Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening 

Have you ever come across a piece of writing that really speaks to you? Be it a novel, a political quote, a song, or perhaps poetry? Ever since I studied poetry in school (many, many, many moons ago… ahem), I have been completely enamoured with it. A particular piece that really struck me was Robert Frost’s ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’.

On the surface, it may read as a beautifully written, but simplistic, tale. Ultimately, it’s a short story about a person walking through the snowy woods with their horse. When analysing it further, however, it becomes apparent that it’s actually a lot deeper than that. The last stanza refers to the woods being “lovely, dark and deep” and having “miles to go” before sleep. If you break this down, Frost is actually talking about not succumbing to suicide:

“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.”

The protagonist is tempted by the peaceful nature of the dark forest (suicide), but has miles to go before they sleep (much more of their life to live). The repetition of the last line really enforces the importance of continuing on rather than stopping in the forest of depression.

This poem has spoken to me so much that, a few years ago, I got the last stanza tattooed on my ribs (and no, despite what you may have heard, rib tattoos don’t actually hurt that much). Depression is your brain telling you that you are worthless and that you are immeasurably sad. All of this is extremely hard to fight and you find yourself believing your brain even though you are worthy of so much more joy than your depression allows. My tattoo of Frost’s powerful message is a permanent reminder for me not to give in to my demons; to keep on going.

It is for this reason that this poem resonates with me. It was actually, however, the fact that it was used in Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Death Proof’ that solidified for me that I just had to get this permanently etched on my skin. Not only is it a positive mental health message from one of my favourite poems, it also features in a film of one of my favourite directors. Double win!

And without further ado, Frost’s poem in full:

“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.”

My English teacher would be so proud that I’m waxing lyrical about a poem that she introduced me to… although I’m pretty confident that she would be bitterly disappointed at the execution of my brief dissection.

Mrs Helfy

xxx

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