Sunday, November 23, 2008

Whose woods these were

The second most famous line in one of the most famous English language poems, Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening, runs:

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

These lines came to my mind as I hiked around Scarp Lake on the Hogback Lake trail a week or two ago (on Election Day, actually).

As far as I could tell, it was an old surveyor's post, marking a section or township corner perhaps. An odd feeling hit me, when I saw that it might be a property line. Whose woods these are? Whose woods these were? Well, they're Superior National Forest now, but back then maybe it was a timber company, marking the edge of its property before clearing it, leaving the white pine stumps I'd seen all around. Maybe a homesteader paced off his 40 acres from this post, dreaming of a potato harvest next year.

I've hiked through a lot of forest, on public and private land, but had never seen a post like this.

Here is the post a bit closer up:

I am so glad for open wild places, where property lines disappear in the magnitude of forest, where I can imagine rolling on across esker and swamp near forever.

Frost's poem goes on a bit about horses and farmhouses, then ends with the poem's most famous lines:

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.

Can't wrap it up any better than that!

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