maintain the rhyme scheme

June 13, 2017

It’s the last stanza, though, that makes Frost into a genius, both poetically but also in his insight into human character, storytelling and literature. The stanza is retrospective as the traveller/poet looks back on his decision – “ages and ages hence” – and comments how we create a life through the poetic fictions that we create about it to give it, and ourselves, meaning. The story that the poet will tell is that:

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

Notice the stuttering, repetitive “I” that Frost uses both to maintain the rhyme scheme (“I/by”) but also to suggest the traveller/poet’s uncertainty about who made the choice. The narrative drive is re-established with the penultimate line “I took the one less travelled by,” to conclude with a satisfying resolution that ties everything in a neat biographical lesson “And that has made all the difference.” But it has made no difference at all. The difference, the life, is created in the telling, something that Frost does, of course, masterfully.

David C. Ward
What Gives Robert Frost’s ”The Road Not Taken” Its Power?
Originally published on Smithsonian.com 10 August 2015

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