Please explain the poem "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening."

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this poem, a man rides through the woods. It's dark and there is someplace he needs to be. However, he stops for a moment to watch the snow fall. He doesn't tell us why he stops, but we can surmise he is suddenly struck by the beauty of the snowflakes swirling in the darkness and stillness of the woods.

In the next two stanzas, his horse acts surprised, which indicates how unusual it is for this man to pause and enjoy the beauty of a moment. The horse seems to be used to his owner hurrying to and fro, eager to get on with the business of life. "My little horse must think it queer" the man muses in stanza two. In stanza three, the horse shakes his harness bells "to ask if there is some mistake." The repetition of the horse's surprise underscores how odd it is for this man to indulge in enjoying life's momentary pleasures. 

The last stanza is filled with longings and regrets. The man would love to prolong this magical moment of beauty and oneness with nature, but he must move on. He writes:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep. 

The poem thus reveals the tension between living in the moment and living to fulfill goals and responsibilities. 

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Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

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