I read in the Writer’s Almanac today that Robert Frost published his poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” on this date in 1923 — 89 years ago! My father had just turned 11 two days prior. In 1947, Frost gave a reading of his poems at Bowdoin College. A man in the audience asked what was Frost’s favorite poem. Frost declined to select one, though he invited this young man to visit with him after the program.
You can guess which one Frost admitted to being his favorite! It is everyone’s favorite. But he also revealed the impetus of the poem. It was almost Christmas and they had no gifts for their children. Frost hitched up his horse Eunice to a wagon, and took some of his produce into town to sell to have some money for gifts. He sold nothing.
On the way home, it began snowing and the embarrassment of the situation caused Frost to cry. The horse stopped while they watched the beauty of the snow filling the woods. Eventually, the horse shook her bells, Frost composed himself, and completed the trip home. It seems feasible he wrote the poem between Christmas and March 7. What a beautiful gift for his children as well as all our children!
Not only was Frost a contemporary of my parents, he died in 1963 when I was in high school. I have no recollection of knowing he was my contemporary as well. When Susan Jeffers published the picture book of this poem in 2001, I bought it for my school library as well as for myself and for my grandchildren to come. Of course, she could not ask the poet for verification of the back story. She had to make up her own. Though not as emotional as Frost’s, it is beautifully rendered.
Read the full poem at the Poetry Foundation, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”
Frost, Robert. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. Illustrations by Susan Jeffers. NY, NY: Penguin Young Readers Group. 2001.
Poetry Foundation, “Robert Frost.”
Poetry Foundation, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”
The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor. March 7, 2016.