Wednesday, August 9, 2017

"The Road Not Taken" has a few surprises waiting for you


First there is this excerpt:

[In] the years since its composition, "The Road Not Taken" has been understood by some as an emblem of individual choice and self-reliance, a moral tale in which the traveller takes responsibility for – and so effects – his own destiny. But it was never intended to be read in this way by Frost, who was well aware of the playful ironies contained within it, and would warn audiences: "You have to be careful of that one; it's a tricky poem – very tricky."


Read more about the poem, a friendship, and more at this linked article.


Personal Postscript:

This article has been a catalyst: I've spent the last hour reading and pondering Frost's poem (included below), and I will spend many more hours reading and pondering other poems by Frost in days and weeks to come. As I hope to have a few miles to go before I sleep the endless sleep, my reading of Frost's poetry  promises to be a fascinating road worth traveling, and I'm looking forward to the adventure. 

Now, though, I invite you to comment on the article, the poem, Robert Frost, or anything else that is on your mind.



* * * * *

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;        5
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,        10
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.        15
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.        20




16 comments:

  1. quite an article... it was all new to me, never having read Thomas and not enough of Frost... i'm struck by the bravery demonstrated by both poets in their struggles to succeed in their conflicted worlds... and it makes me think of my own life, which seems long ago now, and not very important in the scheme of things... nice post, tx Tim...

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  2. I have to admit, Tim, I've always especially liked this poem. I like the imagery, the message, and the reflective nature of it. Thanks for the reminder.

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  3. Mudpuddle and Margot: I've long been perplexed by the poem, and the too frequent misreadings by teachers and others only added to the confusion. The article was a real eye-opener to me. I hope y'all enjoyed it! I bet your future encounters with the poem will be forever altered by the revelations in the article.

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  4. R.T.--an excellent article. I had known that Frost had encouraged Thomas to write poetry and that they had been close friends, but I was not aware of Thomas's encouraging review of Frost's poetry.

    I had posted Frost's commemorative poem about Thomas and also one of Thomas's last poems at the following address:

    http://tinyurl.com/y8o22ox3

    Again--excellent article, thanks for posting it. I learned much about Frost and Thomas's friendship.

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    1. Fred, acting on an impulse this morning, I did a Bing/News search for articles about Frost, and I was rewarded with the linked article. My past (mis)reading of "The Road Less Traveled" has been validated; I resisted the common reading pressed upon me by a few teachers that the poem talks about individualism, nonconformity, and choices because the "logic" of the poem simply did not support teachers' arguments.

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    2. R.T.--yes, he makes a definite statement, but then immediately takes it away:


      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, 10
      And both that morning equally lay
      In leaves no step had trodden black.

      So, was the one he chose the one was that was lesser traveled?

      Maybe, and then again, maybe they really were the same.

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    3. Fred, I would ask students some questions before assigning and talking about this poem: Why did you enroll in this class taught by me rather than another section taught by another teacher? Have you heard what other students have said about other teachers? Have you heard what they have said about me? What are your expectations here? Which class do you think has been or will be the better choice? How can you possibly know without experienced both classes and both teachers?

      For students, the road in the poem is an abstraction. Many students hate poetry, and a few even hate being in the class. However, students' presence in my classroom was an inescapable reality. For some of them it was a nightmare. For others it was barely tolerable. For a very few it was a good experience. It was their chosen road.

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    4. Fred, your question marks confuse me.

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    5. R.T.--your reply to my comment confused me. I don't understand why I was wrong because I didn't

      "ask students some questions before assigning and talking about this poem: Why did you enroll in this class taught by me rather than another section taught by another teacher? Have you heard what other students have said about other teachers? Have you heard what they have said about me? What are your expectations here? Which class do you think has been or will be the better choice? How can you possibly know without experienced both classes and both teachers?"

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    6. Fred, I implied nothing of the sort about your view. I merely offered a hare brained anecdote. Forgive my lack of clarity. I intended no offense or no contradiction at all. Sometimes I hate blogging because of the communication problems that I bring to it. Mea culpa.

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    7. R.T.--my mistake. I obviously misread your comment.

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  5. This is one of my favorite poems by Frost. Normally Frost's poetry is usually fairly straightforward until the last stanza, where he ends with a few lines that call into question what went before.

    In this poem, though, he doesn't wait to introduce the ambiguity in the last stanza. He begins in the second stanza and follows through in the third and fourth stanzas.

    I frequently assigned this poetry as a prompt when students were writing essays on a personal topic. I asked them to write about two paths in their own lives and their choice, etc. I found that their interpretation of "sigh" was based on the outcome of their choice.

    If they interpreted that sigh as one of disappointment, they usually wrote that they felt that they had made the wrong choice and regretted it. If they felt that was a happy or contented sigh, then they wrote that they felt they had made the right choice.

    That "sigh" really invites the reader to interpret it personally.

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    1. Yes, the "sigh" is a key, isn't it? When readers carefully compare the two roads, as represented in the poem, they can see the simple and popular explication begin to fall apart. They are left with a puzzle rather than a solution.

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    2. R.T.--I think this poem provides one of the clearest examples of the way the reader shapes the poem for a personal fit.

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  6. Fred, Mudpuddle, Margot, et al:
    In lieu of deleting and correcting my comments, I apologize for the errors in my comments above -- I referred to the poem as "The Road Less Traveled" -- and I don't know why my Swiss-cheese brain allowed/caused such errors; perhaps my recollection of an M. Scott Peck book contributed to the offense against Frost.

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