17 pages 34 minutes read

Robert Frost

Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1923

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Summary and Study Guide


“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is a short, structured poem written in 1922 by the American poet Robert Frost, one of the foremost poets of the 20th century. The poem was originally published in 1923 in the magazine New Republic, and then in Frost’s poetry collection New Hampshire. The poem explores themes of nature, beauty, duty, life, and death, and is written using simple and accessible language that has made it beloved by generations of people. Frost has publicly called this his favorite poem.

Poet Biography

Frost (1874–1963) was an American poet deeply associated with the rural beauty and traditions of the New England region. He is the only poet ever to have been awarded four separate Pulitzer Prizes for poetry. Frost’s distinctive writing style went on to influence later poets including Seamus Heaney, Robert Francis, and James Wright.

Frost was born in San Francisco, California but moved to Lawrence, Massachusetts after his father’s death. Though he initially grew up in big cities, he was gifted a farm in Derry, New Hampshire by his grandfather, which is where he wrote many of the poems that would make his career. In 1912, Frost and his family sailed to England where Frost became involved in the poetry community there; he befriended other poets like Ezra Pound, Edward Thomas, T. E. Hulme, and others. Three years later he returned to America, where he would spend much of his life teaching at the Bread Loaf School of English of Middlebury College (this has since become the site of the famous Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference). He won his first Pulitzer Prize in 1924 for the collection, New Hampshire: A Poem with Notes and Grace Notes.

In 1960, Frost was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal by the United States for his contributions to the field of poetry. He was also awarded more than 40 honorary degrees across his lifetime, including from Harvard, Cambridge, and Oxford Universities. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature 31 times and in 1963 was awarded the Bollingen Prize. Despite a personal life threaded with grief and familial loss, Frost’s work is generally positive and offers insight into humanity’s relationship with the natural world. His poetry style doesn’t fall into any specific literary movement but rather stands at an intersection of classic formal poetry and more modern free verse poetry.

Frost died in 1963 from surgical complications. His literary legacy remains present to this day; in 2006, a newly discovered poem was published in Virginia Quarterly Review, and a multi-volume series of his collected letters was published between 2014 and 2021.

Poem Text

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.

Frost, Robert. “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” 1923. Poetry Foundation.


The speaker has stopped in a woodland. Looking around, the speaker recognizes it as belonging to a local landowner who lives in the village. The speaker reflects that the landowner won’t know if they stop for a few minutes to watch the snow fall.

The speaker believes the horse must be confused as to why they are stopping, especially because there’s no farm nearby, and it’s a cold, dark winter day. The horse shakes his bells to catch the speaker’s attention; everything else is silent except for a slight breeze. The speaker appreciates the beauty of the dark woods but knows they can’t stay long; they have other obligations waiting for them and a long way to go before they can finally rest.