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Frost, Robert. The Road Not Taken
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Frost, Robert. The Road Not Taken
Listen to Robert Frost
The Road Not Taken By Robert Frost
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.
In the Road Not Taken, Frost wanted to be subtle enough tofool "the casual person" into thinking that what he said was obvious,
but it doesn’t quite formulate.
" You get more credit for thinking if you restate formulae or cite cases that fall in easily under formulae, but all the fun is outside saying things that suggest formulae that won't formulate - that almost but don't quite formulate. I should like to be so subtle at this game as to seem to the casual person altogether obvious. The casual personwould assume I meant nothing or else I came near enough meaning something he was familiar with to mean it for all practical purposes."
- Robert Frost 1917
For the large moral meaningwhich "The Road Not Taken" seems to endorse - go, as I did, your ownway, take the road less traveled by, and it will make "all thedifference"- does not maintain itself when the poem is looked atmore carefully. Then one notices how insistent is the speaker on admitting, atthe time of his choice, that the two roads were in appearance "reallyabout the same," that they "equally lay / In leaves no step hadtrodden black," and that choosing one rather than the other was a matterof impulse.
But in the final stanza, asthe tense changes to future, we hear a different story, one that will be told"with a sigh" and "ages and ages hence." At that imaginedtime and unspecified place, the voice will have nobly simplified and exaltedthe whole impulsive matter into a deliberate one of taking the "lesstraveled" road.
The mischievous aspect of"The Road Not Taken" is what makes it something un-boring, for thereis little in its language or form which signals an interesting poem. But thatmischief also makes it something other than a "sincere" poem, in theway so many readers have taken Frost to be sincere. Its fun is outside theformulae it seems almost but not quite to formulate.
Frost: A LiteraryLife Reconsidered
. Copyright © 1984 by William Pritchard
A close lookat the poem reveals that Frost's walker encounters two nearly identical paths:so he insists, repeatedly. The walker looks down one, first, then the other,
"asjust as fair."
Indeed, "the passing there / Had worn them reallyabout the same." As if the reader hasn't gotten the message, Frost saysfor a third time. "And both that morning equally lay/ In leaves no stephad trodden black." What, then, can we make of the final stanza? My guessis that Frost, the wily ironist, is saying something like this: "When I amold, like all old men, I shall make a myth of my life. I shall pretend, as weall do, that I took the less traveled road. But I shall be lying." Frostsignals the mockingly self-inflated tone of the last stanza by repeating theword "I," which rhymes - several times - with the inflated word"sigh." Frost wants the reader to know that what he will be saying,that he took the road less traveled, is a fraudulent position, hence the sigh.
Literary History of the United States.
Ed.Emory Elliott. Copyright © 1988 by the Columbia UniversityPress
The sigh can be interpreted as a sigh of regret or as a sighof self-satisfaction; in either case, the irony lies in the distance betweenwhat the speaker has just told us about the roads' similarity and what his orher later claims will be.
Frost might also have intended a personal irony: in a 1925letter to Cristine Yates of Dickson, Tennessee, asking about the sigh, Frostreplied: "It was my rather private jest at the expense of those who might
I would yet live to be sorry for the way I had taken in life."
Finger, Larry L. (November 1978). "Frost's "TheRoad Not Taken": A 1925 Letter
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