In "The Road Not Taken," the speaker comes to a fork in his journey and can only continue on one of the paths.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,And sorry I could not travel both...
He must choose one over the other, and he ultimately expresses an attitude of wistfulness and ambivalence. He is “sorry” that he has to make a decision between the two paths, but he does not seem to deeply regret his decision. Some reader believe that the speaker laments his choice, but the poem actually reveals a more peaceful and ambiguous attitude.
First, the speaker admits that in actuality, both roads are similar. He choses one because it has “perhaps the better claim.” Later, however, he recognizes that both paths are worn “really about the same.”
Second, he admits to saving (“kept”) the first path for a return on a future date, all while suspecting he will never be able to return. Nonetheless, he does not mourn the fact that he probably will not be able to “come back” and try the first path. Instead of being upset, he seems to be saying the equivalent of “oh well.”
In the last stanza, the speaker concludes his physical and metaphoric journey by saying,
I shall be telling this with a sighSomewhere 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.
Third, he predicts that he will “tell” or soberly inform others about this day with a mere “sigh.” “Tell” is a neutral word, not one fraught with deep emotion. A “sigh” connotes weariness and acceptance with a twinge of melancholy. Describing his attitude as one of regret is a bit strong; descriptors like wistful, contemplative, and nostalgic are more accurate. The speaker may wonder if he took the correct path, or he may even claim that he took the one less traveled; but in reality, he is not even sure if the other one would have been better or even much different.
Finally, the closing line reveals an often misunderstood aspect of the speaker’s attitude. He states that picking the lesser traveled road “has made all the difference,” but has it really? If both paths were the same, did this choice really make “all the difference”?
The speaker reveals that in the future, after he has made this decision, he will tell others that his choice made all the difference, although the fact that the paths were “about the same” makes this seem suspect. The attitude he will express as he tells this tale in the future is one of peace with his decision, but also one of optimism, even self-importance and grandiosity: he knows he will want to believe and tell others that his choice was the noble one and that it made all the difference, when in reality, the two paths are, in his own words at the time of choosing, “about the...
The speaker’s attitude here as he closes the poem and thinks toward the future might even be described as self-mocking: he realizes that in the future, he will wish to believe and explain that his decision made all the difference, but he knows this is false and pokes fun at the impulse to glorify his choice.