Poetry Meme Fail, plus recollections of a sunny day in mad February


What’s wrong with this picture?

Well, let me tell you…

First of all, that is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a “yellow wood.”  I’m not sure exactly what those trees are (something just beginning to leaf out in the spring), but they are not birches; the bark is all wrong.  (Seriously, friends, do you think I wouldn’t recognize a member of the Betula genus when I see it?  🙂  )  Where are the “leaves no step had trodden black”?  How could it be said of either of these paths that it was “grassy and wanted wear”?  Plenty of grass to the sides, sure, but the paths themselves are worn quite well.  Where’s the undergrowth?  This is nothing like the place Frost describes in his poem.

Also, the implied notion that the poet took both roads… Utter nonsense.  Robert Frost wrote that he was, “sorry I could not travel both/And be one traveler.”  (This is Robert Frost in a yellow wood we’re talking about, not Harrison Denmark on Bishop Lodge Road.  And no, I will not apologize for the obscure fiction reference — or obscure author reference, as is more accurate here.)  He didn’t take both roads.

This poetry meme thing looks to me as if someone who sorta kinda remembered reading “The Road Not Taken” in school recalled only that the first line mentioned something about two roads diverging… and looked no further.

A better meme to fit the poem would have contained a sign saying, Pick one.


It’s a lovely photograph, mind you, despite the “poetically incorrect” sign.  Makes me want to go running.  In my youth, I sometimes went running along the trails just north of the university campus.  Even the part that many of my fellow students claimed was impassable due to a fallen tree with a triple trunk — I just threaded my way over and under the trunks and kept going.  I have always hated running on pavement, but running on a dirt trail through the woods is quite enjoyable.  I wish I could still do it.

I wonder what the weather is like there right now.  I recall “a day in mad February, sunny and seventy degrees, with the lake under five inches of ice.”  A friend of mine wrote a story in which he mentioned the little bufflehead duck and its larger (domestic duck) friends walking around the shore that day and cussing the way ducks do, angry because they couldn’t swim and fish.  I remember seeing frat boys, also on the lakeshore, cussing because they couldn’t fish.  The little meadow to the left of the lake, just before the beginning of the hiking trails, stood in shadow most of the day and so was still covered in snow despite the warm weather, and cold wind flowed off the meadow and down the hill toward campus.

A couple of days later, it snowed again, because February is like that.


About Thomas Weaver

For several years, I’ve been putting my uncanny knack for grammar and punctuation, along with an eclectic mental collection of facts, to good use as a Wielder of the Red Pen of Doom (editor). I'm physically disabled, and I currently live with my smugly good-looking twin Paul, who writes military science fiction and refuses to talk about his military service because he can’t. Sometimes Paul and I collaborate on stories, and sometimes I just edit whatever he writes. It's worked out rather well so far. My list of non-writing-related jobs from the past includes librarian, art model, high school teacher, science lab gofer… Although I have no spouse or offspring to tell you about, I do have eight cats. I currently spend my time blogging, reading, editing, and fending off cats who like my desk better than my twin’s.
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7 Responses to Poetry Meme Fail, plus recollections of a sunny day in mad February

  1. Considering that this particular Frost poem is one of the all time best known English-language poems … and it is not hard to understand. It isn’t Ezra Pound, you know? Everybody thinks glibness is the same as intelligence these days. Just annoying.

    Liked by 1 person

    • (sarcastically) Well, sure — didn’t you know that the ability to think/speak in sound bites and Tweets is the mark of a superior intellect? Anything that cannot be expressed in under 140 characters isn’t worth expressing, and besides, who has time for that?


  2. Laura L. says:

    I’m glad other people quibble with “Facebook” type images. 🙂 You made me pull out the original Frost poem again. :::happy sigh:::

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Mara Fields says:

    …and even if they were the right trees and paths, they both look equally “less traveled”. Do you think we’re being too analytical about this? Nah.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The biggest problem with that picture, in my opinion, is that the whole POINT of the poem is that the narrator had to CHOOSE which road to take and didn’t take both — thus, “The Road Not Taken.” Makes me want to ask, “Did you even READ it?”

      Liked by 1 person

  4. As always, I’m loving the tone of your post, and agree that it could well be someone completely misunderstanding one of the great poems.

    But… just to play devil’s advocate, what if a) at the time the sign was put up, both paths were (more) overgrown, and b) the Sign Painter’s (sorry, obscure gaming reference, I doubt anyone will get that) intent was to point out that both of these two paths are worthy of your time, and that even Robert Frost, who chose the one less travelled (that’s correct Australian spelling, by the way) by and knew he probably wouldn’t ever come back to take the Road Not Taken would, in this case – because both are just too beautiful to resist – make an exception and go out of his way to try both. Still with me, or have I lost you?

    Hmm, anyway, I can appreciate someone making an effort to set up an insider joke, and I know that if I were hiking along this trail with my kids and saw this sign, I would pounce on the opportunity to tell them all about the poem and what the reference is all about. (All the while pointedly ignoring the fact that they’re rolling their eyes at each other.)

    Liked by 1 person

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