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 5
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. 10
The only other sounds 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, 15
And miles to go before I sleep.
On the surface, this poem is simplicity itself. The speaker is stopping by some woods on a snowy evening. He or she takes in the lovely scene in near-silence, is tempted to stay longer, but acknowledges the pull of obligations and the considerable distance yet to be traveled before he or she can rest for the night.
The poem consists of four (almost) identically constructed stanzas. Each line is iambic, with four stressed syllables:
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. For example, in the third stanza, queer,near, and year all rhyme, but lake rhymes with shake,mistake, and flake in the following stanza.
The notable exception to this pattern comes in the final stanza, where the third line rhymes with the previous two and is repeated as the fourth line.
Do not be fooled by the simple words and the easiness of the rhymes; this is a very difficult form to achieve in English without debilitating a poem’s content with forced rhymes.
This is a poem to be marveled at and taken for granted. Like a big stone, like a body of water, like a strong economy, however it was forged it seems that, once made, it has always been there. Frost claimed that he wrote it in a single nighttime sitting; it just came to him. Perhaps one hot, sustained burst is the only way to cast such a complete object, in which form and content, shape and meaning, are alloyed inextricably. One is tempted to read it, nod quietly in recognition of its splendor and multivalent meaning, and just move on. But one must write essays. Or study guides.
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