Robert Frost (March 26, 1874–January 29, 1963) is perhaps one of the few American poets who needs no introduction. Author of many enduring and iconic poems in American letters, he continues to enrich and ennoble our literary lives. But few of us know that behind the public persona of a celebrated poet and winner of four Pulitzer Prizes, is a man whose life was laced with tragedy, entwined with loss, and twisted with grief.
When Frost was eleven, his father died of tuberculosis, leaving the family destitute. But that was only the first of many visits the death paid to his family over the coming years. When Frost was twenty-six, his mother died of cancer. Then, in 1920, his younger sister Jeanie had to be committed to a mental hospital. The same happened to his daughter Irma, and his son Carol committed suicide. As mental illness ran in his family, even Frost himself, at times, feared for his own sanity. In other tragic events that followed, he also lost his son and two young daughters.
Yet despite all this pain — and more so because of it — he was able to write the most memorable and life-giving poems we know today. One of them sprang to my mind after a recent loss of someone whose teachings have influenced my meditation and mindfulness practice for years. It’s titled “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” and included in the collection New Hampshire. Recited here by Frost himself in his warm aged voice. Please enjoy!
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
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.
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,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” an integral part of New Hampshire collection of poems, remains a monumental work of poetic genius.