Category: Literary & Language
My favorite lines from the Diane Rehm episode, after this introduction:
“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” This month marks the 100th anniversary of one of the best known American poems. Many remember Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” for those last lines celebrating individualism and non-conformity. But most literary scholars say this was not Frost’s intended meaning. The poem, they argue, is about the self-delusion of a person looking back on their life romanticizing a decision as life altering, when it was not. We get to the bottom of the many interpretations of one of the most popular American poems.
In a 1970 review of The Poetry of Robert Frost, the poet Daniel Hoffmandescribes Frost’s early work as “the Puritan ethic turned astonishingly lyrical and enabled to say out loud the sources of its own delight in the world,” and comments on Frost’s career as the “American Bard”: “He became a national celebrity, our nearly official poet laureate, and a great performer in the tradition of that earlier master of the literary vernacular, Mark Twain.”
About Frost, President John F. Kennedy, at whose inauguration the poet delivered a poem, said, “He has bequeathed his nation a body of imperishable verse from which Americans will forever gain joy and understanding.”
The Road Not Taken
Robert Frost, 1874 – 1963
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.
From The Poetry of Robert Frost by Robert Frost, edited by Edward Connery Lathem
“Afterwards, I remember every error, every word that I spoke that was wrong or incontinent, every form of when I did not protect them properly,” she says. “Now that I’m 84, I remember everything as a mistake — and I regret everything. Now, mind you, one of them is now deceased, one of them is very successful, so I don’t have any reason for this except perhaps age and regret.”
The linguists have voted, but will gender-neutral singular they actually catch on? As a pronoun for gender nonconforming individuals, they seems more poised to take off in a mainstream way over another option like ze, because they is already a part of all English speakers’ vocabularies. There’s less of a barrier to entry, especially with major publications like the Washington Post officially allowing its use as part of their style guide. As linguist Geoff Nunberg recently pointed out (no doubt with a twinkle in his eye): “everyone uses singular they, whether or not they realize it.”