The poem deals with the contemplation of nature. There’s a debate on whether the poem is calm or dark and depressing. The answer varies as per the person view. So, here we take a look at both the aspects of interpretation.
The speaker wants to take a pause in a quiet spot to watch the snow falling, maybe to calm his mind and enjoy nature. That might just be due to the decoy of being free of responsibilities and a solitude of being alone.
It may also suggest the adventure the speaker seeks and his attraction to danger of ‘darkness’ and ‘depth’ of the woods alone in the snowy evening. His responsibilities towards his work, family and his community might be stopping the speaker from experiencing new places and things and stopping him from going into dangerous adventures.
A simple interpretation would be that work always comes first before play which in the poem is reminded by the horse shaking his harness bell reminding the speaker that there are places to go and we can’t pause and watch the snow falling. There is lot of works to be done.
The darker interpretation of the poem addresses longing for death for the tiredness of life. The speaker mentions that it’s the darkest evening of the year. He also goes on to include isolated spot, cold, frozen lake and the darkness none of which are an inviting place to stop and commune one’s thoughts at. Winter is a season when animals hibernate, plants die and the speaker might be associating the death with the use of this season.
The poet with ‘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.’ to end the poem is often interpreted as attraction towards death. Furthermore, his emphasize on the line ‘miles to go before I sleep’ refers to long journey of his life and the ‘sleep’ there, the speaker refers represent death.
We can’t be certain where the speaker is travelling to but as it’s at the end of the day, we can simply assume that he is making his way back to home. ‘Home’ can be interpreted as the end of the road or a journey.
Whatever his thoughts may be, the speaker realizing his responsibility towards his family who depend upon him finds the strength to continue his journey towards home pressing his feelings. At the same time, he also his journey with life.