Comparison – The Road Not Taken and Song of Myself

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Introduction

American literature, in the 19th and 18th Centuries, was highly characterized by poetry and songs (Roza, 2005). The composers of these works of literature were mostly influenced by the occurrences around them, such as the wars between Native Americans and European Settlers, slavery and the civil war that shook the country and threatened its peace and stability (Weiss, 2001). This comparative paper identifies the similarities and differences in two poems: ‘The Road not Taken’ and ‘Song of Myself’ whose poets are Robert Frosts and Walt Whitman respectively. It conducts this comparison by analyzing the poetic figures of metaphors, symbolism, assonance, overstatement, rhymes and structure. The two poems have similarities in metaphors, imagery, assonance and overstatements but also have great differences in their rhymes and structures.

Similarities

Metaphor

The ‘Road Not Taken’ uses metaphors to in the form of roads. Frost (2010) uses the metaphor of roads and the choosing and taking of paths to describe the life of human beings as they move from one stage of development to another and as they make defining choices. Through this metaphor, Frost is in a position to describe the kind of path he took, one that is hardly trodden by people, and has no regrets for it. This metaphor clearly defines the choices he made in life, such as focusing on literature. He looks back and appreciates the life he has lived, showing no regrets whatsoever.

Similarly, Whitman uses a metaphor to describe his dark side of life, or the dark side of humanity. He brings out this metaphor in the form of being possessed. As he sings about himself, he turns into a sad mood and explains how he has been possessed (Whitman, 2001). By being possessed, he does not imply that he now harbors demons but explains that he has a dark side, just like any other human being, and has discovered it. His sadness is derived from the fact that this dark side is a major part of his humanity and cannot be avoided. It has been with him all his life and he may not have discovered it until adulthood. Through the use of a metaphor, he makes it clear to his listeners that such a dark side can be compared to being possessed by an evil spirit.

Imagery

The two poems are also similar in the use of symbolism. In ‘The Road Not Taken’, Frosts uses leaves covering the two paths to show the possibility of barriers or hindrances in one’s quest to walk through life (Orr, 2016). These leaves, seen as part of the forests containing the two paths, fall innocently on and cover the paths partly. They are images that are used to portray a different life-relatable meaning.

Similarly, Whitman uses handcuffs and mentions prison as symbols to indicate bondage to his dark side of life, or the dark humanity (Whitman & Whimsy, 2014). These symbols are identifiable with being held by the law, or being put into custody. It qualifies Whitman as a prisoner of his own, being bound by handcuffs of his own identity. Through this symbolism, the poet creates an understanding of what it actually feels to be who he actually is, and to realize that they cannot escape from their nature of being human.

The two poets manage successfully to present symbolism in their works of literature. Through the use of items that readers and listeners can identify with, they explain the complexities of their lives and the sophistication of the human nature, making it comprehensible. They also use items that they could relate to, including handcuffs and prisons that were a common occurrence at the time of Whitman’s composition.

Assonance

The two poems have successfully managed to use assonance throughout. They combine vowels in their lines, although not in any specific format or regular rhythm. Through the use of vowels, they have managed to create a feeling of openness and eloquence as one reads the two works of literature. As such, it becomes easy to understand the kind of message or meaning that they intend to portray.

Overstatement

The two poems have overstatements. In ‘The Road Not Taken’, Frost (2010) says that he will narrate his story of choosing paths in ages to come. In real sense, he does not refer to ages, as this would mean multiple years after his experiences in life. He, rather, means that he will narrate his story within a short while, or somewhere in the near future. This overstatement, however, may be seen to exist in the fact that he crafted his story in the form of a poem that is still being read today, implying that Frosts is still narrating his story to the people of this age and will continue to do so, through the poem, in ages to come as long as this poem is preserved in an appropriate manner.

Whitman’s ‘Song of Myself’ also successfully utilizes an overstatement to describe the kind of misery that the poet is in when he discovers that he cannot escape his dark side as a human being. He says that he sits and begs, which appears to be an overstatement since he was only referring to his emotions and not an actual sit-down in the streets (Whitman, 2001).

Differences in the two Poems

Rhyme

Frosts, in ‘The Road Not Taken’, presents a regular rhyme scheme of ABAAB in the first stanza and a similar one in the other stanzas (Frost, 2010). In this rhyme scheme, the first line of a stanza rhymes with the second and third ones while the second one rhymes with the fifth line, which is the last one. The rhyming words are placed at the end of each line throughout the poem. This regular rhyme scheme presents a kind of a beat that makes the poem interesting to read and captivating to flow with. On the contrary, Whitman’s ‘Song of Myself’ has no indication of rhyming words positioned in any way as to give rhyme within the poem. This poem simply uses words in the form of a narration that has no intention of creating a musical beat in it. The lack of a rhyme scheme implies that the poem does not seek to capture its readers’ attention through an excellent use and arrangement of words but by the content presented.

Structure

On one hand, ‘The Road Not Taken’ has four stanzas neatly arranged, five lines each and with a common syllable structure. This kind of poem was common in the last few centuries of poetry. On the other hand, the ‘Song of Myself’ presents a lack of structure as was common in Whitman’s works of literature. It is more of a narration written without any consideration for stanzas or regular structures of common poetry.

In conclusion, through the comparison of poetic figures, this paper has presented similarities and differences in two poems. The poems, ‘The Road Not Taken’ and ‘Song of Myself’, have similarities in metaphors, imagery, assonance and overstatements. They have differences in their rhymes and structures.

Did you like this sample?
  1. Frost, R. (2010). The road not taken, Birches, and other poems. Claremont, Calif: Claremont Canyon Press.
  2. Orr, David. (2016). The Road Not Taken: Finding America in the Poem Everyone Loves and Almost Everyone Gets Wrong. Penguin Group USA.
  3. Roza, G. (2005). Patterns in poetry: Recognizing and analyzing poetic form and meter. New York: PowerKids Press.
  4. Weiss, S. W. (2001). The art of poetry: How to read a poem. New York: Oxford University Press.
  5. Whitman, W. (2001). Song of myself. Mineola, N.Y: Dover Publications.
  6. Whitman, W., & Whimsy, B. S. (2014). Whitman illuminated: Song of myself.
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