Roads Not Taken: A Study in Poetic Mechanism

17 Pages Posted: 28 Oct 2015

Date Written: October 21, 2015


Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” is a ring composition three levels deep: 1 2 Ω 2’ 1’. The central section consists of lines 9 through 12 cuts across the boundary between the second (ll. 6-10) and third (ll. 11-14) stanzas. There is a subtle shift in tense in line 16 in which the poet in effect travels back into the past, at the moment of decision captured in the poem, so that he can anticipate the present moment in which the poem unfolds. Thus the end of the poem rejoins the beginning, not merely through the repetition of a line, but through a trick in time.

Keywords: Frost, poetry, lyric, ring form, ring composition, symmetry, form, method, literary criticism, description

Suggested Citation

Benzon, William L., Roads Not Taken: A Study in Poetic Mechanism (October 21, 2015). Available at SSRN: or

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