Derek Walcott: On "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"

A parody of Frost, on the other hand would use the doggerel of the greeting card. The trap is the poem, which snaps back at us and catches our fingers with the slow revelation of its betraying our sing-along into wisdom. Frost said it with less venom: "A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom." This leaves out the turmoil contradictions, and anguish of the process, the middle of the journey.

[quotes poem]

And even this poem, we now know, cannot be trusted. "Whose woods these are I think I know." He does know, so why the hesitancy? Certainly, by the end of the line, he has a pretty good guess. No, the subject is not the ownership of the woods, the legal name of their proprietor, it is the fear of naming the woods, of the anthropomorphic heresy or the hubris of possession by owners and poets.

The next line, generally read as an intoned filler for the rhymes, and also praised for the regionality of that "though" as being very American, is a daring, superfluous, and muted parenthesis. "His house is in the village though." Why not? Why shouldn't he live in the woods? What is he scared of? Of possession, of the darkness of the world in the woods, from his safe world of light and known, named things. He's lucky, the frightened poem says while I'm out here in the dark evening with the first flakes of snow beginning to blur my vision and causing my horse to shudder, shake its reins, and ask why we have stopped. The poem darkens with terror in every homily.

From "The Road Taken." In Brodsky, Joseph, Seamus Heaney, and Derek Walcott (eds.) Homage to Robert Frost. New York: Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux, 1996.

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Criticism Overview
Title Derek Walcott: On "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Derek Walcott Criticism Target Robert Frost
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 04 Feb 2015
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication Homage to Robert Frost
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