Stephen Fuller *** Poetry, Essays

The Road Taken, revision and analysis

The Road Taken

Yes, I found it, just the road I needed,
Less the doubts and questions,
Inside woods I know I knew. Now, that done,
The snow begins in small flakes
One each one each
One at a time they fall to their place
On the leaves that too
One each one each
One at a time fell to their place. Here.

Here, where stillness can only be unstilled
By a breeze that misses the leaves felled
And deer that escape too soon for season.
I am here, too, still as snow on a leaf,
My heart a tiny rhythm for the voice
That trembles through bare branches.
Hear… what matters… here… what matters
One each one each
One at a time fell still in their place.

I begin a regular feature at Fullbeard Lit with an analysis of my own poetry, the first posted at since my return to poetry blogging: The Road Travelled now retitled as The Road Taken. The title refers directly to The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost, an essential member of my Dead Poet’s Society. He holds a distinguished chair that he ascended to during my childhood in New Hampshire. He sits beside Rainer Maria Rilke, mentioned in the recent Now page (11/29/19), who took his seat during my college years. The first three lines of the Road Travelled distill ideas from two of Frost’s poems, the aforementioned Road and the equally recited by young New Hampshire students, Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening. In these three lines, the poet casts off the doubts and questions that define these two of Frost’s work with a certainty about both the road he is on and the woods he is in. “Yes, I found it, just the road I needed” does not apologize for diverging roads in yellow woods or stand and ponder where the other bends in the undergrowth. Here the poet is certain of the road he takes. Furthermore, the next line responds to the doubt in Snowy Evening, “Whose woods these are I think I know…” Not only does the poet know these woods, he is speaking back to a younger version of himself with the affirmative, “Inside woods I know I knew.” To finish off these lines, the poet reiterates with the almost colloquial, “Now, that done,” that it is time to move on. This is the road, these are the woods, so let’s get after it.

Move on we do and yet we barely move. Instead we observe one of the tiniest moments that the poet can imagine, that of singular snowflakes falling on singular leaves during an unusually early flurry in autumn. The poet slows the narrative down to a unique moment that draws upon the meaning of Rilke’s ‘Now the hour bends down and touches me’ from Snow’s translation of The Book of Hours (1905/2009, North Point Press, New York):

Nothing is too small: against a gold background
I paint it large and lovingly
and hold it high, and I will never know
whose soul it may release…

In doing this the poet says the snowflake and the leaf both fell exactly where they were meant to fall and by observing this moment, he can feel his soul release back into the world. Through this Zen-like imagery, the Poet has found everything that matters by just being present on this road, in these woods, in this moment.

The second stanza introduces a conflict as life once again moves beyond a moment into something more expansive that can disrupt it. In this scene, the breeze misses the leaves that have fallen, as if there is something within the poet that misses his old self. There is a deer, that vulnerable animal gleefully hunted for food and sport around the country during ‘hunting season,’ escaping into the woods only because it is too soon. As if the Poet’s vulnerable self wants to retreat into the woods, knowing hunting season awaits when he dares to expose his authentic soul again to the world. The poet, though, denies these threats and even coopts them to his own peace by returning to the previous stanza’s imagery: “I am here, too, still as snow on a leaf/My heart a tiny rhythm for the voice/that trembles through bare branches.” His tiny heart like the deer’s and his voice a tremble that replaces the breeze in the bare branches; together they sing of the peace the poet feels that echoes the snow on the leaf.

The poem concludes by returning to the repetition in the first stanza and revisiting the important words: here, its obvious homophone, hear, and still. Here we need to be still enough to hear what matters and it is here where we are present that what matters falls into place, much like the leaf, much like the flake of snow. So concludes a poem about finding, accepting and being present in our unique place in the world.

For comparison, the original:

The Road Travelled

Yes, I found it, really just the road I needed,
Less the doubts and questions,
Inside woods I hadn’t known yet, now, that done,
The snow begins in small flakes
One each one each
One at a time they fall to their place
On the leaves that too
One each one each
One at a time fell to their place here

Here, where stillness can only be unstilled
By a breeze that misses the leaves felled
And the deer that misses the season to be felled.
I am here, too, still as a snow on a leaf
My heart a tiny rhythm for the voice
That whispers through bare branches
What matters, yes, what matters
One each one each
One at a time fell into meaning. Still.

8 Responses to “The Road Taken, revision and analysis”

Leave a Reply to S Francis Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

%d bloggers like this: