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The journey

JBWD posted 10/16/2020 17:38 PM

Am lucky enough to be in Alaska for a few weeks. Walking to work in the snow the other morning brought me to one of my favorite poems, one that I haven’t revisited since betraying my family. Was a perfect reminder of the beauty of this journey, no matter how cold.

“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.”

oldtruck posted 10/16/2020 19:49 PM


west running brook


JBWD posted 10/17/2020 18:34 PM

On it, thanks!

Thanksgiving2016 posted 10/17/2020 22:15 PM


Justsomeguy posted 10/18/2020 10:51 AM

This is one of the texts I teach in my class. Interesting that you have chosen it as one of your favourites.

The way we look at it is the traveler, most likely on his way home during the winter solstice (Dec 21-22), is reluctant to complete his journey. Rather, he stops to contemplate his life, trapped between his true desires (symbolized by the Freudian lake frozen over and this inaccessible) and the woods which represent his desire for death. The poem ends with no clear resolution beyond a tepid commitment to keep the promises he made, but without any real desire to do so. Thus, he must repeat the final line twice in order to convince himself that this is the right choice.

Funny thing, every session, without prompting, some of my students sexualize the woods, insisting that they represent a mistress, while his destination is his wife and family, things to which he is reluctant to return.

JBWD posted 10/18/2020 13:52 PM


I read no commitment beyond the commitment to continue in this, though it is certainly no stretch to assign such meaning. I further see his insistence in the final lines as the opposite of tepid, the sound of willing one’s body (spirit) forward in spite of the inescapable pain of the cold.

I further identify with the beauty of the woods (which when coupled with cold are VERY evocative of death,) and can identify with the surrender of being within the woods. Perhaps the horse is emblematic of a survival instinct, quietly prodding the poet as he potentially succumbs to the cold and the wild(?)

Thank you for your perspective on a poem you’ve spent a considerable amount of time analyzing!

Buck posted 10/19/2020 11:49 AM

This poem introduced me to poetry. I had a middle school English teacher that had us choose poems to memorize and recite in front of the class. We also had to say what we thought the person in the poem was feeling or thinking. There were a bunch of poems to choose from and they varied by length and that determined the A, B, or C grade. I chose this poem.

I thought, and still pretty much think, this traveler is just pausing to appreciate the beauty around him, then he continues his task of traveling home.

Alaska is a beautiful place JBWD. Enjoy your time there.

Pippin posted 10/20/2020 10:24 AM

Oh I love that poem. It is like those deceptively simple works of art that have entry for even middle school kids, but are still full of life and special when you go back to them over and over.

some of my students sexualize the woods

I had never read it like that but it definitely works. The first two lines of the last stanza . . .yep, it works. That's not the only reading of course but if you are contemplating adultery it might speak to you.

JBWD, if this turned into a poetry share I would be so glad! When my friends&family asked what I wanted for my birthday last year I sincerely told them I wanted their favorite poem and why they liked it, and only one person believed me! Here's one I love. I think it will speak to you, sister wayward :)

Sister Cat
Cat stands at the fridge,
Cries loudly for milk.
But I've filled her bowl.
Wild cat, I say, Sister,
Look, you have milk.
I clink my fingernail
Against the rim. Milk.
With down and liver,
A word I know she hears.
Her sad miaow. She runs
To me. She dips
In her whiskers but
Doesn't drink. As sometimes
I want the light on
When it is on. Or when
I saw the woman walking
toward my house and
I thought there's Frances.
Then looked in the car mirror
To be sure. She stalks
The room. She wants. Milk
Beyond milk. World beyond
This one, she cries.
—Frances Mayes

JBWD posted 10/21/2020 00:48 AM

JBWD, if this turned into a poetry share I would be so glad!

Agreed! If others want to tack in faves, please do!!!!

I think it will speak to you, sister wayward :)

... er... Brother(?)

ETA That IS a fantastic poem- I love it!

[This message edited by JBWD at 1:03 AM, October 21st (Wednesday)]

btdi posted 10/22/2020 02:50 AM

Too many miles on my odometer but my promises are almost kept.

Then time to sleep, roll back the grey rain curtain

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley (1849-1903)

Out Of The Night That Covers Me (Invictus)

JBWD posted 10/23/2020 12:15 PM

Great one, BTDI!

I read up on Henley after seeing this... Quite the expression of a man who faced suffering from his childhood on, sometimes easy for us to forget just how fragile life was even in the recent past, as compared to now.

Puts me in the mind of Victor Frankl’s challenge to be “worthy of our suffering...”

Mickie500 posted 10/23/2020 12:51 PM

Thanks for sharing and also acknowledging that the betrayal was to your family not just your spouse.

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