Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood 
And looked down one as far as I could 
To where it bent in the undergrowth

The speaker opens the poem with these lines, which describe a scenario in which they have come upon a forking path. Though concretely located in a “yellow wood,” this forking path also stands as a symbol for any kind of big decision a person may face in life. Notably, the speaker introduces a strain of remorse in this stanza when they lament that they can’t simply walk down both paths. As just one person, with just one life to live, the speaker must content themself with choosing just one path to walk. The speaker therefore begins to examine the paths that lay before them, trying to see far enough to determine where each one might go. But forest paths are notoriously winding, so the speaker can only see a short distance, “To where it bent in the undergrowth.” The speaker must therefore make a decision without having a clear sense of where either path will lead. Again, this is precisely the scenario we all face whenever we need to make a major decision in life. No matter how clear the first steps of the path may be, at some point the way forward disappears into obscurity.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

In lines 13–15, the speaker indulges in a moment of wishful thinking, only to reverse course and reaffirm their earlier lament: that they will only be able to walk one path. These lines appear after the speaker has described their initial impression that one path seemed less trodden than the other. Upon reflection, however, the speaker recognizes that their initial impression had overstated the case, and that neither path was more traveled than the other. Having realized their mistake, the speaker once again wishes to walk both paths. So, they tell themself that they’ll just save the other path for another time. But they immediately see the folly of their thinking. Knowing that forest paths keep on branching, such that “way leads on to way,” the speaker understands how unlikely it is that they’ll be able to return to this precise fork and walk the road not taken. Here, the speaker has the clearest sense of what’s truly at stake in the decision between the two diverging paths. And for this reason, this is the place in the poem where they feel the most apprehension and remorse.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere 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.

The poem closes with this stanza (lines 16–20). In the previous stanza, the speaker reaffirmed that they need to choose just one path and accept that they’ll never get to experience the other. With this affirmation comes a renewed sense of remorse about the road not taken. Perhaps as a way of diffusing their feelings of sadness, the speaker adopts, in these lines, a self-ironizing tone. They speculate about a future scenario where they might recount the story of this decision. Even though both paths “equally lay / In leaves no step had trodden black” (lines 11–12), the speaker imagines telling their audience that one path was, in fact, “less traveled by” (line 19). From their present perspective, the speaker obviously knows that such an account would be a fictionalized version of the truth. This is perhaps why they add the ironic detail of their future self giving an ironic “sigh.” Yet that same sigh may also be read as another sign of the speaker’s remorse—this time due to a recognition that memory tends to revise history to support the story we want to tell about ourselves.