Biographical Non-Fiction posted February 7, 2024

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Roads Not Taken And One That Was


by Brett Matthew West

Robert Frost's narrative poem "The Road Not Taken" was originally published in the August 1915 edition of the Atlantic Monthly cultural magazine long before this waif appeared on the scene. Almost 45 years previously, to be exact.

"The Road Not Taken" has often been defined as complex and divergent. Kind of like life in the most general terms. The twenty line Classic contains an A-B-A-A-B rhyme scheme and an irregular iambic tetrameter. Go ahead, you can ask how did the message of this poem relate to my being the Unwanted Dog? That was a nomenclature I penned on myself when I was 12 years old. Why? Because for the first dozen years of my existence I was unceremoniously confined in Hermitage Hall, a most desolate place of mostly no return for unwanted boys like myself.

Perhaps it is the final three lines of this aforementioned masterpiece penned by Frost that best described my normal mode of operations. These began almost the instant Dusty West, who adopted me way back then, dragged this scrounging scoundrel to his residence. Located in Hendersonville, about a 24 minute drive northeast of Nashville, Tennessee. We affectionately labeled the spread Country Comfort. Hendersonville is where I grew up and have lived the vast majority of my days.

In nearly every situation during my youth, when I was truly young at heart, if there was a choice between a so-called "high" road and a less desirable "low" road, I seemed to naturally gravitate down the bottom route. I reckon I possessed more than plenty of wild oats to sow in my heydays.

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

Thank you, Robert Frost for branding those words of wisdom from your poem deep into my mind when I was a mere wee tiny whippersnapping tot, that even this, now crusty old man, cannot, and never have been able to get back out. Muchos gracias, senor!

Those readers who follow my book Funny Pages know I enjoy in depth researching of something that is supposed to be non-fiction prior to posting a piece. Affairs of the young heart! For me, there is not much worse than to gulp a drink that left me with a thirst. Yep, Dad taught me that little adage long ago.

What he meant was I should not settle for what laid on the surface. I needed to scratch way down to discover what was hidden on the underside of some matter. Who said you cannot teach a young heart to appreciate new things?

Dad also drilled into my thick skull I needed to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. As he told me, dictionaries and encyclopedias are wonderful critters. They can be used for a myriad of purposes. In addition, this form of research has served me well as I entered, and prolonged, my freelance article writing years. I still dabble in them from time to time.

Let's return to "The Road Not Taken" for a moment. Some may not be aware of this insight, but here is a small bit of background associated with Robert Frost's poem. Try as hard as one may, they simply cannot make this sort of stuff up.

It is recorded Robert Frost spent the years 1912 to 1915 in England among friends, including Phillip Edward Thomas, a British writer and war poet. The two friends were rumored to take many strolls together. On one such excursion, they encountered two roads. Apparently, Thomas was indecisive which route to travel, and in retrospect often lamented they should have taken the one they did not traverse.

Robert Frost returned to New Hampshire in 1915. He sent Thomas a copy of "The Road Not Taken." In turn, Thomas took the poem personally. Frost's writing may have been influential in Thomas enlisting in the British Army during World War One.

Thomas was killed two years later in the Battle of Arras on the Western Front, near the French city bearing that name. He was one of approximately 285,000 British and German soldiers slaughtered in said confrontation. Go figure.

This was how my dad instilled my fondness for creative writing, and dare I further say research into me. One cold and snowy Middle Tennessee afternoon, I wanted to go outside in the freezing cold weather and play tackle football with some acquaintances I had recently met. More honestly, the game would probably have been Kill The Man With The Ball. Dad did not permit me to.

Dad's small act placed a piece of ruled white notebook paper, full of blue lines and three machine-punched holes in its left column, into my hand. He added a sharpened pencil at a moment when I was otherwise bored out of my mind.

His simple instructions were to write him a story. Any topic related to roads would suffice. Previously untraveled, this endeavor led me to a life of not what I could not do, but what I have since learned I could ... and the many enjoyments I have experienced along my journey since.

While I am nowhere near as active a member of FanStory as I once was, the creative writing skills I learned eons ago have helped me through 34 cancer tumors to date, thanks to Basal Cell Carcinoma. Unfortunately, this number will probably climb higher as time passes. On top of that, you can throw in the 6 tumor removal surgeries I have endured. Still, these creative writing skills help keep this ancient codger young at heart through all these tribulations.

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

Once more, thank you, Robert Frost.

Young at Heart contest entry


Crossing the bridge, by Cakemp55, selected to complement my posting.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Artwork by cakemp55 at

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© Copyright 2024. Brett Matthew West All rights reserved.
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