The Road Not TakenBy 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.
I remember this poem from high school. Our English teacher passed out photocopies and asked us to interpret the poem. Of course we all decided it was speaking about choices and which path to choose, take the easy well trodden route or take the risk to venture on a new unknown path. Although at some point we all started talking about a dark woods where the narrator got lost and never got out, yes very active imaginations. When I think of it, it was a perfect prose to give children who are about to graduate from High School. But in a less cliché move I am reconsidering it. Why you ask, well because I looked it up on Wikipedia and read this interpretive tale. That in fact Robert Frost may have written it as a friendly response to his friend Edward Thomas who would complain at the end of their walks together that they should have taken a different path. When asked about the sigh in the last stanza he responded: “It was my rather private jest at the expense of those who might think I would yet live to be sorry for the way I had taken in life.”
Now that I reread it as a grown woman, who has taken many paths, seen quite a few crossroads, at times changed her mind to double back or cut across the brush and start on another path completely, I see this poem differently. Perhaps it is the steps that I have taken in life that have made all the difference. Because it is with these steps, whether I stumbled and fell or skipped along happily, that I came to the place that I am. If I stumbled and fell, I picked myself up. If I didn’t like where I was heading, I took a new path. If I thought I was lost, I kept looking till I realized I wasn’t really lost. If he meant for it to be a way of teasing to those who choose to regret, it makes you realize that any path you choose if you decide to have regret in your heart then it doesn’t matter and you can never allow yourself to be happy with your decision. In the end I think it is best to take the path that you feel to take and don’t worry too much about the one you left behind, because here’s the secret: life is filled with choices and the only certainty is that you are going to have to make a choice but nothing else is guaranteed. The best thing for us to do is enjoy the journey.