I have often thought both in terms of what Robert Frost meant by this poem and its application to our lives.
This is perhaps the question that most troubles me: I do not know what I should do for a living. I still don’t really comfortably know that answer to this question even after consulting the many books that basically say: “Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow,” and also listening to friends, who recommend buying property and planning for the future.
I did eventually buy a condo and I paid cash for a 2-year-old car. I am now working on saving enough money to retire. I have twelve years, but my body is tiring.
Now, back to the poem.
Frost, or the voice in the poem, said that he could not travel both roads that he saw in a “yellow wood.” A yellow wood to me, while obviously a reference to autumn, spoke more as a cowardly environment, where people seldom follow what is in their heart vs. the world that forces them into its direction. The voice came from only one person. He looked down one road as far as he could to where it bent, which I think is key. I think the voice is talking about having regret, where like a mid-life crisis, you begin to wonder why you chose the career you did. He also implies in using the term “undergrowth” that something remained under the surface that caused the detour or awareness. Undergrowth is teeming with organic mulch that is good for growth. It is damp, it is dark, it is the culmination of a churning and collecting of all sources of dead and dying life and now something can grow from it.
He chose the other road and walked it as far as he could see the other road’s end, before it bent, and he said of it that it had the better claim and why is because it was “Grassy and wanted” to be worn, but he realized that both roads were actually about the same in terms of wear.
The voice in the poem also says that on both roads no leaves had been trodden black. Maybe, he means that not many people have even considered the two roads, or made a choice like this. Perhaps, this implies that most people do not make conscious choices. Those that do make conscious choices have regret or no regret it seems.
He talks about leaving the first road for another day, but quickly realizes that life can be distracting and you never actually can go back to the place where such a decision was warranted. Most of us are stuck with decisions we have made. He concludes, that he will be telling this poem with a sigh, which implies that much has passed and perhaps he remains as uncertain as the first day.
He talks about the divergent roads, and he took the one less traveled and that made the difference. He is not as clear as I would like in knowing this all-important message. But, as a poet, Frost, had misery, his father died when he was 11, he worked a slew of unfulfilling jobs, attended Harvard but had to drop out due to health concerns, had a difficult period in New Hampshire for 12 years working on the farm, first born son Eliot died of Cholera, son Carol committed suicide at 38, his daughter Irma developed a mental illness, daughter Marjorie died in late 20’s after giving birth, Elinor died after being born. Poultry farming and other endeavors were unsuccessful. There were no publishers for a time, only two poems published. Frost sold his farm, moved to England. War broke out, he moved back. His wife Elinor died in 1938. I can see all his commitments ending in failure, because a poet thinks in terms of parables, not practicals. While a poet doesn’t make much money and very few great poems are written, like Frost, you end up teaching… well some poets are lucky enough to end up that way. Most poets are never remembered. I think most die embarrassed. What Frost is saying in his poem is that he followed a path that he really couldn’t deny. It is who he was. He wrote a poem about it.
We are the road less traveled and we actually have very little control over what jobs we get, directions we take, but also this idea of the author creating this so-called dual decision?
Here is only the one road for a poet and it is lonely. The abuse he cast proves he should not have been a father. His childrens’ lives spoke of the abuse that truth received, where the abused abuse, where a constant listening and informing of the truth is the ultimate sacrifice, from where he stood outside and called the shots; his children suffered inside.
He “affected” a personality in his poetry, like God created a world that does not exist. For the world washes over us smoothing us down as we move against each other so that one grain of sand is no different from another. The trodden leaves, their very personalities, our purposes, are equally unworn, “Bent” only “in the undergrowth” after a time in which we have ignored our true selves.
So, we are the Gods of our existences by making choices to do what we want, saying there are two roads, where one might say there are many, but there really are only two, the correct and the wrong one. One represents your true being and the other represents where you should have gone; not been abusive, done well on the farm. But, I am no farmer and neither is he. That’s why I never played with the gift of childbirth. From what I know, I have no business making babies. I am a dreamer, at best a breeder of lies, not children. What I seek to create are the words that so impressed me as a child. The road was laid out ahead by the men of my ilk. We do, we show the artifacts of ourselves and there is no other way of moving us. There is only one way — the truth and the life. We are like art collectors, gathering pieces to tell the story of who we are, what we like, and what is valuable to us. It is culture, and where there are enough of us we rule the world by these “self”-products.
Our beliefs, attitudes, and values blanket the world, and that world is a perpetual influence upon others, who must craft similar words and follow the same rules, always compared against language, against shape, against what is true for us. But, of course I only speak of other poets, not the general public, who could care less about poetry and literature.
“The Road Not Taken” is what the poem is really about, that is, that road is the one we should have taken, although poised as having no meaning, inevitably it is the more honorable one, implying a sacrifice of the self, his son would still be alive, his daughter not emotionally distraught, perhaps. Although I would have liked to talk to her. The quiet death of Frost is complete, where our lives become meaningless anyway, our words are left to confuse unless our lives are truly studied.
What is the truth of us, what road should we have taken?