“The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost

Robert Frost (1874–1963). From the Mountain Interval collection. 1916.
(see http://www.bartleby.com/119/index1.html – 1920 edition)

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.

I love the imagery this conjures up. My interpretation: A personal choice must be made but really both options seem pretty much equal. In time the subject may sigh, regretfully or boastfully, that he took the bolder choice: the less-travelled road. Of course he wouldn’t really know if it had made any difference since he hadn’t travelled the other road. Sometimes rationalisations for choices are arbitrary and justifications self-deceiving. Frost isn’t actually saying that there’s some virtue in individualism – a popular interpretation when the last two lines are taken out of context.

I wonder about my life’s choices: my less-travelled roads. Roads taken and not.

Some paths run parallel, some at right angles, some tangential, like ships in the night. Some double back, some traverse precipitous ravines, others meander broad flat plains. One might be straight and short, another tortuous and long, and everything in between. One thing’s for sure – we all end up in the same place. It doesn’t matter which we take, it’s what we do along the way that’s important.

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