Today, January 29, marks the 51st anniversary of the death of the great American poet Robert Frost. Just last week, we in the Local and Family History Department rediscovered this wonderful editorial from the Paducah Sun, which was first printed on January 30, 1963, the day after Frost’s death. We reprint it here for you in its entirety.
‘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.
White-thatched Robert Frost more than fulfilled the promise of his gentle poetic genius long before he entered those lovely, dark deep woods Tuesday at the age of 88.
Rarely has an America poet had such widespread acceptance. For surely anyone who has seen a newborn calf in springtime could not help but be touched by Frost’s joyous description of the wobbly-legged little fellow being licked by his mother in “The Pasture.”
And surely no one could read that poignant American classic, “The Death of a Hired Man”–with its description of home as “something you somehow haven’t to deserved”–without feeling his eyes sting with tears.
Perhaps the real reason for Frost’s broad acceptance–and his greatness–is the depth and richness of meaning found in his poetry. This depth, a hallmark of great art, is conspicuously lacking the work of Longfellow, with whom Frost is frequently compared as the American laureate.
By “depth of meaning” we do not mean the studied complexities of a Pound or an Eliot. Depth of poetic meaning has nothing to do with footnotes, citations, or allusions to curious medieval song cycles. It has to do, perhaps, with the wealth of feeling that a line of great poetry can evoke in the reader.
Frost’s little “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”–one of his best-known poems–has been endlessly and laboriously interpreted in the scholarly journals, sometimes as a protest against death, sometimes as an argument against suicide, sometimes as this, sometimes as that.
Some people–not many of them, unfortunately, on our symbol-chasing English faculties–have said the poem is simply a description of the feelings a man has had when he stops his horse at the edge of some woods at night, feels the snowflakes brushing his cheek, and thinks about the long way he has to go before he can get home.
We once heard a distinguished professor ridicule this interpretation as “simplistic.”
But Robert Frost, bless his heart, himself said this was the way his poem ought to be read.
If you’d like to read the full text of “Stopping by Woods…” and interpret for yourself, follow this link –http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/171621