What is the meaning of "And miles to go before I sleep,/ and miles to go before I sleep"? Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first line reading "And miles to go before I sleep" is probably intended literally. The speaker is traveling some distance in a horse-drawn sleigh and still have some distance to cover before he gets home to a warm bed. The repetition of the line suggests that it occurs to the speaker that he still has a long life ahead of him with many things to do before he will sleep the sleep of death. Some critics have suggested that the whole poem contains a hidden death wish, but the fact that the speaker reflects that he is going to die some day does not necessarily mean that he wants to die now or at any time in the future. Most of us, at one time or another, have been struck by the realization that we are going to die some day. We may even wonder if there isn't some big calendar up in the sky with our name written in on one of the squares. The fact that the speaker, presumably Frost himself, says that he has, figuratively, miles to go before he dies would seem to suggest that he is not expressing a "death wish" but, on the contrary, assuring himself that he has many more years of life ahead of him.

Robert Frost wrote "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" around 1921. He died in 1963, so he had about forty-two years of life ahead of him on that winter night when he stopped to admire the beautiful winter scene. During those years he became America's best-loved poet. In 1961 he was honored by being invited to read one of his poems at John F. Kennedy's presidential inauguration.

vmoriarity eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The final two lines of Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" are repeated, which usually means the line is very important. Critics have offered several interpretations of these lines.   One is that "And miles to go before I sleep" refers to death.  The author visits woods that are  "lovely, dark and deep" on the "darkest day of the year."  It is possible the woods symbolize death, yet the poem seems so peaceful, it could be that the woods represent nature and freedom.  His brief stop in the woods may just be a moment of freedom before returning to the obligations of society.  "But I have promises to keep" may refer to those obligations and the final two lines could be more literally interpreted.


jtilford458 | Student

The repetition of the line also adds to the mood of the tale. When the line is repeated, it intensifies the weariness of the narrator as well as the length of time that will have to pass before he can finally rest both literally and metaphorically. Reading the line a second time adds a sense of fatigue and makes the amount of time that has to pass before he can sleep seem even longer than if the line were only used once.

In addition, it adds to the eerie and melancholy mood. When we read the line twice, the seriousness of the narrator's plight—as well as the plight of all living things—truly sinks in. 

ireneleya-123 | Student

The inner meaning of the lines are that the poet has many things to do before he dies

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Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

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