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THE ROAD NOT TAKEN  Frost

Individual, personal and anecdotal experiences of ordinary, everyday life, close to nature is the subject matter of the Romantics as well as Frost’s poem,  “The Road Not Taken”. Though Frost is not a romantic, he is a pastoral poet using the vernacular, close to the land; while aware of nature’s  restorative  benevolence; yet also its dark, sinister, ruthless and imperative power over mankind is recognised. 

The poem has a number of negative nuances, such as the title implying it is about the other road, the undergrowth, the leaves trodden black, and the uncertainty prevailing. This is reinforced in “and sorry I could not travel both” and compounded with an ambiguous sigh which could be of relief/contentment or of regret/weariness.   The negative, world weary tone is supported by the many frustrating contradictions throughout the poem; his path is “grassy and wanted wear”  and yet “the passing there Had worn them about the same,” “yellow wood” yet ages and ages hence”  the former suggesting late in life, while the latter, lots of time left.  Though fundamentally negative, the second stanza  is more positive where the affirmative choice of the “other” road is made decisively. 

Frost’s deliberate ambiguity and equivocations are in keeping with much of his poetry; they lack conclusive arguments,  let alone final answers to life’s dilemmas.  Other ambiguities include the “sigh” and the “difference”  -  for good or not?    Frost has commented: “My poems are set to trip the readers head foremost into the boundless “(the dark). 

Frost’s commonplace, ordinary, individual experience is expressed in colloquial conversational language resonant with powerful underlying  universal meanings. Though many of the concrete images: roads, woods, leaves, trees and grass are tangible, others are charged or riddled with colourful suggestiveness;  “yellow wood” (old – end of life decision) ,  “undergrowth” (nuisance/hazard) , “leaves trodden black” (evil connotations) . 

The change of tense from the present to the future, in the last stanza suggests a positive view of future life. 

The poem articulates beautifully the reasons why decisions are so very fraught. Most are difficult and come with fear and uncertainty. Each step we take carries us one step away from the other roads we may have traveled. Each decision by necessity excludes other decisions. We cannot travel two roads at once, and as we get older, we also know that there is not endless time to travel those roads not taken. 

The poem is about life’s journeys and about the everyday choices confronting us.


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