Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

We all hit a time in our lives–multiple times, in many cases–in which we find ourselves so busy that we suddenly feel as though we can’t do anything. At least, I’ve hit that wall several times and many of my family and friends have been there at some point, too. You know that work has to be done but the very thought of it makes you want to curl up in a ball or hide. We push through it, though. So here I am, trying to push past my anxiety long enough to get some work down without a panic attack, when a poem by Robert Frost pops into my head.

As you’ve probably figured out, I’m a moderate Frost fan. I’m not a complete fanatic but a couple of my favorite poems are by him. The poem which keeps coming into my head as I struggle to work is one of my all-time favorites: “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”.

I’ve loved that poem since I memorized it for a school project in the sixth grade. I used to be able to recite it at the drop of a hat–of course, thanks to a combination of time, technology, and mental health issues, my memory isn’t quite what it used to be, but I can still drop a couple of lines before running into any problems.

Image retrieved from Flickr

Anyway, this poem, although a bit depressing, brings me an odd sort of calm, especially when I’m stressed. That’s why I wanted to share Frost’s work here:

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.


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.


He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.


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.


–Robert Frost, retrieved from Representative Poetry Online


A popular interpretation of this poem is as a contemplation of suicide. I can certainly see the basis and evidence for this interpretation. However, for my own sanity’s sake, I take a slightly more literal and much less grim approach to Frost’s writing.


I see this poem as the grievances of an overworked individual, someone who has had so much piled onto his plate that he must struggle in order to finish the work before he can get some well-deserved rest. He sees no source for aid and it’s the darkest, loneliest part of his life; this part is one of many in which my interpretation intersects with the suicide one. The two approaches differ in that I take the allure of the woods to more being a desire to stray from the already-forged path, to break from the busy, routine life and get some rest.


Really, I look at the poem this way more out of a personal attitude than as true literary analysis. This poem reminds me that we all must pull ourselves along when we are struggling to maintain. That’s why, in these times, I prefer to see it as a need for a break rather than contemplation of suicide; for me, the latter is not an option, but I understand the emotions which Frost expresses.


Now I must return to my work, for I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.


What do you think of this poem? Do you have any works or quotes that you think about when you’re feeling stressed or down? Share your thoughts in the comments.


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011

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