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What does the line "but I have promises to keep" mean in this poem?what does this mean?...

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amberprettigu... | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 4, 2012 at 3:56 AM via web

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What does the line "but I have promises to keep" mean in this poem?

what does this mean? from the poem "Stopping By The Woods One Snowy Evening"

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 4, 2012 at 7:00 AM (Answer #4)

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This poem always gives me the creeps, but it is very moving.  The way I see it is that the speaker has stopped to reflect on life.  Sometimes life gets overwhelming, and it is tempting to just give in.  The speaker decides not to give in to death.  The promises are ones he made to himself and to his loved ones to keep going, keep fighting, and keep living his life.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 4, 2012 at 4:29 AM (Answer #2)

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Lots of ways to interpret this one.  The most "literal" meaning would simply be that the speaker does not have the time to just hang out in the woods and enjoy nature.  He has things that he has to do, things that he has promised to get done.

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stolperia | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 4, 2012 at 5:11 AM (Answer #3)

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The speaker in the poem is sometimes considered to be thinking about approaching death while musing about the lovely but dark and deep woods. If this is the case, the speaker isn't ready to die yet. There are responsibilities that must be addressed before laying down to "sleep".

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cybil | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted April 4, 2012 at 9:51 AM (Answer #5)

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Here's a link to an article in the Writer's Almanac that provides the original story behind this poem by Frost. Read it, and you see that his experience suggests that the lines refer to a sense of obligation he felt.  http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/index.php?date=2012/03/07

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mwalter822 | Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted April 4, 2012 at 1:03 PM (Answer #6)

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You have to look at the line in context:

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

It isn't just that he has to fulfill certain promises that he has made to others before he dies, he also has plenty of life left to live. The miles are time. It also seems to imply a certain power over death. The speaker is not willing to die until he has kept his promises and served his time.

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lsumner | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted April 5, 2012 at 12:15 PM (Answer #7)

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It is strange that the speaker would stop on one of the darkest evenings of the year. Even the "little horse" thinks it is strange. No doubt, the speaker had seen snow many times. Why did the speaker stop with miles to go before he sleeps? The promises keep the speaker from staying in the "lovely, dark and deep" woods. As mentioned above, the promises could be responsibilities with which the speaker feels an obligation. It is no time to give in to weariness of life.  

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amberprettigurlswagg | Student , Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 10, 2012 at 10:12 PM (Answer #8)

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Lots of ways to interpret this one.  The most "literal" meaning would simply be that the speaker does not have the time to just hang out in the woods and enjoy nature.  He has things that he has to do, things that he has promised to get done.

Thank you!

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