The Road Not Taken – 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.

Robert Frost

I kept reading this poem by Robert Frost over and over again recently but I can’t seem to grasp the meaning of the poem. What I gathered was this: taken out of its context, the last few lines of this poem seem to advise the readers to take the road less-traveled because that will make all the difference in their lives. When read as a whole, this poem by Robert Frost seems to have a more philosophical meaning. Both roads at the junction are in reality equally well-trodden. But because eventually you can only take one of the roads, you can only imagine how the other road looks like. Even though you have never seen what the other road looks like, as a traveler, you would like to think that the road that you took was less traveled by as compared to the alternative. Not just that, you go on and work to convince yourself and others that this less traveled by road has made all the difference in your life.

What I could not decipher was the tone of the sigh in the last stanza. What kind of emotions did he think he would have when he is narrating this story many years later? What kind of sigh was it? Luckily enough for me, I happened to be reading a Chinese book and I found the answer to my questions in one of the short stories:




席慕蓉 <中年的心情>

I guess the tone of the sigh in “The Road Not Taken” is not something that young people can easily comprehend because we have not stood at enough number of crossroads and chosen which road to take. This sigh is not a sigh of regrets – neither Robert Frost nor 席慕蓉 showed that they felt they had made the wrong decision at that crossroad. If I have interpreted his poem correctly, he is essentially wondering where else he could have been and how different his life would have been if he had taken the other road at that junction.  He wondered with a sigh and after some thinking, he realized that his choice of roads at that junction had made all the difference in his life. Actually now that I think about it, the meaning of the “road less traveled by” should not be taken literally. What he meant to say was probably that he made the most rational decision at that point in his life. As a traveler (traveler, not tourist), you desire to explore and hence rationally, you prefer the road that is less traveled by.

Today I am standing at a junction and making a decision. I wonder if I would look back 10-20 years down the road at this junction and think about the road that I did not take.



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