All the Difference

All the Difference

This week’s poem is “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost, a meditation on opportunities.

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

Robert Frost (1873—1963)

Poem 225. 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.

How many times in our lives do we reach a point of decision where two options confront us and it is difficult to see which is best?

Robert Frost uses the metaphor of a road in one of his beloved New England woods that suddenly splits, leaving the traveller vacillating as to which path to choose (“sorry I could not travel both/And be one traveler”). Frost’s narrator considers the merits of both paths as far as he can discern: both are quite similar and although one is perhaps more popular, he chooses the other (“Then took the other, as just as fair”) but not without misgivings and an apprehension that the choice is irreversible: even if he returns to the fork in the road and chooses the more prevalent route, he will not know what opportunities have escaped him.

In the same way, we make choices in our lives and we have to live with the consequences of those choices: we do not usually have the luxury of reconsidering and making another decision. Every decision has a myriad of possibilities arising from it but the opportunities we lose in picking one of the options are nebulous and we may never know the full ramifications, though we may suspect as Frost does, that it “made all the difference.”

Frost was a close friend of Edward Thomas (writer of Adlestrop, which I covered in June 2021) and this poem has its genesis in a stroll they took together where they came across a fork in a road and Thomas afterward lamented the choice they made. Frost later sent Thomas an advance copy of this poem and it may have influenced Thomas to enlist in World War I: he was killed in action at the Battle of Arras in 1917.

I like this poem because it seems to be about a mundane situation but makes you think about life.


  • Hear Robert Frost himself read the poem on YouTube.
  • I covered Adlestrop in June 2021 in the post Only the Name.