The Road Not Taken, poetry by Robert Frost (1916)
“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.”
For many reasons, this poem has been a great source of inspiration across generations. It occurred to me the other day how often in our daily lives we choose between sudden diversions in our paths, so I took another look at the poem. My recollection told me that Robert Frost explicitly indicated that he made the correct decision with taking the road less traveled, and I was surprised to see that my memory was inaccurate. There is a subtle difference between identifying Frost’s poem as a story versus advice. And this is exactly what I was so curious about. We make decisions, often following the flow of society, but other times we need to differentiate ourselves. This uniqueness is what Frost is suggesting with this poem. However, my concern then was if we come across hundreds of paths each day, should we always choose the obscure path? The Road Not Taken is an optimistic story, but what of those who take the wrong turn? So I wrote as if I were lost on the road not traveled, and I came up with this:
My path had come to an end
At the feet of sinister trees
When moments of sunlight were darkened
By a soul that was no longer me.
I found myself lost in the wood
On the road not taken and I–
I heard you cry beyond fallen branches
From far away roads, you knew I could
And that has made all the difference.