Robert Frost Recites ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’

Today is the birthday of Robert Frost, who once said that a poem cannot be worried into being, but rather, “Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting.” Those words are from Frost’s 1939 essay, “The Figure a Poem Makes,” which includes the famous passage:

The figure a poem makes. It begins in delight and ends in wisdom. The figure is the same as for love. No one can really hold that the ecstasy should be static and stand still in one place. It begins in delight, it inclines to the impulse, it assumes direction with the first line laid down, it runs a course of lucky events, and ends in a clarification of life–not necessarily a great clarification, such as sects and cults are founded on, but in a momentary stay against confusion.

To celebrate the 138th anniversary of the poet’s birth, we bring you rare footage (above) from PBS and the Poetry Foundation of Frost reciting his classic poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” in January of 1959, when he was 84 years old. You can also listen to a four-part recording (below) of Frost reading a selection of his poems in 1956, courtesy of Harper Audio.

  • Robert Frost Reading, Part One: “The Road Not Taken,” “The Pasture,” “Mowing,” “Birches,” “After Apple-Picking,” and “The Tuft of Flowers.”
  • Robert Frost Reading, Part Two: “West-Running Brook” and “The Death of the Hired Man.”
  • Robert Frost Reading, Part Three: “Mending Wall,” “One More Brevity,” “Departmental,” “A Considerable Speck,” and “Why Wait for Science.”
  • Robert Frost Reading, Part Four: “Etherealizing,” “Provide, Provide,” “One Step Backward Taken,” “Choose Something Like a Star,” “Happiness Makes Up in Height,” and “Reluctance.”

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