The Road Not Taken

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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.

Cover of Mountain Interval, Copyright page, and page containing the poem "The Road Not Taken", by Robert Frost.

"The Road Not Taken" is a poem by Robert Frost, published in 1916 as the first poem in the collection Mountain Interval.

History[edit]

Frost spent the years 1912 to 1915 in England, where among his acquaintances was the writer Edward Thomas. Thomas and Frost became close friends and took many walks together. After Frost returned to New Hampshire in 1915, he sent Thomas an advance copy of "The Road Not Taken."[1] The poem was intended by Frost as a gentle mocking of indecision, particularly the indecision that Thomas had shown on their many walks together. Frost later expressed chagrin that most audiences took the poem more seriously than he had intended; in particular, Thomas took it seriously and personally, and it may have been the last straw in Thomas' decision to enlist in World War I.[1] Thomas was killed two years later in the Battle of Arras.

Analysis[edit]

"The Road Not Taken" is a narrative poem consisting of four stanzas of 5 lines each in iambic tetrameter (though it is hypermetric by one beat – there are nine syllables per line instead of the strict eight required for tetrameter) and is one of Frost's most popular works. Besides being among the best known poems, some claim that it is one of the most misunderstood.[2]

Frost's biographer Lawrance Thompson is cited as saying that the poem's narrator is "one who habitually wastes energy in regretting any choice made: belatedly but wistfully he sighs over the attractive alternative rejected."[3] According to the Thompson biography, Robert Frost: The Years of Triumph (1971), in his introduction in readings to the public, Frost would say that the speaker was based on his friend Edward Thomas. In Frost’s words, Thomas was “a person who, whichever road he went, would be sorry he didn’t go the other.[4]

While a case could be made for the sigh being one of satisfaction, the critical 'regret' analysis supports the interpretation that this poem is about the human tendency to look back and attribute blame to minor events in one's life, or to attribute more meaning to things than they may deserve.[5] In 1961, Frost commented that “The Road Not Taken” is “a tricky poem, very tricky” implying that people generally misinterpret this poem as evidence of the benefit of free thinking and not following the crowd, while Frost’s intention was to comment about indecision and people finding meaning in inconsequential decisions.[6] A New York Times Sunday book review on Brian Hall's 2008 biography Fall of Frost states"Whichever way they go, they’re sure to miss something good on the other path.”[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Hollis, Matthew (2011-07-29). "Edward Thomas, Robert Frost and the road to war". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 8 August 2011. 
  2. ^ Sternbenz, Christina. "Everyone Totally Misinterprets Robert Frost's Most Famous Poem". Business Insider. Business Insider. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  3. ^ Thompson, Lawrance (1959). Robert Frost. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press. 
  4. ^ "The Road Not Taken". eNotes.com. eNotes.com, Inc. Retrieved 2015-06-13. 
  5. ^ Finger, Larry L. (November 1978). "Frost's "The Road Not Taken": A 1925 Letter Come to Light". American Literature 50 (3): 478–479. doi:10.2307/2925142. JSTOR 2925142. 
  6. ^ Sternbenz, Christina. "Everyone Totally Misinterprets Robert Frost's Most Famous Poem". Business Insider. Business Insider. Retrieved 13 June 2015. 
  7. ^ MILES, JONATHAN (May 11, 2008). "All the Difference". New York Times. Retrieved June 13, 2015. 

External links[edit]