In "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," by Robert Frost, the speaker of the poem (which of course is not necessarily Frost himself) stops his horse-drawn carriage (or sled, since it is snowing) in front of a forest (woods).
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.
As the last line of the stanza suggests, he simply wants to watch the snow falling on the trees. The second stanza, however, suggests something beyond an idyllic postcard-like winter scene. There is nothing nearby (note the sense of isolation) except a frozen lake, and it is "the darkest evening of the year."
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.
The third stanza reinforces the tranquility of this quiet winter scene by giving us the sound of harness bells and a gentle wind blowing the snow. The final stanza adds to the more ominous aspects of this peaceful scene.
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.
While the woods are lovely, they are also "dark and deep." The next word is but, implying that the speaker is somehow attracted to the deepness and darkness of the woods. It is perhaps a figurative longing for something more or even something darker and more sinister than his present life affords. Whatever longing he expresses, fulfilling it is not possible for him, as he has "miles to go" before he can stop to rest. Because the line is repeated, we get the sense that the speaker is weary of the path he is on and knows he cannot do the figurative exploring he longs to do.
What seems to be a simple stop to watch the snow is really a picture of the speaker's desire or attraction for something more and his regret that he can do nothing to satisfy it.
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening Summary
Our speaker is in the woods, but (gasp) he's trespassing. He first wonders who owns these woods. In the same breath, he tells us that he thinks he does know who owns them. The lucky landowner lives in a house in the village. Phew. So, our speaker won't get into trouble for trespassing, because there's no one to catch him trespassing.
Surprise! Our speaker has a horse (neigh), and this horse is little. Our speaker psycho-analyzes his little horse and supposes that said little horse must think it's pretty strange for them to be stopping in the middle of nowhere, with no one in sight, with not even a farmhouse close by, and absolutely no sign of hay. Newsflash: the speaker and his little horse are chilling (pun intended) between the woods and a frozen lake. Ice skating? Nope. Also, it happens to be the darkest evening of the year.
Little Horse is starting to really lose it. Fortunately, he has some harness bells on his back, and he gives them a little shake in order to get his master's attention. The only other sounds are of a slight wind and of falling snow. Shhhhhh. It's quiet.
Our speaker admits to having a hankering for the dark woods, but he tells us he's got things to do, people to see and places to go. He's got a long way to go before he can rest his head on his little pillow, so he had better get going.
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening Setting
We imagine it's a dark evening, perhaps around 5:00pm, near the winter solstice (late December). Although our speaker doesn't tell us why he's out, we picture our speaker has been traveling across the countryside to pay a family visit or a business visit in a town ten or fifteen miles away from his own. Perhaps he's stayed longer than he would have liked, and now he's caught in the dying light of evening. Our speaker doesn't have any flashlights, floodlights, or torches with him, and so the only light around is from the dipping sun and the brilliant white of snow.
He travels across a little road used by villagers that is quickly disappearing, and he arrives upon a clearing that is bordered on one side by a glassy dark lake and on the other side by deep, dark woods. The darkness contrasted with the white of the snow is startling, even in the dying light. The scene is beautiful but lonely. There are no houses nearby that he can see. His small hometown (a village) is still miles and miles away, and he can't hear a single thing other than the snow, the wind, and occasionally his horse's bells. He is completely alone.
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