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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening


GET READY:

Do you know what "Winter Solstice" means? How do you think it might relate to the title of this poem?

READ THIS:

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 [5]
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. [10]
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, [15]
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

NOTES:

Winter solstice is around the 20th or 21st of December (in the Northern Hemisphere). It is the time when the sun is farthest south, on the Tropic of Capricorn (a little over 23 degrees south of the equator). This makes it the coldest time, with the darkest nights, in the temperate "middle" latitudes, where much of the earth's population lives. For many, it is the time of Christmas or Hanukkah; four to six weeks later is the start of the lunar New Year in many Asian cultures.

This poem, by American poet Robert Frost (1874-1963) talks of a winter scene, probably in New England where he lived. Many readers think that line [8] of the poem, "The darkest evening of the year," is a reference to Winter Solstice, which is at least the longest, if not the darkest, night of the year.

PRACTICE:

Here is some vocabulary from the poem:

1. downy [10]
2. flake [10]
3. harness [9]
4. queer [5]
5. sweep [11]

a. a motion, like using a broom
b. equipment used to help a horse pull a wagon
c. a small piece of something
d. strange, odd
e. soft, fluffy

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION OR WRITING:

If you can, try to talk about these questions in English with a friend. If not, try writing your answers.

1. Why do you think the speaker stops his carriage?
2. Look at the "GET READY" question again. "Solstice" means the sun ("sol" as in "solar system") comes to a stop (Latin sistere). What else "stops" in the poem? Can you see a connection?
3. What "promises" might the speaker have to keep? How about you? What promises would keep you from stopping too long to watch a snowfall?
4. Why do you think Frost repeats the last line?

ANSWERS TO THE PRACTICE:

1 e; 2 c; 3 b; 4 d; 5 a
Notes:
•    "queer" now also means "gay" (homosexual)
•    "harness bells" are small bells attached to the horse's harness; you may have heard about them in the song "Jingle Bells"
•    the "sweep" of the wind and the snow is the sound of a gentle snowfall with mild wind
•    "downy flake" describes falling snow

This lesson is ©2011 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

2 comments:

  1. Hi, would like to know is there any kind of connection between darkest evening and any reference from the Bible?

    ReplyDelete