Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

Apropos nothing, the great Robert Frost.

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.

I love this poem a lot. It manages to say much, even though most of the poem is merely describing the scene. The point, only made explicit at the end, seems to me to be partly about the short time we have on earth and the relation of man to nature. Nature is ambiguous in the poem - beautiful, but somewhat lonely and foreboding. The poem notes that the duties of the world we live in stop us from usually really noticing this, and instead we rush on on the long road that ends in sleep, with the repetition suggesting the second meaning of the long sleep we all face eventually.

Serious poetry fans eschew Frost, because he is too common and accessible, and thus affords few opportunities for snobbery and condescension. And while it would be easy to mock this motivation as being stupid (and it is), I think it is also unnecessary, since there is no danger of appearing too common by liking any sort of poetry these days (as opposed to, say, Lady Gaga). Frost, like Kipling, is popular because he is great - both of them are on the efficient frontier of 'profound' and 'accessible' - there are greater poets, and more accessible poets, but there are no poets who are both greater and more accessible.

No comments:

Post a Comment