STOPPING BY WOODS ON A SNOWY EVENING
ACQUAINTED WITH THE NIGHT
Robert Frost‘s poems Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening and Acquainted with the Night seem to be ordinary poems at first glance, but after an in depth look at these works and how they relate, they become much more. Frost seemed to keep a tone of mystery throughout each of these poems, never actually telling the reader exactly what was going on. By the same token, the poems gave off sense of darkness and gloom just adding to the mystery of what lies ahead. Neither of the characters in these poems seem to be very happy which also augments the gloomy mood of these poems. The characters in these poems also appear to be on some kind of journey, but are reluctant to go ahead and find out what fate has planned for them. A sense of obligation is also present in these poems, an obligation which must be fulfilled, whether the character likes it or not.
More easily seen is the mystery in each of these poems. Frost keeps the reader in suspense by never telling the reader what exactly is going on, but just touches on what might be going on. And to make things even more mysterious, he gives you hints, and leaves the reader with a lot to think about in these poems. In Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Frost exhibits this fairly clearly when his character mentions in the first line of the poem Whose woods these are I think I know/His house is in the village, though;/He will not see me stopping here. These first three lines set a mood of dishonesty, as if the character is not supposed to be there, but its all right for now because the owner doesnt know hes there. This little hint pops a question in your mind, What exactly is this guy doing?, hence the mystery. Frost once again sets the mood for mystery in Acquainted with the Night, by making known the presence of authority when his character states, I have passed by the watchman on his beat/And dropped my eyes unwilling to explain. The character seems to be feeling guilty, or afraid of the authority figure and drops his eyes to the watchman because of this. But why would he feel guilty or afraid? Again, a mysterious hint.
Also projected by these poems is a sense of darkness, which goes hand in hand with the mystery in these poems. The titles of these poems alone suggest darkness. Let me ask you one question; what time of day is the most mysterious? Of course the Evening or Night is the most mysterious time of day. But Frost does not stop here in emphasizing darkness in these poems. The darkest evening of the year. This selection from Stopping by Woods in a Snowy Evening, amplifies even more the sense of darkness in these poems. Why is this evening the darkest of the year? Night is night no doubt. But what makes this evening so dark? Is it so dark because the cloud cover from the snowfall is blocking out the moon and stars, desecrating the available light? If this is true, then how could there be enough light to watch his woods fill up with snow, to see that there is no farmhouse near, or that the woods are lovely, dark and deep? Maybe it is not that the evening is dark in the sense of night versus day, but maybe it is a personification of how the character feels. Perhaps the character has hit a low point in their life and this is why the character describes the night as The darkest, i.e. the lowest or saddest, evening of the year. From Acquainted with the Night, Frosts character mentions, I have outwalked the furthest city light. When the character states that he have outwalked the furthest city light it projects a very strong and large sense of darkness. During the night, the brightest light may be from a city, and to outwalk this strong light, the character must walk very far, hence, furthest. Immediately after this line, the character says I have looked down the saddest city lane. This line seems to be a metaphor of the fact that the character knows how it feels after he has gone away from this strong light. It is like the saying Ive been down that road before. The character is left with the feeling of sadness and nothingness, because of the darkness. In both of these poems the darkness adds to the mystery, but it also parallels how the characters feel.
Exactly, why do the characters feel so dark and sad? What is so glum? In Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, the character states that The woods are lovely, dark and deep/But I have promises to keep. This shows that the character would love to stay, but he must go. It seems that this character is reluctant to leave the peaceful and beautiful woods to fulfill some dispiriting obligation. In Acquainted with the Night, the character describes how he feels about what he is doing his task, I have walked out in rainand back in rain. The saying, rain on my parade, helps to describe how the character feels. Rain is the feeling of pessimism and despair. This character feels despondent from the minute he departs to do what he has to do, out in rain, and feels no better, if not worse when returns back in rain. Frost emphasizes the gloom felt by the character very well with the, and back in rain, part of the line. It seems he is trying to say, it is bad enough to have to walk there in rain, but even worse to have to walk back in the rain also. Another excerpt from this poem shows that the character is reluctant to go and do what he has to do When far away an interrupted cry/Came over houses from another street, /But not to call me back or say good-bye. It seems like the character is looking for something to give him an excuse to turn back, and the cry might have been just what he had been looking for, but it did not affect his journey in any way, not to call me back or say good-bye.
Another factor present in each of these poems is that time will bring a change for the good. In Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, the character states that The woods are lovely, dark and deep/But I have promises to keep. This statement shows that the character would like to stay, but it is time continue with his journey and do what he has to do. The last two lines of this poem are repeated. They are as follows: And miles to go before I sleep/And miles to go before I sleep. The first time this line is stated it can be taken almost literally. It means that his journey is far from over, but eventually he will be able to rest. When the line is repeated, its hidden meaning is easier to uncover. It means that for now, he must keep on doing what he is doing, but eventually, all this will end and he will find his peace. Its like the saying, Hard work pays off. In Acquainted with the Night, the lines, And further still at an unearthly height, /One luminary clock against the sky/Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right, use the moon in a very interesting way. The moon is light, but it is also a clock. Light is the opposite of dark, i.e. good is the opposite of bad. This symbolizes that the good is on its way but its just a matter of time, but for now, the character must continue with his task.
In both poems Frost projects an image of dark sadness, apparently about what each of the characters must do in order to fulfill his obligations. The characters do not want to do these things, but he has no choice. Then, the symbolism in the poems show the happy ending.