Promises to Keep

MaryRose Cobarde Candare
ILLUMINATION
Published in
3 min readMay 29, 2023

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My father turns 85 around Father’s Day. It’s been a life graced with promises kept.

“And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.”

This final line, which is repeated in Robert Frost’s beloved poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” poses quite an interest to literary scholars. Discussions arose as to why the line was repeated. Of course, it is highly unlikely that Frost simply ran out of words. Educated reflection puts it as a strategy for emphasis.

Most literary scholars agree that Frost aimed the repetition to express two different ideas. Sleep on the first mention meant the literal state of rest. On the second mention, sleep was used figuratively to mean death. The man in the poem is contemplating the years ahead of him.

Life is often regarded to be too short no matter how long a person lives and yet the persona in the poem appeared convinced, almost with regret, that his death remains at a distance. It prompts the question, why is it that time seems to drag slowly for some people while others could hardly catch up with its pace? The answer has to do with how life is lived and what the liver thinks of it.

For the persona to express a seeming desperation, an apparent resignation, it is curious to see what kind of life he leads. The preceding lines tell us a story of a man who labors every day passing by the woods on his way to work and back. But I believe these last two lines alone sufficiently tell his story. That one particular night when he lingered in the woods could have been one among many. Or it may have been one made extraordinary by his excessive misery, by his intense need for respite. He reached a point where he took more solace in the quiet beauty of the cold, dark woods than in the thought of a well-deserved rest at home.

Often we, too, get distracted from our own personal journeys. The road to our goal is endlessly charged with sideshow glitters. I recall a student of mine in a creative writing class years ago who thought of the line as a command to see one’s goal to its finish. Even to delay gratification if necessary, and it is often necessary. For the rest of my students, the line meant fulfilling obligations and keeping commitments.

The man in the poem holds a common experience and it makes him real. His life and anxieties are recognizable. He embodies dedication and commitment. He brings to mind my own father, a family man and a public servant. Just like the man in the poem, I know my father often contemplates on the future. Seeing how he, along with my mother, raised ten children tells me he must certainly have had more than his fair share of weary days and anxious moments. I have always said a prayer for him to find within himself some solace, enough to muster strength time and again.

My father is soon celebrating his 85th birthday around Father’s Day, aptly enough. I see this as a fitting occasion to write down a few thoughts about him. I want to declare his sacrifices and gratefully acknowledge all the promises he has lovingly kept and indeed continues to keep. I wish for him his own private, serene woods to give him comfort, and awaken his mind to gratitude for the graces that have kept him company all these years.

“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.”

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MaryRose Cobarde Candare
ILLUMINATION

wonderer, author, content creator, editor, teacher and lifelong learner