Robert Frost, 1874 - 1963
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
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.
About the Author
Robert Frost was born on March 26, 1874 in San Francisco. He was a quintessential poet and portrays the psychological complexities in his work. One of the most misunderstood poet of his time, his poems are infused with Irony and Ambiguity. The poet Daniel Hoffman (1970) describes Frost’s early work as “the Puritan ethic turned astonishingly lyrical and enabled to say out loud the sources of its own delight in the world, “The poem, “The Road not taken” is one of the finest works of the poet and strikes the chord with its readers, as they can relate the roads in the poem with the choices they make in life that changes the course of life.
The poem starts with a dilemma which road to chose, the one which is worn out and travelled by many or the one less travelled and is still fresh. In everyone’s life there comes a time when a decision has to be made that will completely change the course of life and in that moment of decision a person has to decide to take a traditional way or conventional. The poem celebrates the human nature and explores the theme; each road or choice is different approach towards problem and whichever path one takes, one will ponder the possibilities other path had to offer. Incessant Curiosity is the part of human nature.
The poem is reflective as if speaker is narrating story to his children or grand children and sharing his life experience. The speaker of the poem is walking in forest, leaves are yellow and falling which depicts it’s the autumn season and speaker is led to a fork i.e. a diverge and there he is standing in front of the two roads, one is worn which depicts that many pedestrians have walked this path and it is an experienced path and the other is grassy and less worn out depicting very few travelers have used this road. Speaker tries to overlook and guess the destination of both the paths but fails and could see only few turns. Poet has used symbolism depicting life as a path and there comes a time in every person’s life where one has to choose. The reluctance to chose, inability to walk both the paths and an uncertain future makes the decision difficult and confuses the person which way to lead. Normally a person chooses the most determined, predictable and easy path and reassures himself that some day in future he will walk the other path but inside everyone knows that it’s not possible as every decision changes the direction of life and there is no looking back. Once the opportunity is lost never comes back. The speaker travels the road less travelled and accepts even though there were challenges and risks but that’s what will make the difference. Again symbolism is used; speaker relates it to life where two similar looking situations yield totally different results and if the unconventional path is chosen even though it’s difficult may lead to a triumphant and glorious life.
Optimistically poem gives the message to seize the day and make choices which will fundamentally change the course of life and make it worth living. The poem is a gentle teasing of the human behavior of regretting every decision in later stage and creates subtle humor in the end of the poem depicting unsatisfied wants of man and opportunity lost to embrace the other. The metaphorical beginning of the poem depicting autumn season and falling of leaves signify the speaker has grown old and taking a decision in the older years of life. It generates a symbolism, in life when elders have to take a decision related to business or finance. Describing the roads “as just as fair”, then with “Though as for that the passing there/ had worn them really about the same” the poem is classic example of difficult but necessary decisions of life. Poet metaphorically suggests that paths may look similar just like roads in the poem but may lead to totally different outcome that may change the life in positive or in negative manner. So it’s extremely important to weigh the pros and cons of every situation and then make a decision. The unique feature of the poem is its archetypical dilemma, both literally and figuratively. Forks in road and paths in wood are deep rooted and metaphorically relates to crisis and decisions. Forks in the road signify free will and fate and the dilemma person faces in order to chose one of the path which will lead to his destiny.
“I shall be telling this with a sigh / somewhere ages and ages hence.” This line depicts the irony as the poem is infused with prediction of regret and speaker depicts betrayal is inevitable as today’s decision might not bear sweet fruits. “Sigh” is a symbol of uncertainty and speaker is trying to look inevitable present from the vantage point of future and is not sure whether in future he will breathe a sigh of relief for choosing the right path that took him to zeniths of glory or it was just another ordinary path. He feels that in his older years he will be betrayed by the future and when he will be sharing his life experience with his grand children regardless of the outcome of his decision he will stay optimistic, this is signified in the closing lines,” I took the one less traveled by,And that has made all the difference.”