What is the meaning of "and miles to go before I sleep"?

In "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," the meaning of the line "And miles to go before I sleep" has been contested, but generally it refers to the speaker's temptation to avoid his obligations. Though the speaker would rather remain in the "lovely" woods, he is aware of his duties elsewhere and knows that he must go farther, physically and metaphorically, before he can finally rest.

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The meaning of the line "And miles to go before I sleep" has been contested for decades by readers and scholars alike. The most obvious meaning is a literal—the traveler is talking about the prospect of sleep. He is traveling through the woods late at night, he is tired, and...

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The meaning of the line "And miles to go before I sleep" has been contested for decades by readers and scholars alike. The most obvious meaning is a literal—the traveler is talking about the prospect of sleep. He is traveling through the woods late at night, he is tired, and he is thinking about resting once his journey is finished. Some argue that the theme of the poem is duty versus obligation and that the beauty of the woods is a temptation for the traveler to abandon his duties, whatever they may be.

A more somber interpretation of the line has also gained prominence over time. Some believe the sleep that is referred to in the final stanza of the poem is nothing less than death itself—and perhaps suicide in particular. According to this reading, the speaker's journey is seen as a metaphor for the journey of life, and thus the speaker's temptation to cease his journey before its natural end is construed in that broader sense.

In either analysis of the last two lines, the sleep referred to is a temptation. The speaker wishes he could stay in the woods—either because they are beautiful or because he is lured by the prospect of death—but his obligations come first.

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