August 23, 2018  •  2 Comments

A new book by David Orr discusses how we've forever been misunderstanding the meaning of one of America's most favorite poems.  Orr's new book "The Road not Taken" says Frost's poem references regrets, not pride.  It's been years since I've read the entire poem and I can see how Orr interprets Frost's poem as regret rather than bravado.  

Orr writes: The poem isn’t a salute to can-do individualism. It’s a commentary on the self-deception we practice when constructing the story of our own lives.

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. 

- Robert Frost (but you knew that)






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Hi Cedric,
Thanks for the commentary on my Frost entry. I ordered Orr’s book and it should arrive today. I’ve never given the poem anything but a cursory read and admit I’ve always saw it as that ‘rugged individualism’ of striking out on one’s own and being rewarded in life for that individualism. It may be an American thing. Our past of Manifest Destiny and conquering frontiers created a mindset that I think we struggle with now. I hope to gain some better insights from Orr’s book.
Cedric Canard(non-registered)
I hadn't read this post in a long time but I do like it, a favourite for sure. Interestingly, I always thought it was, at least in part, about the regret that comes from having to make a choice and never knowing what the other choice would have brought. It is something I have felt myself. But I also see it as a show of acceptance as he understands that it is the choices one makes that makes us who we are. The reason I have always thought this, in my poetically uneducated opinion, is that he named the poem "The road not taken" but ends the poem with "the one less travelled". The title points to the road he didn't take, inferring regret while the end refers to the one he did take, which made him who he became, a poet (among other things). Definitely a road less travelled as not many of us end up poets.
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