And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

from Robert Frost – Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening on Rap Genius

Meaning

The final couplet is one of the most famous instances of repetition in American poetry. Robert Frost could have easily used this line once, but by using it twice he turns the sentence itself into a metaphor for life.

The speaker is exhausted and wishes he could fall asleep. His repetition thus has a drowsy quality. On the literal level he has a long trip home. But on the metaphorical level the “miles to go” is life; the “sleep” is death.

The narrator’s repetition of the final lines also have a darker meaning. They are acknowledgements of a death wish that the narrator previously had before succumbing to his societal obligations. Frost may even be tracing a link between suicidal contemplation and the perception of sublime beauty. Tensions like these are part of why critic Lionel Trilling famously called Frost (against the opinion of most critics at the time) “a terrifying poet.”

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