Posted by: HAT | December 21, 2009

Happy Winter Solstice

A road through snowy woods

Snowy woods, curved road

Since I have long since gone on record as a happy philistine (“I hate art!”), I think I may safely admit, even on the Internet, that I enjoy the poetry of Robert Frost, including “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.” I am old enough not to care that much whether people think well of me.

So, to celebrate the Winter Solstice, mentioned in the poem (“the darkest evening of the year,” eh?), I practice a ritual reading of the text. (Thank you, Poetry Foundation.)

In an effort to be intellectual, I also looked up some scholarly analysis of the poem. Modern American Poetry has some excerpts of serious published analysis, and one of the 13 of them is even by a woman, Karen Kilcup. Some more accessible analysis is available at shmoop. Predictably, there are a number of analytic essays available, as well, for purchase. And then, there are a couple of self-help groups, including this recent one and an earlier one that debates the relative merits of identifying the subject matter as adultery or suicide.


It seems worth noticing a seasonally appposite contrast of cyclical and linear time embedded in the poem. Cyclical time governs the incidence of the darkest evening of year, which is itself in that context an absolutely hopeful event. Linear time governs the notion of promises to keep and miles to go, the implicit but not explicit road (although, perhaps there is no road implicit in this poem), passing through the distance between the village and elsewhere. Less a contrast than a play of tangence, affordance, divergence and convergence. The line from village to farmhouse seems to run alongside, outside the cycle that involves the woods; it seems to afford a possibility for distanced observation of the action. Until a measure of linear time curves into a fragment of a larger cycle, the line of the subject of the poetic enunciation into the cycle of the subject of its linguistic nature.

Happy Winter Solstice.


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