Analysis of Robert Frost's poem "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening"

Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening (included 1923 volume New Hampshire) is one of the most moving lyrics of Robert Frost (1874 - 1963). It moves us as unobtrusively as it conveys to us the profundity of its thoughts. It is this lyrics that appealed to the late prime minister Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru and guided and inspired him to be able constantly on the move, adhering to his duties. After his death on 27th may, 1964, it was found that on the office table of the Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, there lay a piece of papers bearing the following four lines written by his own hand from this lyric:
“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.”

These lines of Robert Frost served as an inspiration to one of the greatest men of India, and reminded him of the service of humanity and of his people to whom he had dedicated himself.

The woods are unusually lovely but the speaker must ultimately be about his business and responsibilities. There is further implication in this last stanza. The woods are symbolic of beauty in general of aesthetic value. This symbolism is enforced by the word ‘but’ in the second line. The woods equate death. He is committed to life in all its complexities and diversities, and he wants to go on living to fulfill that commitment because death will come in time. The repetition of the last line successfully closes the formal pattern of the poem, emphasizing the symbolic function of the statement too.

The reasons of the sources of the universal appeal of the poem, like that of the other Robert Frost’s work in general are not difficult to account for. In a simple language and a style that comes home easily to the readers, he conveys thoughts and ideas that are too deep for philosophical dissertations. The experience Frost describes is of such quality that the common man can easily imagine.

The small bits of description in the poem are not there just for the sake of it—they unite to form a coherent pattern connoting a much deeper meaning than what appears at a cursory glance at the poem. The person invited has to be initiated into the proper perspective in which to look at things- the poet’s way.

Although Frost concentrates on ordinary subject matter, he evokes a wide range of emotions, and his poems often shift dramatically from humorous tones to tragic ones. Much of his poetry is concerned with how people interact with their environment, and though he saw the beauty of nature, he also saw its potential dangers. His observations have an edge of skepticism and irony in Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening, upon rereading, never as old-fashioned, easy, or carefree as it first appears.

In the first stanza we find the rider - narrator standing in front of Woods on a Snowy Evening Closely watching woods fill up with snow. The woodland is a piece of beauty that haunts death which is at once appealing and engrossing to us.

In the second stanza we find the narrator still lost among the woods and frozen lake and he darkest evening of the winter seems to be a perfect setting for death. However, his horse shows its grudges at this unlikely place without farmhouse near. The narrator is of course the riders to the life and his horse is the life-force that dithers death. Readily, the narrator bids adieu this dark, lovely and deep woodland to accomplish his earthly duties.
The narrators have promises to keep, and much a distance to travel before he rests, retreats and retires.
“And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”
The line “And miles to go before I sleep” is repeated which indicates author’s philosophy of continual and productive work: it may be work on his New England farm, or the written work required to create his poetry. It also may be the eternal journey of our civilization in pursuit of works.

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