The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep
Robert Frost’s poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening was first published on March 7th, this day in 1923. The story goes that Frost wrote this poem in a few minutes, after being up all night writing another. He took a sunrise walk, and got an idea.
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.
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening: Memories, Old and New
Like many Americans, this was one of the first pieces of grown-up poetry that I was exposed to as a child. I remember sitting quietly at a little square desk in a darkened room, listening to a female voice reading. I felt dreamy, ignored fidgeting classmates, and wondered if we’d be required to write big kid style book reports about poems.
When I was getting ready to make this post I asked around about other people’s Snowy Evening memories. Many were from childhood, but not all. One 33 year-old person described recently sitting around an outdoor fire pit in Winter weather, roasting marshmallows, drinking hot cocoa, and reading read Frost to each other. I think that would be a lovely tradition for Winter Solstice, “the darkest evening of the year.”
The idea of reading this poem for Winter Solstice makes me think ahead to what might be a nice, poetic tradition for the vernal equinox, the first day of Spring. In two short weeks we will be just as close to Summer as the dead of Winter. I’m thinking of planting some snap peas, or maybe some cool weather greens – that sort of thing makes me happy. It will also be a class break for the college student in my family, and she is nothing if not poetic. We will think of something.