"The Road Not Taken" is a poem by Robert Frost, published in 1916 as the first poem in the collection Mountain Interval. Frost said that this poem was "tricky" and often misinterpreted. While many readers take it to refer to the importance of not following the crowd, Frost said that it referred instead to the tendency to regret past decisions, even inconsequential ones.
Frost spent the years 1912 to 1915 in England, where among his acquaintances was the writer Edward Thomas. Thomas and Frost became close friends and took many walks together. After Frost returned to New Hampshire in 1915, he sent Thomas an advance copy of "The Road Not Taken". Frost later expressed annoyance that most audiences took the poem more seriously than he had intended; in particular, Thomas took it seriously and personally, and it may have been the last straw in Thomas' decision to enlist in World War I. Thomas was killed two years later in the Battle of Arras.
"The Road Not Taken" is a narrative poem consisting of four stanzas of 5 lines each in iambic tetrameter (though it is hypermetric by one beat - there are nine syllables per line instead of the strict eight required for tetrameter) and is one of Frost's most popular works. Besides being among the best known poems, some claim that it is one of the most misunderstood.
Frost's biographer Lawrance Thompson is cited as saying that the poem's narrator is "one who habitually wastes energy in regretting any choice made: belatedly but wistfully he sighs over the attractive alternative rejected". According to the Thompson biography, Robert Frost: The Years of Triumph (1971), in his introduction in readings to the public, Frost would say that the speaker was based on his friend Edward Thomas. In Frost's words, Thomas was "a person who, whichever road he went, would be sorry he didn't go the other".
While a case could be made for the sigh being one of satisfaction, the critical "regret" analysis supports the interpretation that this poem is about the human tendency to look back and attribute blame to minor events in one's life, or to attribute more meaning to things than they may deserve. In 1961, Frost commented that "The Road Not Taken" is "a tricky poem, very tricky", implying that people generally misinterpret this poem as evidence of the benefit of free thinking and not following the crowd, while Frost's intention was to comment about indecision and people finding meaning in inconsequential decisions. A New York Times Sunday book review on Brian Hall's 2008 biography Fall of Frost states: "Whichever way they go, they're sure to miss something good on the other path."