In “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”, Robert Frost writes about a man and his horse who are seemingly on a trip and stopping in the woods that are covered with snow. On the most surface level, this piece is about the appreciation of nature and solitude, but it further speaks to the inability and unwillingness that many people have to be alone and inactive for extended periods of time. By recounting the experience of observing a snow-filled wood through various literary techniques such as rhyme scheme and repetition, Frost is able to explain his resentment towards those who have an inability to achieve a state of serenity to speak to the larger issue of the constant need humans have of being occupied.
There are many literary devices used in this poem by Frost to convey the message of human restlessness. For instance, the rhyme scheme in the poem is interesting in the way that the last words in the first two lines and the last line of each stanza rhyme with each other, but the third line does not. However, the last word of the third line rhymes with the first two and the last line of the following stanza. This rhyme scheme can be described as aaba bbcb ccdc dddd. Here, Frost uses the specific rhyme scheme to set a tone in which the third line of the first three stanzas creates a brief hiccup of rhythm, but is resolved once the reader continues onto the next stanza. The hiccup is momentarily awkward but quickly resolved, which speaks to the feeling of being alone and in solitude; since humans are conditioned to be active and constantly performing new and multiple tasks, being sedentary can feel unnatural but is quickly realized to be acceptable. Additionally, the final stanza has a consistent rhyme at the end of each line, and the third line repeats itself as the fourth line. This is a pronounced repetition and reinforces the message of that line, that being the dread the speaker has of leaving behind his serenity to continue his journey. This repetition is far from insignificant, making it obvious that this line is meant to be heard and remembered by readers. In repeating “and miles to go before I sleep,” Frost is able to close the poem in a tone that seems nostalgic, wishing he had the ability to stay and enjoy the serenity for longer instead of continuing his tiring travels (lines 15 and 16). Frost is clever in repeating this line at the end of the poem because it demands the reader to pay attention to it fully, and in turn pause in their reading of the poem and reflect on its meaning, mirroring the entire message of this poem.
In addition to the rhyme scheme, Frost chooses his words incredibly specifically for the purpose of the poem. He describes that he stops “to watch the woods fill up with snow,” as opposed to the woods being masked in or bombarded with snow, which would hide the woods and cause a disturbance (line 4). The term “fill up” sounds as though the woods are meant to have snow in them, as a glass is meant to have water in it before it is “filled up.” Frost also uses words in the third stanza that convey a majestic and peaceful image, such as “easy wind and downy flake” (line 12). This phrase paired with the phrases in the second stanza of “the frozen lake” and “darkest evening of the year” paints a familiar image of a winter evening in which there are no impurities in freshly fallen snow (lines 7 and 8). These words and phrases portray to the reader that the poem should be read in a lens of appreciating nature, its beauty, and the peace it can yield if the time is taken to realize that. The importance of the word choice in this poem is substantial as it is a short poem with a simple meter and form, so the individual words chosen and their connotations are substantial. Terms such as “filling up” to describe the snowy forest allows readers to see the snow as something that is actually beneficial and is occupying an otherwise empty space instead of a nuisance that is out of place. Because of this positive connotation and recognition of the beauty, the reader can understand that the sole reason the speaker is able to give this account of bliss is because he interrupted his trip and became tranquil.
Furthermore, there is enjambment in each stanza, not using punctuation at the end of most lines and letting the sentences flow throughout the stanzas. This enjambment is particularly noticeable in the second stanza as there is no punctuation throughout besides the period concluding the fourth line. Finally, the meter of this poem is notable; it is written is iambic tetrameter, having four iambs on alternating stressed and unstressed syllables in each line. This meter creates a smooth and simple beat that resembles the way one would naturally speak, which adds to the relatability of the piece. This avoids any rhythm that is overly complicated that would make the reader lose comfort during their reading. This meter along with the enjambment in each stanza helps Frost in his mission of making the poem one that is easy to read and in turn allows readers to focus more on the message than attempting to decode the meter. Since the broad meaning of this poem speaks to people’s inability to slow down and think, Frost gives readers the chance to solely focus on reflecting on the poem instead of trying to understand complicated words or an unsteady rhythm. It contributes to the docility of the poem as it reads simply, which only enhances the tone that Frost is setting.
The devices used throughout the entirety of Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening are substantial in helping Frost compose a poem with the meaning and tone that he desires. The particular word choices, rhyme scheme, and form assist Frost to portray the message of the lack of ability humans have to simply stop their hectic lifestyles to relax and enjoy the simple pleasures in front of them. The power behind the simple meter and rhyme scheme paired with the words chosen force the reader to appreciate the purity of the poem and how that reflects into one’s own life.