Adam Kempler's Home Page Information for Students Humorous Stuff Biography of Adam Kempler E-Mail Adam Kempler

 

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. 

 

In this dramatic poem, Frost employs irregular meter, which adds tension, with nine syllables per line in these four rhymed stanzas.  In the first three stanzas the speaker makes a choice between two paths in the woods, symbolic of a decision to which the reader is not privy.  The poem contains ambiguity about the similarities of the paths: one "was grassy and wanted wear; / Though as for that, the passing there / Had worn them really about the same."  Frost has said that the poem refers to a friend of his, Edward Thomas, who used to return from walks in the woods regretting paths he had not taken and flowers he might have seen on those paths.  In the fourth stanza, the "sigh" is also ambiguous.  Is it a sigh of relief, a sigh of regret, or, as some scholars have noted, a sigh of regret that both choices were not possible?  Frost may also employ a mocking tone when the speaker praises a whimsical choice, a choice based on insufficient evidence.  

Questions

What do you think of the symbol employed in this poem?  What does the following line mean: "Oh, I kept the first for another day!"?  One theme may be that any decision limits future choices.  Is that true?  If so, how so?  How does the title of the poem shed light on the poem's meaning?