Tag Archives: Philip Larkin

Sooo … I was re-watching The Sopranos tonight. I’m on Season 3 of my RIP-James-Gandolfini memorial viewing. The show continues to hold up, it’s still outstanding over a decade later, and two things occur to me: James Gandolfini’s Tony Soprano is one of the best characters ever, and Meadow Soprano is wrong when she drops the popular interpretation that Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is about death.

Sure, sure. It’s about a man thinking about sleep and woods and darkness and solitude and snow. Yep. I’m with you there. But suicide and death?

Here. Read the poem again with me. Done? Ok, cool.

So I’m guessing that a lot is made out of a couple ideas here. “The darkest evening of the year” turns into a line about the narrator’s depression. “Miles to go before I sleep” is ambiguous, given that he might well be walking straight off into the woods to die of hypothermia. “The woods are lovely, dark, and deep” could well be a man talking about his lust for sleepy death. Sure. Could be.

But really? I don’t buy it. I blame it on the harness bells.

The horse is harnessed and represents the forward march of obligations, of continuing on with the things one is doing. The owner of these fields lives in some village, presumably a place of more activity and hustle and bustle. Frost’s snowy woods are somewhere removed from all that, and the narrator gets off the horse and pauses for a moment to stop and smell the snowflakes.

He also doesn’t appear to be a man who’s done with life, as there is a palpable sense that he loves this world he’s looking at. There’s a celebration here–not of the village or the harnessed lifestyle, but the one where someone might just stop and enjoy nature for a moment.

The repetition of the “miles to go” before the narrator sleeps seems to me the sad acknowledgment that he has obligations left undone. Work still needs to be done. He’s not home yet. His day isn’t done yet. And it’s already incredibly late.

Tired? Yes. Suicidal? C’mon.

Now Philip Larkin’s “High Windows” — THAT’s a poem that’s secretly about suicide! Tell me — how do you go down a long slide from a high window, huh?

See what I’m saying?

(It’s okay. The college poetry professors didn’t buy that read, either. But what do they know.)

But speaking of miles to go, it would seem I’m procrastinating.

Stopping by blogs on a summer evening, with methods to code before I sleep.