Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening: An Analysis

The poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost, a well-known American poet, was published in 1923 in the book New Hampshire.

The following is my paraphrase:

Whose are these woods?
I think they belong to a man in the village,
But he won’t see me stop here to watch
The snow fall in the woods.

The horse that I am with must be thinking
It is odd to stop where there is no stable.
I stopped in-between the woods and the frozen lake,
On the night with no moon.

The horse shakes the bells,
As if he were to ask if I had made a mistake.
There is no other sound in the woods
Except the eerie whistle of the wind.

The woods are beautiful and dark,
But I have a commitment to keep,
And I have to travel a long time,
A long way before I have time to rest.

In the poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” the speaker stops by some woods on a snowy evening and absorbs the lovely scene. The speaker is tempted to stay longer, but acknowledges that he has obligations and a considerable distance to travel before he can rest for the night. The speaker talks with a tone of satisfaction, but at the end of the poem shows a tone of fatigue or tedium. The mood of poem, devotion, appears in lines fourteen and fifteen.

The poem offers a great deal of imagery, such as dark, deep woods in line thirteen that are being filled with large amounts of snow pouring from the sky in line four, and house in a small village, again the snow coming down, except this time on the roof the house, in line three. Also, a frozen lake, let it be big or small, with the sky darkening fast, in lines seven and eight. In the third stanza, a horse is shown shaking the bells on his reigns, as if to call the attention of the speaker, to inform him that he must have made a mistake.

The poem consists of four almost identically constructed quatrains. Each line has iambic tetrameter. Within the four lines of each stanza, the first, second, and fourth lines rhyme. The third line does not, but it sets up the rhymes for the next stanza. The rhyme scheme is as follows: a,a,b,a;b,b,c,b. For example, in the second stanza, lines five through eight, queer, near, and year all rhyme, but lake rhymes with shake, mistake, and flake in the following stanza. The only exception is the last stanza in which the third line rhymes with the previous two lines and is repeated as the fourth line, therefore the rhyme scheme: d,d,d,d.

This poem speaks of wanting to enjoy the pleasures of life, such as watching woods fill up with snow, but then it concludes with the speaker acknowledging that he has work to do, and one can assume that he proceeds on to do it. The poem seems to be stating that it is all right to enjoy the special moments in life, but if one makes a promise, he should not compromise it with the things he enjoys, even if the activities seem better than working.

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33 Comments
  1. bronwyn
    Posted November 18, 2008 at 6:16 am

    This analysis is way of what Robert Frost was trying to convay.
    To say simply, it is about a man who is seduced by the thought of death but he has obligations to the human world. The poem does not end with the persona moving on from the woods.
    The whole poem has a tone of tiredness and the iambic rhythem and form pulls the reader into almost a sleep. Although the last stansa breaks the rhyme pattern the repitition and sibilance still leaves in a trance like state.
    This poem has much deeper meaning and this can be found through a much deeper analysis of the symbols and form used in the poem.
    But this poem is deffinatly not about “wanting to enjoy the pleasures of life”

  2. smile
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    I agree with bronwyn. This poem is definately not about the pleasures of life

  3. preethi
    Posted February 4, 2009 at 4:55 am

    THIS IS A WONDERFULL POEM….AS I READ THIS I JUST IMAGINE AS THROUH I’M THERE….

  4. yo
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 10:56 am

    the theme of the poem is mortality. i agree with the fact that there is a tone shift from the beginning with the tone of satisfaction and ending with a tone of fatigue. If the speaker was tired he would lay down and take a nap.

  5. anonymous
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    This poem can have a deeper meanin than the analysis that was given but it is possible that many other people can give more vague analysis’ even so there can only be one real interpretation. All of the analysis’ are still connected in a way because most analysis’ on this poem is based on life, death, or time for that matter.

  6. diehard
    Posted April 2, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    this poem is wonderful, I feel that the poet really shows the ups and downsm of life in a clear simple poem i feel.
    go habs go poetry sux i cant believe u guys read poetry on ur own time, woooooww! im just doing this cuz its my homework haha
    get a life pce up o-town down hows that for poetry

  7. joecourtley
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 10:31 am

    diehard = philistine

  8. panda bear
    Posted April 19, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    I think this poem is about the beauties of nature, and about how the human race has sort of created a barrier between itself and the dark woods, and the snow; this poem is saying the town and nature are now two complelely differnt places. There might be an undertone of passing time, and the coming of unescapable death, but those themes all tie in with the idea that as time goes by, humans become more detsched from their environment.

  9. parenthesisparanthesisparanthesis
    Posted May 3, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    Im sorry but ‘panda bear’, you couldnt be more wrong. By attempting to interpret meticulously you have failed to grasp Bob’s ‘Frostiness’ and concept of ulteriority. Reading between the lines requires indepth analysis, which doesnt mean looking at the page till you develop some sort of eye disorder. For a better answer incorporate more of A04, and to a lesser extent A03.
    Finally there is a question of what were you thinking?? By submitting such an abysmal response you are likely to decieve millions of student who hope to use this site for examination preparation. Do you realise that by feeding them lies you are thwarting their attempts to gain satisfactory grades and move onto a good university??
    I may sound harsh, but im not. You must think before submitting next time and take more care.
    Good job everyone else
    Regards

  10. Ironwil
    Posted May 8, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    I am thinking that it is not necessary to harshly criticize each other’s interpretations. Disagreements are inevitable, and are an essential part of analyzing poetry, yet this can be done without insult.

    A lot of thought seems to have gone into who the owner of the woods was. I have two thoughts on this. The first is that ‘he’ refers to an unspecified individual, only relevent in the fact that it wasn’t the man in the poem, stressing that the woods were not his place to stop and rest in. My second idea is that the owner, who is thought to live in the village, refers directly to the man in the poem, but in the sense that it is a former version of himself, and that too means the woods are no longer his to stay in.

    Most people think that the man’s reference to sleep indicates a metaphor for death. This is very possibly, though Frost himself was said to deny this. I think it more likely that it is referring to a previous state of the man himself, both the woods and the thought of sleep within them. His former self is a comfortable place he might think to return to, but it is empty, and he feels that he must progress forward. The man that he is becoming has responsibilities, and that weighs on him, but he is determined. That is, I think, why he seems a little lost and bleak.

  11. wurdy
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    Hey! people can think whatever they want to! Nothing’s right and nothing is wrong!!! take a chill pill “parenthesisparanthesisparanthesis”!!!!!

  12. I-tend-to-dislike-people-with-long-usernames
    Posted May 18, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    I agree completely with “wurdy”. Who does this “parenthesisparanthesisparanthesis” think he/she is? If “panda bear” is so wrong with his/her opinion, why don’t you submit one of your own? It is obvious to me that this “parenthesisparanthesisparanthesis” thinks that they are a genius, and that if someone else’s opinion differs from theirs, that they are wrong.

    On the topic of the actual poem, I think that a lot of people worked hard to analyze it, though in my personal opinion, I believe that this is just a poem about winter. I think a man and his horse must ride through the snow to accomplish a mission not specified in this poem. It’s nice that this poem is so open-ended, because it allows people to interpret how they want to. If they find metaphors of death or otherwise in the poem, then congrats to them.

  13. ksrj
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    wow i hate when people try to say that their interpretation is the only and corret interpretation, cause it’s not. All of these interpretations are correct because they are your opinion, it is what the reader takes away from the poem, so to somebody it could be about the pleasures of life yet to others it could be about sucide or life vs. death.

  14. guest
    Posted June 4, 2009 at 6:34 am

    Here is a ridiculously hilarious interpretation:

    This poem is about the struggle of avoiding sexual dessires. The horse represents a life friend, who Frost wanted to marry all his life. The lines “And miles to go before I sleep” simply means: So much work, before I can intercourse that horse. The snow refers to sperm cells “WHose woods these are I think I know” and he’s basically referring to his little horse. The forest represents a beautiful lady, which Frost wanted to intercoures intead: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep” and the emphasis is on “deep”.
    But he always wanted that little horse to be his life-bud. That explains the lines: “But I have promises to keep”. Pretty easy poem.

  15. bree
    Posted June 4, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    I couldn’t agree any more with ‘Ironwil’, ‘wurdy’, and ‘I-tend-to-dislike-people-with-long-usernames’. ‘Parenthesisparanthesisparanthesis’, when one says that they are not attempting to be harsh, or says ‘no offense’, that’s basically using sarcasm. There are many different interpritations of this poem possible, and criticizing other peoples’ analyzation of this poem is unbelievably rude. This ‘parenthesisparanthesisparanthesis’ obviouly is under the impression that he/she is the next Albert Einstein.
    Anyway, my interpretation is that this man is thinking about death. I believe that the phrase, ‘His house is in the village though’, is the grim reaper. The word ’snow’ is sometimes used as death, and from my interpretation so far, death is clearly present in this poem. He thinks about death, but knows he must keep living, that he has obligations in life to fufill yet.

  16. Alex
    Posted October 22, 2009 at 5:03 am

    Sigh. No need for fighting.
    This poem has two widely accepted meanings, as it is not unusual for a poem to have more than one meaning at once. The first meaning is obvious: a guy stops on a horse and watches the snow, struck by the beauty of nature. The second has varying degrees of darkness depending on opinion, from a desire for respite from daily life, to a permanent escape – suicide. There are many loaded word choices and poetic devices utilized, specifically rhyme scheme, that can support a deeper meaning to the poem. There are other theories that can support a Christian undertone and a feeling of abandonment from God, whose “house is in the villiage” and “will not see [him] stopping there”.

    I have no authority to support or disprove any of these things. I will reiterate what many of you have said: we are all correct. That’s the beauty of poetry, it can mean many things to many people. But, I will say that to deny that this poem may have any meaning aside from a guy on a horse is just silly. The poem is loaded.

    And the “sexual desires” analysis is hilarious.. And a little incomprehensible.

  17. Posted November 22, 2009 at 10:32 pm

    I think that the speaker seems stuck on the past, like he keeps thinking of a bad event, like someone who had died, and he wishes he was there to stop it. the horse represents his family/friends who are there with him suffering, and that is when the speaker realizes that he cannot be stuck in the past, that he must move on as not to obligate them.

  18. Highschool Junior
    Posted November 23, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    The speaker IS caught in the beauty of nature but this trance will eventually lead to his downfall. Frost uses paradox in describing the woods as lovely, but also dark and deep. This makes the woods seem deceptive… Now lets go back to the speaker. He is taken in by the “beauty” of the woods but as the poem says he is miles away from home in a cold hostile environment. The woods deceive him, which leads to his demise..

  19. kookie
    Posted December 1, 2009 at 8:41 am

    does it refer to death?????????? I always thought the idea of death appealed to him, but my teacher says it doesnt

  20. BRN
    Posted January 28, 2010 at 12:45 am

    Man i’m reading all these comments and it’s beyond funny how everyone is getting mad at the “parenthesisparanthesisparanthesis” individual. i have to admitt though, his comment was a tad bit harsh and very uncalled for. But i think we can all bring ourselves to forgive him. n_n
    anyway, i also believe in the many interpretations possible through the beautifull thing that is the mind. To me the poem also seems to have to usual two impressions. the first being that of a guy simply enjoying a marvelous scenery of a winter forest. And, the other, as most have already mentioned, being that of someone being tempted with the thought of death and its belived realif. But, ultimately being stopped by his duties to this world. Just for fun though, i spelled a lot of words incoreclty. Can you spot them all? :D

  21. Posted March 22, 2010 at 12:12 am

    Gday
    This poem’s about a man who is tired of the relentless cyclical and dehumanised subsistence that life has become. He want’s to give it all up but he can’t “miles to go before i sleep”, he obviously has some obligations that he need to tend to.
    The narrator or the person in poem is depicted as , what can most aptly be described as “a rock and a hard place” as seen in the lines “Between the woods and frozen lake”. The wood and the frozen lake are metaphors. The frozen lake…coldness…death and the woods well figure it out
    as for darkest evening of the year, on a literal sense it means the winter solistice but on a metaphorical sense the narrator refers to him being in deep and dark depressive state.
    and i cbb sayng anymore
    The voice from australia :)

  22. Gbaby
    Posted April 3, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    @john: somebody asked the question and people are kind enough to answer.
    @parenthesisparanthesisparanthesis: there are many wrong interpretations on this page but who are you to tell them? they are just trying to help someone out.

    i believe that in this poem, the narrator is being seduced by the thought of death which is symbolized by the woods. He clearly expriences some misery because it is the darkest evening of the year, the woods are cold, etc. Towards the end of the poem, he realizes that he has obligations to the real world and cannot commit suicide. He must continue his course in life and fulfill what he has left to do. Also, the narrator’s horse is his conscience. His conscience tries to pull him away from the consideration of suicide (or the woods). to me, this interpretation makes sense because of Robert Frost’s past.

    hope i helped :)

  23. Anonymous
    Posted May 27, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    “And miles to go before I sleep”
    Why is this version missing one of the greatest uses of repetition in modern poetry? What version is this, the altered lines and change in rhyme can bring about a very different interpretation. The original text is always best.

    Additionally, although interpretations are just interpretations, Frost admonished those who interpreted this poem with death.
    Quoted:
    “He particularly rejected claims that the poem implied any kind of “death-wish” (Henry 69), and when “a friendly critic asked if the last two lines in ‘Stopping by Woods’ referred to going to Heaven, and, by implication, death, the poet replied, ‘No, all that means is to get the hell out of there’” (see Greenburg and Hepburn 13)He particularly rejected claims that the poem implied any kind of “death-wish” (Henry 69), and when “a friendly critic asked if the last two lines in ‘Stopping by Woods’ referred to going to Heaven, and, by implication, death, the poet replied, ‘No, all that means is to get the hell out of there’” (see Greenburg and Hepburn 13)”

    Instead it parallels with a time when Frost was at his lowest point on a bleak Christmas evening.

  24. Posted September 17, 2010 at 3:28 am

    This poem is awesome.actually its too awesome cause at the same time we’re doing this,we’re doing sonnet 116 which is one word : b.o.r.i.n.g.This is a great site and the explanation is pretty swell too.

  25. Hafsa
    Posted September 20, 2010 at 10:34 am

    wonderful is enough………….a fabulous poem….isn’t it?

  26. shooooooo ku
    Posted September 21, 2010 at 10:26 am

    i dont know wat im gonna answer in my poem review!!!!!!!!!!

    so tired!!!!!!!!!!!

  27. fatima khan
    Posted September 24, 2010 at 7:07 am

    thank u for uploading this exercise.this is very wonderfull and immaginary poem.first time when i read this poem i liked it so much…………………………..

  28. farhan
    Posted December 19, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    it really helped me
    thnx for tha comment

  29. MickeyMouse:)
    Posted January 19, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    Anyone who cares,

    I think that everyone has a right to give their opinion, and that there really is no; Right or Wrong. But if you really wanted the true meaning of the poem you could always look for something the author may of said about it.

    Hope this didn’t offend anyone.

  30. akash
    Posted April 18, 2011 at 10:20 am

    i,m here with a question . whom the poet is speaking to ? is it a case of dramatic monologue ? please explain . waiting for a vivid reply .

  31. ahmad
    Posted May 12, 2011 at 8:59 am

    I think that the poem have two meanings because it can about real life and its entertainment or about the life jouerny.

  32. Shaibal Saha
    Posted March 20, 2012 at 4:02 am

    In this poem there are two meanings. Literary, it describes a journey by horse on a way that passes through a forest having full of high woods. It was evening of a winter season may be a day when the night time is longest over day time. The place is some where remote from the cacophony of civilization. As human beings are the gift of nature and part of nature by virtue, every one always feels harmonious with the beauty of the nature in his subconscious mind. But, it needs some sort of poetic mind like Robert frost. Resonance occurs for this feelings when the perfect situation comes across. Subconscious mind absorbs in the beauty of the nature and wants the mind be kept there in the nature but at the same time a sincere conscious mind keeps on haunting the person not to be get into the subconscious poetic mind and remind the person about his social obligations to perform.

    On the other hand this poem has another inner eternal meaning of life. It is a journey of life. Life come across situations when a person think himself the part of divinity and get absorbed in to that spiritualism for his own happiness. But the meaning of life is much more that one’s own happiness. It is not the goal of any life to withdraw himself from the social commitments. Life is to put an example for the betterment of others. So, one has to be broad minded with all divine fellow feelings rather narrow minded for his own happiness alone.

  33. sohag
    Posted April 11, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    hi, i have gone through some posts. they are really good. one should be liberal in taking others views because it is literature. there is nothing perfect. In literature, perfection is a dead thing.

    i think, all the problems lie in the last two lines and in repetition.
    I sense that the narrator poet means to say that one can not consume so much time in enjoying such beauty while there are so many other duties left to be performed. here ’sleep’ may mean death. if it is then ‘promises’ is earthly duties of man and it is predestined.

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