the Road not taken
“The Road Not Taken” is a lyric poem with four stanzas of five lines each. (A lyric poem presents the feelings and emotions of the poet rather than telling a story).
Setting of the Poem :
Robert Frost sets the poem on a forest road on an autumn morning. He received inspiration for the poem from the landscape in rural England.
Stanza 1 :
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;
On the road of life, the speaker arrives at a point where he must decide which of two equally appealing choices is the better one. He examines one choice as best he can, but the future prevents him from seeing where it leads.
Stanza 2 :
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,
The speaker selects the road that appears at first glance to be less worn and therefore less travelled. This selection suggests that he has an independent spirit and does not wish to follow the crowd. After a moment, he concludes that both roads are about equally worn.
Stanza 3 :
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.
Leaves cover both roads equally. No one on this morning has yet taken either road, for the leaves lie undisturbed. The speaker remains committed to his decision to take the road he had previously selected, saying that he will save the other road for another day. He observes, however, that he probably will never pass this way again and thus will never have an opportunity to take the other road.
Stanza 4 :
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.
In years to come, the speaker says, he will be telling others about the choice he made. While doing so, he will sigh either with relief that he made the right choice or with regret that he made the wrong choice. Whether right or wrong, the choice will have a significant impact on his life.
Q.1. Describe the two roads that the author comes across.
A.1. Both the roads are equally attractive and lead into the yellow wood. The first one is the beaten path where the grass has been worn down by the passing of feet. The second road is grassy, which shows that not many people have walked down that road.
Q.2. Which road does the speaker choose? Why?
A.2. The speaker chooses the road less frequently taken. He feels the road “wanted wear”, that is, was not frequented and was more grassy and hence more challenging and adventurous.
Q.3. Discuss the title of the poem.
A.3. “The Road Not Taken” is an apt title of the poem because the poem concerns a choice made between two roads by a person walking in the woods. He would have liked to explore both the roads but he knows that he can’t walk on both the roads at the same time. He chooses the road not travelled on by too many people and many years later he feels that all the difference in his life is because of the choice of roads he had made.
Q.4. Why does the poet say he shall tell people “this with a sigh”? Why do you think the final stanza starts with a sigh?
A.4. The poet comes to a fork in the road and decides to walk on the path that looks less walked on. He is however wishful of walking on the other road on some other day. He is not sure if his choice has been the right one and feels that if someone asks him to justify his choice he would probably answer him with a sigh. The sigh could signify two things. Either it is a sigh of happiness and contentment at having achieved success in life because of the right choices made at the right time or it could be interpreted as sigh of regret. It could be a sigh of sorrow at having made the wrong choice and lost out on a golden opportunity
Q.5. Bring out the symbolism in the poem.
A.5. The poem is about something more than the choice of paths in a wood. We can interpret the narrator’s choice of a road as a symbol for any choice in life between alternatives that appear almost equally attractive. It is only after the passage of years, that we can really evaluate the decisions and choices that we make based on the result of these choices. If we find success, the choice is the right one but if the result is failure and pain then the choice has obviously not been the right one.