Sunday, March 26, marked the birthday of Robert Frost, celebrated American poet, and April 1, 2017, begins national poetry month. Frost has written many, many poems over the years that have gone on to become members of the pantheon of great and revered pieces of literature. One is below.
“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.
What does this poem mean?
We consulted the Laurel Springs School English department for more.
Lisa Bechtold, Latin and English teacher, says, “This poem reflects the quintessential struggle of every individual when faced with following the crowd or well worn, predictable path, or choosing the route that reflects their own beliefs, passions or curiosity with ‘striding out’ in a new direction in life. Both paths have been used it is clear through time, but it’s the pause in the choice we all make either consciously or unconsciously. This poem quietly celebrates the philosophy of being true to the self and recognizing your ability to choose.”
Bechtold notes that this poem has endured through the years for myriad reasons, not the least of which is universality.
“This poem has stood the test of time because it strikes a chord regardless of age, gender, or background,” she says. “We are all faced with choices, some big and some small—taking the time to pause and consider makes it a notable reminder. There will always be the ‘ghost ship of life,’ the road you didn’t take, so many people often wonder ‘What if’ and this poem can reassure the reader or give them pause to reconsider.”
Bechtold says her favorite lines from the poem are: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”
“I read this poem in middle school over 40 years ago,” she says, “and have used it both in my life as a teacher, a mother, as a reminder and at times a mantra for seeking the life I wanted to live.”
Meg Easling, English teacher, says this poem inspired her to take unexpected paths.
“I felt it gave me permission and encouragement to take the less worn road, the less traveled one,” Easling notes. “I’d like to know how Frost would describe the ‘difference’ it made since we can never know how our life would have been if we’d taken the well-worn road with everyone else. Maybe it would have been less bumpy and muddy, but less interesting.”
Joy Nehr, Academy English teacher, says the poem also reflects the fleeting nature of life. “The message students should take in is that life goes by very quickly, even though it may not seem like it sometimes, it’s a good idea to stop, sometimes to appreciate your life, friends and family and to take stock of your accomplishments and to not let yourself get hung up on the little details.”
“Choices have consequences,” states Shep Broyles, English teacher. “Learn as much as you can to make educated risk and look back at your choice with pride.”
So, given the choice, which road will you choose?
Respond via our Facebook or Twitter and stay tuned—we are launching a contest for National Poetry Month! Check our social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) for details on April 10!