NOTES ON FROST

I have always felt that Frost’s wonderful poem, Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening, everyone’s favorite as well as my own, has some rather fanciful presumptions, when you come to think about it.

Attributing emotions to a horse, first of all. Attributing them as well to the owner in whose woods the poet is trespassing. Chanting those attributions in a very suspicious, singsong, brainwashed fashion: He will not see me stopping here to watch his woods fill up with snow.

Something is very wrong.

Once again, putting words in the horse’s mouth: he gives his harness bells a shake to ask if there is some mistake. Again, that Manchurian Candidate preprogrammed rhythm. And, really, a sentiment that would sound idiotic in any other poem.

And then the sudden dismissal of the wonderful scene. I, the poet, am after all more important than all this, and suddenly it’s about me, those promises I made, those miles I have to go.

The poem hasn’t been about this at all. The poem has been an exquisite pastorale, conjuring up the muffled silence of the darkening, isolated woods, until it is so rudely interrupted.

And so I though I’d answer Frost, using the same words and the same rhyme scheme, which in fact quite cleverly interlocks, despite its apparent simplicity, the third line providing the main rhyme for each following stanza, the first line providing the four rhymes for the last stanza. And four matching childish rhymes at the end, each upon each following without becoming overbearing, but in fact supplying the passion, the great final achievement of Frost’s poem.

I like the irony in my own riposte of being not in the known and also incognito, not known.

I put in a fifth matching rhyme at the end, because it was too much fun not to. I suppose this is called one-upping Frost, whose story of composing his intricately-worked poem in five minutes has always been a little too egotistical to believe.