August 1 marks the anniversary of the original publication of what is likely Robert Frost’s most famous poem, “The Road Not Taken.” Here it is, as read by the author:[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ie2Mspukx14[/youtube]
When I was in 8th grade, I was chosen to read this poem at our graduation ceremony. I spent ages memorizing the poem and practicing my delivery. During all that practice, I started to do something that I had not really done before. I thought about what it actually meant. I don’t know that I figured it out, but I spent time thinking about it. When it turned up in the lit anthology that I used with my Freshman comp students, I thought about it again. I discussed it with them, and they made me think a whole new set of thoughts.
It was quite an experience to go through this poem, line by line, with a group of students who shared English as a second language. For them, it was a completely new experience. They saw themselves in Frost’s words because they had followed the less traveled path and found their ways to a new home in a new country. They saw it as a poem full of hope, a sentiment that seems to be shared by this musician:[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ameYfuCNENw[/youtube]
I realize that there are alternate readings, one where that final line is seen as full of regret rather than hope. There have been times over the years where I’ve taken it that way, too. But listening to my students discuss their interpretations of the poem has convinced me that the hope has a place there. That the more difficult, less traveled road is worth it. If this Ford commercial from New Zealand is any indication, then it will be.[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1wwXfAFQoh8[/youtube]
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