Robert Frost’s poetry appears deceptively simple; however, his poems have more than one level of meaning. His work typifies the New England area and the beauty of its landscape. Frost inserts into his poetry his philosophy about ordinary aspects of life. His style indicates his love for language and the sounds that he employs in creating the overall effect of his verse.
Summary of the literal meanings of these poems:
“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”
And miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep.
A man and his horse stop in a wood near to the village that he lives. He knows the man who owns the woods, so he is not trespassing. It is snowing; in addition, it is the winter solstice because it is the darkest evening of the year. It is snowing profusely. The night is quiet except for the soft winds. The horse ripples his muscles and shakes the bells on his harness. Almost wishing that he could stay in the enticing, beautiful spot, he must go on because he has long way to go before he can rest.
“The Road Not Taken”
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by…
Again, a man finds himself in woods on a fall morning. There is a fork in the road and the man must decide which path to travel on. He looks at both paths; then, the man looks down one road as far as he can see. For some reason, he chooses the other road because it seems to have been traveled less. Later, he decides that the roads were about equal. He wishes that he could come back someday and go down the other road, but he doubts that he will be able to. When he tells this story many years later, he will sigh possibly indicating that the road he choose did make big difference in his life but regrets that he did not choose the other one. Figuratively, the poem is really about life choices and their consequences.
“Fire and Ice”
Some say the world will end in fire.
Some say in ice.
The narrator establishes that there is a difference of opinion as to how the world will be destroyed. Some people say it will be extreme cold, and some say fire. The speaker agrees with those who chose fire.
Figuratively, the poem references man’s treatment of his fellow man. Sometimes people react with anger or the fiery emotions. On the other hand, people treat others by using silence or icy feelings. Hate usually is hidden behind smiles or fakery. The icy emotions are not as obvious as the angry emotions; however, they will do what needs to be done.
This poem questions the need for separation of one man from another. Men are different: one man grows apples and another pine trees. One man believes that the only way to live among other men is to have these boundaries: “good fences made good neighbors.” Frost asks the reader to constantly reevaluate the need for walls which segregates each person from his neighbor. The poem also addresses loneliness and reaching out through poetry to master the depression that comes with the realization of aloneness.