Posted in MEET THE POETS, POETRY, POETRY FROM THE WORLD

THE ROAD NOT TAKEN (A Poem) by Robert Frost [with analysis]

road not taken
The road not taken… (From … http://www.luciafrangione.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/roadnottaken1.jpg)

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, 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 travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

….

….

THOUGHTS… by Victor Olugbemiro

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood.” Frost’s opening line calls the attention of the reader to one of the most common dilemmas in human history. In reading this line, there is a possibility of subconsciously concluding that one road is good to follow and the other ultimately leads to dire consequences. Both paths however are not ‘wanting wear’ both paths equally ‘lay in leaves no step had trodden black’, both paths are less taken.

Ato, in Ama Ata Aidoo’s “Dilemma of a Ghost” is in a similar quandary where he vacillates and his thoughts are rendered in a ghost song:

Shall I go to Cape Coast, Shall I go to Elmina?
I can’t tell. Shall I?
I can’t tell, I can’t tell.

His dilemma is borne out of the choice of living in Cape Coast or Elmina, two cities in Ghana that represent ancestral cultures on the one hand and adopted cultures on the other.

The similarity does not exceed the choice of a path, for in the build up to Ato’s closing song, ancestral cultures seem to be favoured by his family and even though a compromise is reached between his wife and mother, choosing to live in a city that suits his adopted cultures may still be frowned at. Frost, however makes it clear in the second and third stanzas that there really isn’t much difference between the two paths. By implication, choosing one above the other may not translate into a better experience of a walk in the woods.

At this point, your perplexity as the reader might increase, similar to that of the narrator because it is clear that he must come to a choice and the parallel options don’t make the choice any easier. Upon which he consoles himself that on another day, he shall take the other path, though in reality, he understands that once he goes down a road, it leads to other roads and eventually, he will never get the opportunity to come back and take the second path as he would have loved to.

So in a mock jest, he tells himself that in ages to come, he shall look back with a sigh and declare that he took the road less taken, less travelled, and that has made all the difference. Indeed, this conclusion is ironic and misleading as it inadvertently suggests, that taking the road less travelled is better than the well-worn path that countless before have taken, and countless after will take. In interpreting this poem, we tend to forget that the narrator himself had declared both paths suitable, acceptable, and less taken. A closer look at the title reveals that the whole poem ultimately is about the path he did not take at all, simply because he can take only one path at a time. He sighs at the end because he will never know where that path would have led, he can only guess that going down that way would have made all the difference in his life. The same kind of difference the path he took has made but he would never have experienced if he had opted for the former.

The sigh is misleading as it suggests regret. Indeed, contrary to what the narrator says that he will say he took the road less taken when actually both paths are less taken, the only actual regret is that he will never know where the other path would have led him. More confusing it gets as we try to take such a simple poem so seriously, especially when we try to understand exactly what the writer was saying. The good thing is that the poem is ambiguous enough to elicit diverse explanations which, being weighed on their merit, provide various perspectives that would still be right, only leaving the writer irked by being misunderstood.

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10 thoughts on “THE ROAD NOT TAKEN (A Poem) by Robert Frost [with analysis]

  1. Wow! This analysis though….banging! Well done Victor, you did great justice to this, it more than makes too much sense! LOL

    I guess in life, and due to our limitations as humans, we’ll always tend to wonder ’bout a foregone choice we failed to make, or made; at the expense of another! There’s always that possibility of raging and waging emotions! And for all we know, the choice we did end up making and sticking with; may have been the absolute bestest, we ever did make! But, we mortals are almost impossible to please! Roving eyes and the ability to be covetous, is almost, always our downfall! And we’d never stop wondering ’bout our choices till we cease breathing and existing! *laughing*

    Thanks for this guys, got my thought process going into an over-active overdrive! You can just tell Su’eddie can’t you?! Kudos! LMAO!

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    1. Thanks for reading Yemie. One of the things I hate not knowing is how a course of action would have turned out if I had followed through. It makes me do silly things sometimes; many times. But just knowing how it turned out, no matter how disastrous, makes me feel cool. Sadly, we can never always attempt all options, mere mortals that we are…

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      1. Hehehehe! Checkmate Victor! You’ve pretty much just summarized everything with ’em lines! The next best thing will therefore be to move on in the course we do decide to take, not look back like the infamous Lot’s wife, otherwise we be turned to salt; and quit worrying ’bout things we cannot fix! And no matter how bad a situation we find ourselves by way of the choices we make, we gotta make the best outta ’em and plain forget ’bout ‘what might have been’, or ‘had I known’ cause truth be told, we know not and will perhaps NEVER know, not unless we towed that path! So then, what the hay, in the grand scheme of things?! What’s the big idea?! LMAO!

        Keep keeping on Victor, kudos! LOL

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        1. True… I have had a lot of times and situations when I had to follow roads I might never have thought of… You know, you plan to be this, do this etc, then all of a sudden you find life taking you on a different journey. Life and its funny ways…

          I guess we then have to close our eyes to what lies behind… As they say, that’s why we have our eyes in front of us: so that we look forward… And yes, maybe once in a while, glance back for lessons but always, look ahead.

          ‘What the hay’ abi? Hee hee hee… Oh well. We live, we laugh.

          May life be kind.

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        2. The message couldn’t be any clearer than that Su’eddie, you don gone hit the nail right at the center of the head! Bullseye! *laughing*

          Plus, in addition to living and laughing, we gotta also love and learn! There! Its all complete now and all will be well with the world, with our world! Phew! LOL

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      2. Sometimes…many times, it is cool not to know… Knowing can kill the fun! And what will life be without the fun?

        Sha, I feel you on the not knowing thing Victor… Walahi! We have some of those experiences.

        As long as we are here, we will live how we can…and pray, that life treats us kind, each day. Hmmm…

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  2. Nice one…well broken down, good thoughts, cool flair…..I guess it is a bit difficult not to wonder what would have happened if we had taken another road on the Journey of life instead of the one we are presently on…however that in my opinion is like crying over spilt milk…If you have taken a particular road then plod on, grit your teeth and stay with it…make the best of it, enjoy the scenery, breath the air, groove on…

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