‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost (1915)

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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 travelled by,

And that has made all the difference.



As the title suggests, the choices we do not make are as important as those which we do. We want to take both options (‘sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler’), but we must eventually choose only one. On a technical level, note how the first half of the poem is one long, meandering sentence, mimicking the indecisive meandering of the of the traveler.


At first, we think that we can retrace our steps and take the other option (‘Oh, I kept the first for another day!’). But we have branched off the original path too many times (‘how way leads on to way’) and we cannot find our way back (‘I doubted if I should ever come back‘).


Frost is saying that our decisions are often not based on any real logic or reason (‘Because it was grassy and wanted wear’), and that it is only upon looking back that we create the story to justify our decisions (‘I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence’).


The poem was inspired by Frost’s friend, the British poet Edward Thomas. The two would often go walking together, and Thomas was not only indecisive about choosing which path they should take but would lament afterwards that they should’ve taken the other path. In writing the poem, Frost was having a playful dig at his friend and meant it as a joke.


Thomas, however, took it more seriously, seeing it as a personal attack on his character. Soon after – and despite being a 37-year-old husband and father - he enlisted in the British army. He was shot through the chest during the Battle of Arras in 1917 and is buried in France.


Joel Ingles

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