used images of the seasons to speak of Man’s “ages” or progress from youth to old age.  It is reductive to see this poem simply as some sort of disguised wish for death – a more fruitful interpretation lies in seeing a man alone in a natural setting, far from human contact (even the woods’ owner lives in the village) – only the narrator is there to witness the natural snowfall.  Notice how, with this interpretation, the horse provides a link between civilized Man and primitive instinct – “he gives his harness bells (a man-made, civilized addition to the horse’s nature) a shake” and then the narrator interprets that gesture as a conscious “human” communication from the horse to the narrator.  “Sleep,” for both of them, is miles away, but to pause “between the woods and frozen lake” is a connection between the practical human action (getting home) and the aesthetic (one could even say poetic) choice of pausing to watch the snow.  Other poems of Frost (for example, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall”) submit to this same approach – Man’s nature in or out of harmony with Nature itself.  Frost’s close observation and contact with New England’s life, together with his harmonious rhyme schemes and rhythmic cadence, make him one of America’s most loved poets.

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