One of the most controversial American poems of all time is The Road not Taken by Robert Frost 1874 – 1963. First published in 1916, this poem may not widely known outside of the USA but there has been 100 years of debate on it’s true interpretation. Often described as “Americas most mis-read poem”. It is commonly believed it signifies free thinking, individualism, rationalisation and not following the path of the crowd.
So well known, and widely used, the lines of this poem have been borrowed by musicians, TV shows, Insurance giant AIG as an advert and by Monster.com as a top advertising slot during the Super Bowl.
In 1961, Frost himself commented that it was a tricky poem and implied that people generally misinterpreted the contents. This poem only came to my attention a few days ago. I have spent quite a few hours pondering and have drawn my own conclusions. Before I talk about my own opinion, here is the poem that for a century has caused poets, critics, reporters, university students, lectures and politicians into such indecision about its meaning;
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 traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Frost states that one path has “the better claim, because it was grassy and wanted wear”. This path was the path more inviting or appealing to him. He also states that both paths were “worn about the same” and no one had walked the paths that day as evidenced by the “leaves that were not blackened”.
I believe that this is not about steering away from the path most travelled by the crowd. It is about making the decision itself on the direction to take, after all we all make choices and decisions in life and every decision has consequences that effect us further down the line.
Regardless of the path chosen, there will be something surprising and beautiful on the other path which we will never see once our choice is made, but make the choice we must make. If we are indecisive we will not move forward.
Am sure this is still open to debate !