Monday, 7 September 2015

The Road Not Taken

I used to greet Monday mornings with despair (see Tell Me Why I Don't Like Mondays), so it's a testament to how far I've come that now I can think of few better ways to start a new week than with a poem.

Robert Frost's poem, The Road Not Taken, was Wayne Dyer's favourite (For more on Wayne read Change the Way You Look at Things), so seems like a great choice.

So, whether you've already chosen the road less travelled, or whether you're still standing at the point where the paths diverge, this is for you:

The Road Not Taken
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, 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.
Most people focus on the wonderful final lines of this poem. They see it as an anthem to independent thought, to not following the crowd, to taking the hard way, not just the obvious way.
And that is a great rallying cry for us. The sober road is, without doubt, the road less travelled by. And the one that makes all the difference.
But, Frost's poem is, arguably, one of the most widely misinterpreted poems of all time. Whole books have been written about the true meaning of The Road Not Taken.
Frost spent the years from 1912-1915 in England, where he took long walks with his writer friend, Edward Thomas. It's believed that this poem was intended by Frost as a gentle mocking of indecision, as shown by Edwards on their walks.
If you read it more closely, you'll see that Frost says that the two roads are, in actual fact, almost identical. Yet the poem's narrator agonises over the choice, and then wastes time and energy thinking back wistfully to the path he'd rejected, kidding himself that he may still return to it.
He then, as we so often do, re-writes history by looking back and attributing far more meaning to the fork in the road than it ever truly deserved.
Therefore, you could read the poem as being about the futility of indecision and regret. About not looking back. About how our memories can deceive us. About how we take ourselves, and our decisions, too seriously. About the danger of procrastination, and the need to just take a road and stick to it, whichever road it is.
What I've learned along this road less travelled by, is that the world is filled with meaning, with lessons and with answers. We'll find the ones we need when we need them.
All we need to do is to keep our eyes open, and see the poetry. And for a long time I couldn't do that.
So, whatever meaning you take from The Road Not Taken will be the right one for you, right now. Then come back to it in a few months time, and it might tell you something else....
Happy Monday!
Love SM


  1. Yes. Stop the internal debate about which is the "perfect" choice and just move forward.
    It applies to so many things.

  2. Someone once told me life is like a supermarket queue. You just have to pick one and wait it out. Stop running from queue to queue trying to find the best one and stop wondering what other people are doing. It makes me laugh but I do quite often say it to myself out loud. I do change ocassionally but mostly just try to stick to my queue!

  3. I'm glad to say that I read this poem and after thought only positively about making the most of the road that we are on, however, tricky it can sometimes be. We take a path and it is always full of twists and turns and unexpectedness. However, the sober road as we know helps with all the wonderful clarity and strength of mind to deal with the turns. xxx