|Robert Frost in 1910 (www.wikitree.com)|
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Although seemingly a simple poem this is often described as one of the most misunderstood poems of all time. Frost himself described it as "tricky, very tricky".
This is because is can be read in at least two very different ways. When the poet decides to take the path that was 'grassy and wanting wear', he imediately contradicts himself and then tells us that they had both worn 'about the same'!
It will usually be seen as a metaphor about life's choices and everlasting regret or nostalgia for what the other path might have led to.
The final stanza, when read carefully, is a supposition about the future, 'I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence'. The 'sigh' could be seen as either nostalgia or regret but it hasn't happened yet!
In fact Frost wrote with his indecisive friend Edward Thomas, his British walking companion, in mind. Apparently Thomas never recognised himself in the poem.
I have always presumed that M. Scott Peck's multi-million selling self-help book, 'The Road Less Traveled' took it's title from this verse.