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.
The typical interpretation of this poem is that the traveller took the road less traveled (perhaps one that was harder or less mainstream) and looking back, realized that was the best choice. It’s what I’ve always heard through all my years of public school poetry units. And then Kelly showed me a different interpretation. The traveller wasn’t glad he took the road less travelled: he lamented he couldn’t explore the other path, “knowing how way leads on to way.” What a totally different look at the poem I thought I had figured out in middle school!
That little seed of a thought grew as I was watching this scene from one of my favorite movies, “An Education”:
I began to think of past boyfriends and daydreams I had about our future. And then, like the speaker in the poem, felt a pang of sadness, knowing I would never experience any of those futures. It seems a bit silly, to miss a potentiality. Perhaps it’s an F thing. But now I’m remembering all the things I had hoped for with each boy: the places we would visit, the experiences we would share, the memories we would make. While I don’t actually want to take up with any of my former flames, I do ponder what might have been. I wonder what each one might have brought out of me and what we might have shared together. It’s a strange kind of nostalgia.
And now I think I’ll always have that connection when I see that poem.
Have you ever experienced nostalgia for what might have been? Have you ever had a moment that made you see a familiar piece of art in a new way?