Monday, March 07, 2005

An old favorite

The Writer's Almanac today notes the anniversary of Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening." It's a great story; Frost apparently wanted to publish it with forty pages (!) of footnotes. Maybe he was having a little T.S. Eliot "The Wasteland" envy.

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's 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's 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 remember the last few lines of this poem being a key-phrase to activate Soviet sleeper agents in some old Charles Bronson movie. I remember thinking, "Why in the hell would the Soviets choose Robert Frost?"

The last few lines in particular I have always to found to be particularly hypnotic. I find myself repeating them when I am out walking in the winter. At any rate, Frost apparently was most fond of the first two lines, which he said contained everything he ever knew about writing.

2 Comments:

Blogger Me said...

Frost is one of my two favorite poets (the other being Shel Silverstein). My personal favorite is Nothing God Can Stay. This is a close second.

8:18 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

I'm way too much of a waffling liberal to narrow my favorite poets down to two, but if it's any indication, I did name my daughter after the guy.

I really like "Wild Grapes." The speaker shares what I think is a profound observation, and I find that it never fails to move me. "Bereft" is another favorite.

It took me a long time, but I am really coming to appreciate the wry humor of some of the longer narrative poetry that I used to find a little too dry.

I know, I'm a very weird person.

8:21 PM  

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