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.
I thought of this much anthologised and loved poem as I walked in the woods today.
Frost wrote this poem in 1915 and sent it to his great friend the English poet Edward Thomas. The American and the English man were walking in the woods in Gloucestershire, as they often did. They were talking about the war that was engulfing Europe and wondering which path to take, both literally and metaphorically. A game keeper challenged them with a gun and an altercation ensued that continued at the game keeper’s cottage and saw both poets threatened. Frost laughed it off and used the event to inspire this poem, which he sent to Thomas. Thomas saw the poem as a gibe about his indecision about if he should enlist as soldier or not. This poem was apparently instrumental in his final fatal decision to sign up .
Thomas signed up and was sent to France. Two months later he was dead, killed in the terrible slaughter of Arras.
“The Road not Taken” by Robert Frost is a great favorite of mine and so is “Adlestrop”
by Edward Thomas, but ( “telling this with a sigh” ) one poet lived a long and productive life and the other died young. Hopefully not all of our choices have such profound consequences.