Dark, Ironic Frost


My son was asked to memorize “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost for a 6th grade assignment:


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 can be ironic and dark in a way that kids are not going to get, but under a rhymey-dimey surface that makes for good 6th grade memorization assignments.

And I’ve heard the last stanza of this poem cited at face value by grownups on countless occasions as well, even though Frost says three times (in lines 6, 10 and 11) that the roads were “really about the same.”

So what he’s saying is, “When I’m old, I’m going to reinvent my life, as many people do, and say that I took the road less traveled, and that has made all the difference. But of course, I will be lying.”

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