10 Famous Poems About Death

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

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.

Summary and Analysis
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Summary

“Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” is a poeme where the speaker describes stopping to watch the snow fall while riding a horse through the woods at night. While alone in the forest, the speaker reflects on the natural world and its implicit contrast with society. Though Frost’s poem resists a definitive interpretation, the natural world it depicts is at once “lovely” and overwhelming. The fact that it seemingly lures the speaker to linger in the dark and cold suggests that nature is both a tempting and a threatening force, a realm that resists people’s efforts to tame it while also offering respite from the demands of civilized life. The poem presents the natural world as distinctly separate from human society. The poem begins with the speaker thinking about who owns the property he is passing through—“Whose woods these are I think I know”—yet it’s clear that there’s no one there to actually stop the speaker from trespassing. The owner’s “house is in the village,” meaning “he will not see” the speaker. While this owner may think the woods belong to him, he can’t control who passes by “his” land any more than he can stop the woods from “fill[ing] up with snow.” The land owner’s absence and futility, in turn, suggest that the human impulse to dominate the natural world is misguided. The complete lack of signs of civilization, meanwhile, further emphasizes the distance between society and nature. There are no farmhouses nearby, and the only sound apart from the “harness bells” of the speaker’s horse is that of the wind. Though the speaker acknowledges that, at least conceptually, he or she stands on someone else’s woods, the physical isolation indicates the impotence of conceptual structures like ownership in the first place. In other words, people can say they “own” land all they want, but that doesn’t really mean anything when those people aren’t around. Far from the sights and sounds of the village, the speaker stands alone “Between the woods and frozen lake” on the “darkest evening of the year.” Together all these details again present nature as a cold and foreboding space distinct from society. At the same time, however, the woods are “lovely” enough that they tempt the speaker to stay awhile, complicating the idea of nature as an entirely unwelcoming place for human beings. Indeed, though the setting seems gloomy, the speaker also recounts the “sweep / Of easy wind and downy flake.” This language makes the setting seem calm and comforting. The speaker finds the wind “easy” or mellow and the snowflakes “downy,” like the soft feathers that fill a blanket or pillow. Finally, in the final stanza, the speaker definitively says, “The woods are lovely, dark and deep.” This suggests the speaker’s particular interest in the solitude that the woods offers.

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