Is One Of The Most Famous American Poems Actually About Suicide?

And miles to go before I sleep.

We are back to school, so in honor of that, I feel like it is important that we stop and have a bit of a nerd moment because–well, it’s good for us.  To enrich your daily social media experience . . . we’re gonna talk about poetry. (You are welcome. Later on, you will impress your literary friends.  Don’t be lame and click away. I promise it will be fun.)

When I was in college, we studied this poem and my professor suggested that Robert Frost’s famous poem “Stopping By A Woods on A Snowy Evening” might be about suicide. Of course, many poets and authors and artists have been known for mental illnesses and depression–and sometimes a fixation on death. Robert Frost was no exception.  His entire family dealt with mental illness and his own son, years after this poem was published, tragically committed suicide.  Listen to Frost recite the poem himself, and see what you think.

Looking at the words, I have to admit, there is something there.  When the speaker says “these woods are lovely, dark, and deep” and the horse shakes his bells as if to “ask as if there is some mistake,” it seems like a clue that the speaker is tempted to linger in the empty, cold dark wood a bit too long.  On the other hand, it could be that he’s just out riding in the snow on the darkest night of the year and gets a hankering to sleep in the snow?

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Either way, the horse’s bells seem to shake the speaker awake and back to the realization that he has “miles to go before I sleep.”

Whatever your read of this particular poem, in actual fact, Frost won the Pulitzer prize four times, was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal for poetry, recited a poem at Kennedy’s presidential inauguration, and lived to the ripe old age of 88 because, as you know, nothing gold can stay.

Okay, that’s enough for now. Class dismissed.

(How do you read the poem? Leave your answer in comments.)

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