Stopping by Woods

Robert Frost’s poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening always features strongly in favourite poem lists. My journey from knowing of it and vaguely knowing it, to being smitten by it, came about by courtesy of the Scottish singer-songwriter Jackie Leven. I found his beautiful setting of the poem on the album Creatures of Light and Darkness (2001), and recorded it for my own Waiting For the Word CD.


“…the poem describes the thoughts of a lone wagon driver (the speaker), pausing at night in his travel to watch snow falling in the woods. It ends with him reminding himself that, despite the loveliness of the view, “I have promises to keep, / And miles to go before I sleep.”Wikipedia

Leven changed the first line of the second verse, swapping strange for queer. I followed suit, but with some uncertainty. I can see why he did that, but I’m still not sure about it. I’d be interested to know what you think.

There’s a good documentary about Leven here. Sadly, he died of cancer in 2011.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

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.

Robert Frost, 1922

Video footage compiled from free sources. Thanks to all the contributors.

9 thoughts on “Stopping by Woods

  1. June York March 29, 2020 / 3:27 pm

    Thank you so much for that Kev. Made me quite tearful as I write this. Thinking of your Dad. Keep safe!

    June

    • Kevin Adams March 29, 2020 / 4:59 pm

      Thank you, June.Take care yourselves, and pass on our best wishes to all if you can.

  2. Brizzy Mays Books and Bruschetta March 30, 2020 / 3:08 am

    Kevin, that was simply beautiful – thankyou. You now have me reaching for poetry books for more.
    Hope you are doing ok in your part of the world:)

    • Kevin Adams March 30, 2020 / 2:23 pm

      Thank you May. We’re fine, thanks. Hope you are too- bit of rubbish year, all this coming after your fires and our floods. Biblical, eh?

      • Brizzy Mays Books and Bruschetta March 30, 2020 / 10:15 pm

        Closer to the truth than you know, Kevin. Some of our farm communities also have a locust or mouse plague to deal with too. Bring on 2021!

  3. Linda Hall March 30, 2020 / 12:23 pm

    Thanks Kev. I’ve just listened/watched, and it’s gorgeous. Not sure about using strange instead of queer though – you lose the rhyme pattern. Though to be fair I think that matters less when it’s sung slowly as you’re doing; it would matter far more when reading the poem, either aloud or to yourself. We studied Robert Frost for O levels, and I’ve loved his poetry ever since.

    Hope you’re both managing to avoid the virus; strange times we are living in. We’ll come and see you when we’re all allowed to mix again!

    Love to you both, Linda & Mike

    • Kevin Adams March 30, 2020 / 2:29 pm

      Thanks, Linda. I’m a bit annoyed now that I didn’t sing the original lyric, it is such a beautiful rhyme scheme. I think at the time I felt exactly as you say that the alteration slips under the radar more in a sung version rather than a recitation.
      And yes, we’re fine. Ruth is doing a sterling job keeping us fed and safe. Hope you two stay safe as well. Kx

  4. Phil May March 31, 2020 / 8:55 am

    Great line ‘and miles to go etc’.
    Sums up your life journey and the tasks that await.
    Stay safe Kevin and Ruth!

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