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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Robert Frost poem - The Road Not Taken

The Road Not Taken is a poem by Robert Frost, published in 1916 in his collection Mountain Interval.

Life is all about choices. I think being true to ourself and making the right choices, is what helps the purification towards the path of self realization. Nothing comes easy in life, but no matter what, the choice has to be consistent with our conscience. I think back to some of the choices that

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.

Explanation and interpretations from the wikipedia site

It was written in 1916 when Frost met and wrote together with Edward Thomas in the village of Dymock, Gloucestershire, England during a brief period leading up to World War I. Two poets walked together around the woods where the were carpeted with wild daffodils — "yellow wood" — each spring. Thomas showed his American friend the local views and flora, but had a habit of regretting the routes he had chosen for their walks.

A popular explanation of this poem is that it is a call for the reader to forge his or her own way in life and not follow the path that others have already taken.

However, it contains key contradictions and ambiguities. Even though the speaker chooses "the one less traveled by," the speaker of the poem contradicts himself by saying the roads were ultimately the same. For example, lines 9-10 state "[t]hough as for that the passing there/Had worn them really about the same", and illuminated in line 11's declaration that, "And both that morning equally lay". Also, the closing lines, "I took the one less traveled by, /And that has made all the difference" adds the ambiguity. A close reading of this highly anthologized poem must admit that the speaker leaves the reader wondering whether the speaker means his choice has made a good or bad difference in the speaker's life. Also, why is the speaker telling it with a sigh?

One might, looking at the title ("The Road Not Taken"), come to the conclusion that he sighs because in retrospect, he wishes he had taken the other road, thinking his life may have been better somehow. Still, others interpret the title as an emphasis that he is taking the less traveled path. It is the "Road Not Taken" by most other people, and he is the exception.

Some believe readers must acknowledge that though the poem closes in ambiguity, it is clear the initial choice of the road taken has made all the difference, for because of that choice, "way leads on to way". Still, others suggest that the line "And that has made all the difference" is meant to be one of sarcasm. Thus the traveler (i.e., Frost) is trying to tell the reader that the most important issue is simply to choose and therefore not become lost trying to decide whether to take this or that road. The important issue, then, is to make the decision and then follow through, even if they are on impulse as some interpret the "equality" of the two paths.

There are some who suggest that the poem is, in fact, about how we recount our lives — especially those events that we believe either reflect or shape our identities — we confabulate, adding meaning to them.


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This blog is an offshoot of a website that I had conceived as a result of the spiritual grace and resultant inspiration during Shivaratri Y2K (http://www.jyotirlinga.com) on the joy of Shiva Bhakti and my quest for spiritual progress. Not finding the time (yep, bad excuse!), this blog suits me fine in quickly adding content... my spiritual forays and thoughts - helps log them too. My spiritual journey started with Hinduism and it's simple stories/ teachings as far back as when I was a 2nd grader, with Lord Shiva and has now found convergence with Advaitism / Duality. The Advaitism gurus like Bhagwan Ramana Maharishi, Nisargadatta Maharaj; they have provided that spiritual boost of energy in many lagging moments and have tremendously influenced me ... little baby steps at a time... that will hopefully all lead upto a final crescendo. The merits of satsangh are many!

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