Frost is Still my Favorite

Frost is Still my Favorite

I get heckled sometimes for my absolute and unflinching love of the poetry of Robert Frost. I won’t be ashamed of frequently wanting to trade the abstraction and pretense I read in a lot of modern poetry for the “simple” meter and rhyme of an earlier time. (Don’t let “simple” fool you, however, because creating this form usually sacrifices beauty and simplicity for forced rhyme. It’s not easy, and Frost was a master.)

classic American poetryThere is a story in my family that Robert Frost came to Indiana, Pennsylvania sometime in the 30s while my grandfather was attending Indiana Teacher’s College (or Normal School or whatever the heck name it had then) and since Grandpa was the head of the Leonard Literary Society, he took Frost on a tour of Indiana County.

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classic American poetry rhyme meterI’ve never gone to the archives at IUP or contacted the Frost association to find out if the family story is true. Maybe I will. Maybe I won’t. I don’t know that I care, because it’s the story itself that leaves the lasting impression.

Anyway, my favorite Frost poem is “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” I say this aloud to myself usually at least once each year in the dead silence of a cold winter snap. I try to imagine being bundled up in a horse-drawn sleigh, gliding across the frozen northeast, hearing only the horse’s bells, and “the sweep of easy wind and downy flake.”

So I’m sharing my favorite Frost poem (from Poets.org) with you today, in honor of our wintry northeast and the incoming storm.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

by Robert Frost
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.

And if you’re like me and love to hear it recited by the author, here’s a video.  I love hearing Frost read it because you know the intended pacing I would have preferred just a combination of audio and wintry scenes, but all the ones I found like that were not using his voice but someone else. So here you have Robert Frost himself. I recommend closing your eyes for better impact. Garrison Keillor narrates.

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Are you a Robert Frost fan? I’d love to know your favorite.

Okay, well enjoy and I’ll talk to you tomorrow.

Gotta go. Promises to keep and all that…

Love, Marla

P.S. Speaking of promises, I think the new trainer cutting back to 45 minutes of cardio on weight training day has already made a difference (either that or it was the forced day of rest the day before). I had so much energy yesterday afternoon after my hour of weight training and 45 minutes of cardio. This morning I’m on a full hour of treadmill. Yippee!!

19 Replies to “Frost is Still my Favorite”

  1. It’s one of my favorites, too, Marla. I love the transition from the setting (belonging to a stranger) to the personality of the little horse to the feelings of the weary yet determined traveler. It speaks volumes about life to me.

  2. Glad you got your energy back! And poems huh? Hmmm I wrote one once a long time ago. I’ve since lost it. It was a poem about spicy food and how it didn’t love me the way I loved it. LOL

    1. “I could give all to Time except – except what I myself have held.”
      Oh Leo, that’s such a good one! I didn’t know you were also a Frost fan. You have so many layers, my friend! Such an intense/beautiful/sad poem for such a funny writer. Of course, they say some of the funniest people have some of best depth! Hooray for Leo and Doggy’s Style blog and for this wonderful internet community!
      And P.S. Please forgive me because I still haven’t mailed your cow yet. I need to include more surprises now that I’m taking so long!!

      1. I enjoy reading a lot, I read some stuff that would drive some people crazy, I read Les Miserables for goodness sake, I was only 16 or so. All the reading I do doesn’t show on my blogging, life is a funny show, I like to make fun of myself and try to drag people along, granted I offend many on the way but that’s how things work.
        I’m not what you would call fan of Frost, but someone very dear to me is and of course I could pick up and read what he was reading, I liked poem very much “And what I would not part with I have kept” that part gives me chills.
        Do not worry about the giveaway, I myself gotta sort the last giveaway I had on my blog.

        much love, xx

  3. Thanks for this post. I also love Frost, and can’t quite understand why others don’t. My favorite is “After Apple-Picking” —

    “For I have had too much
    Of apple-picking: I am overtired
    Of the great harvest I myself desired.”

    After a long day of pulling weeds, scraping paint, or some other repetitive task, when I close my eyes and can only see more weeds and more scraped paint, I think of the line “But I am done with apple-picking now.” And then Frost talks about the woodchuck’s long sleep or “just some human sleep.” Every time I read this poem I remember the feelings, after such a day, of exhilaration, anxiety, and exhaustion right before collapsing into sleep.

    1. Hi Jen, thanks so much for reading and commenting! I also don’t understand it. I really think sometimes the most “popular” writers among the non-literary set are set up for failure by the snootiest parts of the literarians, you know?
      If I could choose, I would be Frost any day.

      I love that your favorite is Apple-Picking, and especially your reason. Isn’t it wonderful that we all recite these same ones to ourselves at different times? I think honestly the true test of all art is the impact it has on the reader. Of course the snoots will say that some readers are more qualified than others, but I say if any person can bring a piece of art to mind in their own lives to give them comfort or peace or inspiration or joy or ANY emotion, then the artist deserves his or her place in the permanent canon.

      Good grief I’m talkative. I promise I won’t always reply with such long-windedness. Hope you return!

    1. That’s so true.
      I’m a dual reader myself. My favorite writing is when i can enjoy the work on its own, without analysis, but then if I choose, find layers to explore that hold significance for me in other ways.
      But I only like to do that for myself. I don’t enjoy reading when the analysis is laid bare for me and I have to sift through someone else’s interpretation.
      I took Lit Analysis as an undergrad and I loved picking apart poetry for myself but hated when I had to do it through a specific analytical “ism” that I didn’t think applied as well.
      Speaking of translation, I keep thinking of you when I go back through some of my own poetry. I did a response poem to a Vietnamese street poet I met in Hanoi, and each time I read both his and mine, I think “CultFit would love this.”
      Unfortunately I can’t post it yet because I’m submitting it for publication, but once it gets published (I’m not even going to use “if” I feel so strongly) then I’ll post it and tag you to come read it.

      1. I am sincerely humbled that you would think of sharing your story with me. There are numerous “layers” to digest on any day over at CultFit. Sometimes, it’s best to walk away and re-read them in a different setting, a different frame of mind … 😉
        Be inspired today!

  4. I’ve always loved this one, too! When I was in 6th grade and went to County Chorus (because I have the most angelic voice, you know?! Haha), one of the songs was a musical adaptation of this poem. Maybe that doesn’t sound good to you, but it was actually really pretty! Anyway, that made me look up the poem, and I’ve had an affinity for it ever-after! And I feel quite lucky that I, too, get to live in the woods on cold, snowy evenings!

    1. You have a beautiful singing voice. Whaddya talkin’ about dissing yourself that way, gorgeous!?
      It’s funny you say that about the musical adaptations, because when I was trying to find a reading of him doing it on YouTube I kept coming across it in song and I was like “No, I’m not going to listen to something like that.”

      Now I feel so narrow-minded. Maybe I will have to go give those songs a listen and see how they put it to music.

      You are deeper in the woods than I. I’m surprised you don’t actually have someone running around in a sleigh up in that beautiful ‘noth of yours!

  5. In 4th grade I knew this one by heart. Now only the first and last two lines. Thanks for bringing us Frost himself to fill the in between. Stay warm in your storm.

    1. I sometimes wish I had gone into teaching as I wanted to when I was younger. Getting to choose which poetry for children to memorize is such an incredible gift. I loved having to memorize poems.
      Thanks – it’s supposed to get very cold and snowy this weekend. I will keep warm and entertained by coming to your blog and watching the progress on your painting!

  6. THAT IS AWESOME SIS!! That too is my favorite Frost, if not one of my favorite poems ever!! I’ve always believed Frost was speaking of life, rather than just the simple “snowy buggy ride”, but is a Great poem either way! Living, as you know, in Amish country, I frequently, this time of year, pass a buggy prodding along slowly and invariably I recite that poem in my head…or often aloud!!
    Cool post sis! (No pun intended) 😉

    1. Jeff, I am really with you on the analysis of this poem. For me this was always an anti-suicide poem. I always held the woods as the wild, fringe and irrational parts of the mind that want to escape into the stillness and darkness, but those promises (to life, to others, to himself) kept him here.

      There are a lot of much less dark and harrowing metaphors that it can represent and I think I’m in the minority on my own take on it. (And you understand where my take comes from.)

      What I love about analysis is that there are as many meanings as there are interpreters, and nobody is really wrong, because art and what it means is completely at the discretion of the reader (in my opinion).

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