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Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
By, Robert Frost
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.

Major Themes
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, like many of Frost's poems, explores the theme of
the individual caught between nature and civilization. The speaker's location on the border
between civilization and wilderness echoes a common theme throughout American literature.
The speaker is drawn to the beauty and allure of the woods, which represent nature, but has
obligationspromises to keepwhich draw him away from nature and back to society and
the world of men. The speaker is thus faced with a choice of whether to give in to the allure of
nature, or remain in the realm of society. Some critics have interpreted the poem as a meditation
on deaththe woods represent the allure of death, perhaps suicide, which the speaker resists in
order to return to the mundane tasks which order daily life.
Critical Reception
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening was included in Frost's volume New Hampshire, for
which he won the first of four Pulitzer prizes. Critics generally agree that its central theme is the
speaker's dilemma in choosing between the allure of nature and the responsibilities of everyday
life in human society. However, the ambiguity of the poem has lead to extensive critical debate.
Some conclude that the speaker chooses, by the end of the poem, to resist the temptations of
nature and return to the world of men. Others, however, argue that the speaker's repetition of the
last line And miles to go before I sleep, suggests an indecisiveness as to whether or not he will,
in fact, keep the promises by which he is obligated to return to society. Many have pointed
out that this ambiguity is in part what makes the poem great. Another standard interpretation is
that the speaker is contemplating suicidethe woods, lovely, dark, and deep, represent the
allure of death as a means of escape from the mundane duties of daily life. Still others, however,
such as Philip L. Gerber, argue that Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening is most
importantly a lyric poem, which should be appreciated in terms of its formal, metrical
qualities, such as the complex, interlocking rhyme scheme, rather than its content or meaning.
Gerber notes that Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening is widely regarded, metrically, as
Frost's most perfect poem. Critics also point to the mood or tone of the poem, as created by its
formal properties, as one of a person caught up in a reverie; the hypnotic quality of the repeated
closing lines, in particular, suggests a chant or spell. James Hepburn noted that the inability of
critics to secure a particular meaning of the poem is due to the quality by which It is a poem of
undertones and overtones rather than of meaning. Critical debate over the meaning and
significance of Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening rages on, but few question the status
of the poem as one of the greatest in American literature. Donald J. Greiner has observed of
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening that Its deceptive simplicity, its ambiguity, and its
interlocking rhyme scheme have been so lauded that it is now one of the most explicated
American poems. The extent to which this poem has been discussedperhaps overanalyzed
by critics was indicated by the parodic interpretation of Herbert R. Coursen, Jr., who, tongue-incheek, surmised that the speaker is in fact none other than Santa Claus, the little horse who
rings its harness bells representing a reindeer, and the darkest night of the year, during which
the poem takes place, a reference to the winter solstice, which is only a few days before
Christmas. According to this interpretation, the promises that the speaker must keep refer to
Santa Claus's responsibility to deliver presents on Christmas Eve.