Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
#1 in the Literature Series
Moving a different direction, the Four-in-Art quilters have chosen a year-long theme of Literature for this current series, and within that, we each have chosen our own way to think about literature. Some have chosen to focus in fiction or non-fiction or others have chosen children’s literature. I have chosen poetry.
Robert Frost’s poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” is one that I taught in my literature class at school, which gave me a chance to really research it, to hear a recording of him reading his work, to explore what others have thought about it. Depression runs in our family, and many writers have commented about the intimation of suicide — the struggle over this — buried deep in the implied meaning in many of the lines. Frost, of course, has denied that, but I think that while the writer may write the lines, it’s the readers who get to interpret what they see in the poem. Time for you to see the poem:
“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.
In class we study the iambic tetrameter, the rhyme scheme, the internal rhymes and then focus in on those repeated lines. When you watch Frost read his poem, the first line of that last stanza really comes through that the woods are dark and deep, although lovely, and then he raises his eyebrows, almost in a shrug, saying he has promises to keep, as if that prevents him from exploring the darker woods before him. And many times our obligations do keep us on a certain track, keeping us from veering off into depression or getting lost in other ways. When you have to put food on the table for your young family, you have fewer minutes to ruminate or cry or sit in the corner and stare out the window.
I think the first line, “And miles to go before I sleep,” might refer to the tasks we all face: the laundry, work, family and social obligations, that daily list of compiled chores that pile up before us. I know I certainly had a week like that, and even though some were delightful obligations that brought great pleasure, there was no extra space on the calendar, no breathing room to stop and look at woods filling up with snow.
Perhaps that second repeated line refers to the longer view, past calendars, past busyness, past the To-Do list. We all need purpose in our lives as it is the engine that drives us to get up and get dressed, to engage with the world and to lay out our days in ways that not only contribute to the lives of those around us, but more importantly, lets us focus on the miles both behind us and in front of us. Frost’s genius lay in crafting the lines that cause us to reflect on the bigger picture. His poem reminds us to pay attention to the journey of our lives, rather than than the mere detritus of our lives.
While some may think of the quilting as just a hobby, for me it has become part of my purpose in life: to explore and to create, to reach across the world or country and build friendships, like this small art quilt group. Certainly I can outline the big ideals that inform my choices, but when traveling miles to bring a quilt to fruition, I take heart in Frost’s reminder to keep to the journey.
I like this new challenge for this year. I’ve already chosen my poem for the next reveal, which is in May, and yes, all mine this year will have a seasonal theme.
Please take time to visit the other Four-in-Arters, who have also put up their Challenge Quilts today
(just bits and snips of their quilts are shown–be sure to see the full quilt at their sites):
19 thoughts on “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, a Four-in-art Quilt”
Oh, Elizabeth, this is so perfect!!!! My late ex-mother-in-law, Frances, loved this poem above all others and she quoted it often. Since she became my MIL when I was just 19, much of my truly formative years were influenced by “…promised to keep… miles to go before I sleep”. I think it may have been her motherly way of keeping me on the straight and narrow! Your use of log cabin pattern combined with curves and trees done in free motion is just wonderful – love it all!
This is brilliant. I love your interpretation and look forward to this year’s journey with you. The piece itself is lovely.
What a perfect expression. Thanks for this: “While some may think of the quilting as just a hobby, for me it has become part of my purpose in life: to explore and to create, to reach across the world or country and build friendships”
Lovely. When I saw your wintery fabric pull, I wondered where you where going with the idea. This is great. (not the least because we have a blizzard warning today!) Depression has been something that I have had to deal with in my life – not my personal experience, but those around me. I think that is the brilliance of poetry and books, they speak to you where you are. So maybe that’s not what Frost was thinking of, but it can still be applied to our own lives. Looking forward to more seasonal and poetry quilts!
I always saw this poem as being about commitment and honor, one must keep those promises before one can rest and enjoy the woods, but then I’m not a teacher. I love this interpretation of it and I think this is my favourite so far of all your 4 in Art quilts.
This is wonderful Elizabeth. The tiny houses the words ( I love words) everything.
What a great idea for a quilt challenge! I’m a retired college prof and my field was language analysis so, for me, it’s all about the words. I love the way you used the poem as inspiration and interpreted it in fabric. I also love the lesson in lit crit you provided us!
Your interpretation is as beautiful as the poem! I love the frosty fabrics you chose, your trees and the way you have captured the pillowy snow with your quilting, but I think that the way you have captured and reflected the lyrical rhythm of the words by incorporating it into the rolling landscape is especially clever.
Thank you, Elizabeth. We don’t usually have enough poetry in our daily lives. Reading a psalm every day does help with that some, but we also need other voices working on other ideas. It’s truly a gift how your engagement with fabric will bring us poetry this year.
Lovely…and such an interesting read. Great job, Elizabeth. I’m off to see the other entries.
Well done. The quilted interpretation of the poem is lovely. The fabric choices spectacular. I think the use of the log cabin contrasting with the curves is great. The rhythm of the poem in the curves and the freedom of meandering exploration in those woods is shown opposed to the structure of the straight lines of the logs–the things we have to do in life.
I remember years ago cross-country skiing with a group of friends late at night under a full moon and the beauty of the snowy woods in which we traveled. I never interpreted the poem in the way you have described. Your work has me thinking of this description.
I was surprised ( as you were) to see that we both used the log cabin in our pieces. I think the little sneak peeks of the other quilts on your blog was very thoughtful.
I love the subtle and cool log cabin corner! Very clever! ANd your quilting adds that layer to the interpretation that I am still struggling with! Great job as usual!
First of all I have to say it was wonderful to see your quilt in person yesterday. You have such the advantage of being able to study Robert Frost at work!!! It’s amazing how viewing your quilt and then reading the poem brings so much depth and understanding to the wintry scene you have depicted here. I would be happy to trudge through the snowy trails and snuggle by a warm fireplace in any of the cottages pictured here. I like how you have woven, in a sense, the words of the poem into the wavy hillside and snow banks. It’s also interesting to explore the topic of depression in such a bright white quilt too. I am looking forward to being able to see your completed 4 poetry quilts.
I remember hearing Robert Frost read a poem at JFK’s inaugural. What a treat to remember him, understand his poem better, and appreciate your art.
This is lovely! I feel like it really captures the feel of the poem. Thanks for sharing the whole thing with us- it’s been a while since I’ve read much poetry and I’m thinking I should go back to some!
You’re off to a wonderful start for the year of Elizabeth. I love the idea of poetry and this first quilt is so perfect. Very special connection as well which makes it all the more meaningful. I’ve always liked Robert Frost from my long ago school days. Well done. Look forward to the rest in your series.
Your posts are on a higher level than ours, Elizabeth. There is so much to absorb in them. Thank you.