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.
Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken

I’ve always heard this poem quoted with the emphasis on the last few lines: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I / I took the one less traveled by / And that has made all the difference.” — often the focus is on taking the path fewer have chosen.

Yet that misses Frost’s true message, stated so clearly in the title: “The Road Not Taken”. He is in fact talking not so much about being different, but about the recognition that the path not taken is one that we have let go off once we made our choice. In fact he expresses this idea early, in the second line: “And sorry I could not travel both”.


It is this awareness and acceptance that is often challenging in life; because we often prefer to “keep our options open”, and often think back to what could have been had we chosen differently.

Yet we all know the truth: choices made cannot be undone, and we must both accept the opportunity cost of the option we did not take, as well as the consequence of the option we did.


Here’s the full poem:

The Road Not Taken

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