Wednesday, August 2, 2017
“Real courage is when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” ― Harper Lee
You may get tired of blogs based on poems, but I don’t, so they will continue. Today’s is about Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” While it never snows here, it did when we lived in Boston—quite a lot. We have, in fact, driven through the woods at night in New England on snowy roads, so we know, sort of, what the author of the poem must have been feeling. However, the images of woods, snow, and horse have nothing to do with why this poem is so important to me. I studied Frost for my Master’s in American Literature, and this was one of my favorite poems. Frost makes a fleeting reference to suicide and dismisses it quickly, unlike Hamlet who went on and on in his “To be or not to be” soliloquy and never came to a conclusion. I like Frost’s frosty, fleeting reference so much better—just that “the woods are lovely dark and deep” as if it would be nice just to disappear in them forever, but no, he can't. It is the last four lines of this poem that keep me going here. I never expected to live to be seventy-two years old (73 in November), and I certainly didn’t expect to have all the health issues with which I must suffer on a daily basis. It’s true that occasionally I do think that “the woods are lovely, dark and deep,” but it is only as fleeting as it is in the poem. As I can’t go back, the only way to go is forward. The “Blues Brothers” said, “We are on a mission from God.” It may not have been true for them, but it is for me. I was asked by a Tanzanian just last week why it is with my age and physical problems that I don’t return to the United States and live a quiet life with lots of the latest medications and medical treatment available. My answer was long and complicated and mostly in Swahili but it is summed up quite adequately in the last four lines of the poem. The poem follows here (do pay attention to the last four lines—they may apply to you, too):
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.