Robert Frost takes our imaginations to a journey through wintertime with his two poems “Desert Places” and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”.
Frost comes from a New England background and these two poems reflect the beautiful scenery that is present in that part of the country. Even though these poems both have winter settings they contain very different tones. One has a feeling of depressing loneliness and the other a feeling of welcome solitude. They show how the same setting can have totally different impacts on a person depending on their mindset at the time. These poems are both made up of simple stanzas and diction but they are not simple poems.
In the poem “Desert Places” the speaker is a man who is traveling through the countryside on a beautiful winter evening. He is completely surrounded with feelings of loneliness. The speaker views a snow covered field as a deserted place. “A blanker whiteness of benighted snow/ With no expression, nothing to express”.
Whiteness and blankness are two key ideas in this poem. The white symbolizes open and empty spaces. The snow is a white blanket that covers up everything living. The blankness symbolizes the emptiness that the speaker feels. To him there is nothing else around except for the unfeeling snow and his lonely thoughts.
The speaker in this poem is jealous of the woods. “The woods around it have it – it is theirs.” The woods symbolizes people and society.
They have something that belongs to them, something to feel a part of. The woods has its place in nature and it is also a part of a bigger picture. The speaker is so alone inside that he feels that he is not a part of anything. Nature has a way of bringing all of her parts together to act as one. Even the animals are a part of this wintery scene.
“All animals are smothered in their lairs,/ I am too absent-spirited to count”. The snow throws its blanket of whiteness over everything and to him it is a feeling of numbness. “The loneliness includes me unawares”. The speaker has lost his enthusiasm for life. He can not express his feelings easily because of this feeling of numbness. The speaker is also in denial about feeling alone.
He is at a stage where he just does not care about too much and he is feeling a bit paranoid. “They cannot scare me with their empty space.” He is saying who cares how I feel, I do not need anyone else.
“I have in me so much nearer home/ To scare myself with my own desert places”. The speaker was starting to realize that he had shut himself off to the world. He recognized that this winter place was like his life.
He had let depression and loneliness creep into his life and totally take over like the snow had crept up on the plain and silently covered it. If he continues to let these feelings run his life, eventually everything would be snuffed out much like the snow does to nature. “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is a much happier and more upbeat poem than “Desert Places”. This poem is about stopping to enjoy life or as the cliche goes, stopping to smell the roses. “But I have promises to keep,/ and miles to go before I sleep”. The speaker in this poem was a very busy man who always had obligations to fulfill and places to go.
A feeling of regret is present. The man would like to stay and enjoy this private nature scene longer but he knows that he has other things to do. Again, Frost gives us a beautiful nature scene but this time we enjoy welcome solitude. “The woods are lovely, dark and deep”. This poem expresses the joy of nature.
The speaker seems concerned about what the rest of society would think about him just stopping in the middle of nowhere for no apparent reason. His horse represents society. “My little horse must think it queer/ To stop without a farmhouse near”. He admits that just stopping does seem odd. He is also somewhat concerned about the man who owns the woods.
The man almost feels guilty for looking so lovingly at this other man’s woods. “He will not see me stopping here/ To watch his woods fill up with snow”. I think that the speakers life may be a little better off since he stopped to take a deep breath and enjoy all that really matters, the simple things. “Stopping by Woods an a Snowy Evening” is the opposite of “Desert Places”. The settings were exactly the same; calm, dark wintry evenings, but they express totally different feelings. “Desert Places” is a very depressing poem with a dark tone. The other is very happy and it makes you wish that winter was already here.
These two poems are very different but they are also the same in some ways. They show two extremes of the same emotion. Being alone can be positive or negative it just depends on the state of the mind. Loneliness can be very depressing or it can be a time to collect your thoughts without the pressures of the outside world crashing down. Winter is the perfect season to reflect upon when expressing solitude. Winter can make everything seem dead.
It can be a very depressing time of year. Snow covers everything living and the cold seems to chill to the very soul at times. Winter can also be very uplifting. It can wipe the slate clean with its pureness and it can be a time of starting over. Snow’s whiteness can, in a way, blind you with its beauty and make you forget about your troubles. Winter for me is a time of silent reflection.
I could sit for hours and gaze at the blowing snow. Robert Frost creates two winter scenes with different outcomes. The first, “Desert Places” is a sad poem about loneliness and lost enthusiasm.
“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is a rather uplifting poem about enjoying simple things in life. Frost seems to draw upon his experiences from living in rural New England and converts those experiences into beautiful poetry. Bibliography: