Robert Frost was a very talented and successfully published poet. His poetry books are still enjoyed today by many, and studied by all the others who don’t enjoy reading them. His books were packed with poems about rural life in the early part of the 20th century. He was a great chronicler of the rural way of life due to his background in America. Frost’s books were well received, probably due to his Pulitzer prizes awards in: 1924, 1931, 1937, and 1943. He published lots of books and his collections are available in online bookstores and regular bookstores across the country.
However, his success story as far as his poetry is concerned is bitter sweet simply because Robert Frost was plague with depression; indeed his entire family was plagued with one form or other of mental illness.
“Stopping by the woods on a snowy evening” a brief critical reading.
It’s probably due to this depression that so many poems in his books reflect conflicting emotions about various things. If you have been fortunate enough to read his popular poem “Stopping by the woods on a snowy evening” you will know that this is an exemplary piece of his poetry that truly reflects his conflicting emotions.
It appears the main conflict in the poem is the speaker’s pull to stay in the woods or to go on with his promises. Although the poem works as a small tale, the four stanzas work to separate it into four distinct stages: introductory observation and thought, the querying of the horse, the conflict of emotions and finally some kind of resolution.
The speakers’ depiction of his horse in the second stanza, presuming the horse thinks “…it queer / To stop without a farmhouse near” represents the pull to carry on, yet the poem’s unhurried and calm mood is emphasised by the easy rhyme scheme throughout, and lends itself also to the language and imagery chosen by the poet to vividly display the speakers’ pull to stay in the woods: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep,”.
The conflict is a tricky one and ever present in the speakers mind. The descriptions of the sounds heard by the speaker are indicative of a very calm tone throughout the poem; the contrasts in aural qualities of the third stanza are arguably the best examples of this. The opening two lines of this hear the sound of the horses’ bells shaking, almost nervously, making a noise in the poem to attract the speakers’ attention, yet in the following lines we hear “The only other sound’s the sweep / Of easy wind and downy flake”. This calming use of onomatopoeic words and the peacefulness of the words working together, actually hearing the sound of a snowflake, is contrasted against the shake of the harness bells to great effect; the break in between the words “wind and” requires the reader to stagger slightly and this creates even more of a slowing down pace towards the end of the stanza.
Because the speaker is clearly torn between the two emotions, one could assume he is not in a good mood, and this could be easily identified by looking at the use of ambiguous words and phrases. “The darkest evening of the year” could be taken literally to mean a very dark moonless night, or figuratively to mean a dark mood of depression or loneliness; this would be characteristic of Frost himself. Focusing on the latter we can read this as though the speaker is resigned to the fact he is depressed in the line: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep” and has an almost perverse acceptance of the fact that his depression has become a part of him and this evening. Language like this also puts more emphasis on the final lines of the poem, repeated to reinforce their importance and assumption that they are the cause of his dark mood.
The whole rhyme scheme of the last stanza is different from the other three. Lines in the final stanza all rhyme the same to signify the speaker as somewhat reconciled with his inner conflict, realising the fact that he must go on with his promises.
So it’s amazing what you can draw out of a poem isn’t it? If you go online and buy poetry criticism books you can find out more than what you actually thought existed in poetry. Poetry uses it’s form to reflect its meaning so it’s always helpful to look closely.