Max on Frost


Most children educated in the United States are familiar with the sweet poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost.  Because it is short and intellectually manageable, I use it to teach literary analysis to my younger students in middle school.

I teach in the late afternoon and early evening.

Listening to this poem as the Winter Solstice approaches on December 21-22, my students gaze out the windows at the darkening skies.

Last year, those lofty literary goals of mine took a back seat to a creative interpretation of this poem by Max.

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.

Max: I like the rhyming. I see that one line doesn’t rhyme. I see the sound of the rhyme is a long “o”.

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.

Max: The speaker is out in the forest on December 21.

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.

Max: I wonder if the harness bells mean something more. Mrs. Sabraw, they could have a double meaning, you know. Do ya think?

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.

Max: Clearly, this poem is about Santa Claus.

So much for the deep interpretation about the final repeating lines, those dark images of loneliness and death, and maybe suicide.

Ho, Ho, Ho, Max. Nice going.

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About Cheri

Writer, artist, cable television host, grandmother to four!
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8 Responses to Max on Frost

  1. Richard Manchester says:

    And miles to go before I sleep.

  2. andreaskluth says:

    Ah, but this post evokes a reaction in me that you probably were not expecting or aiming for:

    I’ve always felt a certain pressure and anxiety when confronted with poetry (as opposed to prose).

    What if I am not sufficiently moved? What if I don’t get it? What if I reveal myself to be Max?

    The truth is that i am often not as moved by poetry as, say, my wife is. (I’m excluding “poems” such as the Aeneid here. And, of course, I’m writing an entire book after being inspired by Kipling’s “If”.)

    It’s similar with me and classical music.

    So I’ve largely excused myself in these two domains. Prematurely, probably.

    • Cheri says:

      If you had revealed yourself to be a Max, then you would have delighted your teacher with your creativity.

      What I had hoped to convey in this piece is that poetry is what we make it. Once the poet unleashes his words, in a compression that we prose writers and readers often find confusing, he submits to the will of the reader, a guy like Max.

      As usual, there is a little story in a story here. The long “o’s” that Max noticed in the first stanza are my Ho Ho Ho’s at the end. The fact that Max has determined that Winter Solstice is part of this poem is amazes his teacher. Lastly, at this time of year, harness bells evoke images of sleighs, right?

      Seeing Santa in Frost’s poem is marvelous!

      And if you know me, you know that I rarely employ sarcasm, so my last line in this post meant Great Max.

      Getting it is not my goal as a teacher of poetry: hearing it, wrestling with it, and enjoying the possibilities are the part of the journey into poetry.

      And if the woods are dark and deep, so be they.

      What I gather after reading your stuff for a year is this: whatever you set out to do, whether confidently, anxiously, or blindly, you will do it.

      I took a training years ago, that left me with the best little mantra: It is as it is, I am who I am, and now is my time.

      If I choose to understand classical music now, I will, and so on. It all has to do with time, how little we have of it, and what to do with it.

  3. Richard Manchester says:

    Plato’s in his cave
    And Cantor’s on his mountain
    By act of human will
    They’ll come together still.

    ” Man doth not yield himself unto the angels, nor unto death utterly, save only by the weakness of his feeble will”

  4. Richard Manchester says:

    Now you really have shamed and silenced me!

  5. Richard Manchester says:

    (conscience – and awareness – must be free)

  6. andreaskluth says:

    Understood and appreciated, guru.

    But it’s interesting that I reacted as I did. I do feel a bit nervous around poetry.

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