The Road through the Woods – Rudyard Kipling – Analysis

The Road through the Woods

They shut the road through the woods
Seventy years ago.
Weather and rain have undone it again,
And now you would never know
There was once a road through the woods
Before they planted the trees.
It is underneath the coppice and heath
And the thin anemones.
Only the keeper sees
That, where the ring-dove broods,
And the badgers roll at ease,
There was once a road through the woods.

Yet, if you enter the woods
Of a summer evening late,
When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools
Where the otter whistles his mate,
(They fear not men in the woods,
Because they see so few.)
You will hear the beat of a horse’s feet,
And the swish of a skirt in the dew,
Steadily cantering through
The misty solitudes,
As though they perfectly knew
The old lost road through the woods …
But there is no road through the woods.

Rudyard Kipling

Nice balance between the two stanzas and I like the internal rhyme … the first stanza defining the history of the area and the second exploring any on-going effect … a ghostly mystical effect as though the environment retains an imprint of its history and can speak to those sensitive to such communication … one negative – I question the need for the comment about the otter – it detracts.

And this could be regarded as an early environmental poem … an anti-development poem perhaps, and showing the after effect of mans’ intrusion on nature.

S1 … tells the story of change when once there was a road, presumably not bitumen, and now the road has been replaced by both man and nature … and to look at the environment you would never know that once it had been a thorough fare … however, the keeper knows … the person who looks after the area … he knows that the woods has been violated – perhaps ‘violated’ is the wrong word for the road through the woods might have been environmentally friendly … however the anemones are only thin now implying the old road still has a negative effect.

S2 … poses a question can the imprint from the past be heard again … at special times when more sensitive and when the ‘ghosts’ are likely to emerge … in this case the horses may have known the old road which could help their recall to previous times when they travelled through this area, especially if it was on a regular basis … I think animals have a greater sense to where they have been.

The last two lines in S2 says it all … although something has gone it is still alive – for those that have experienced the past … perhaps all experience is retained to some degree … the mind a continuous growing memory bank … and digressing as we age we start to recall events long forgotten … of course inanimate objects speak or show their past in their very own different ways … I like the element of mystery evident in the poem – a good poem should always make people think – don’t you think?

Rudyard Kipling is better known for his books especially ‘The Jungle Book’ here is a link to Wikipedia 

However, his poem ‘If’ – is very well known and was head of a popularity count in the UK in the nineties.

And here is Walter de la mere’s well-known poem ‘The Listners’ with an element of mystery

One thought on “The Road through the Woods – Rudyard Kipling – Analysis

  1. I have translated this poem into Portuguese for my blog. As I was writing, I discovered what seems to me some kind of appeal to sexuality. The “old road through the woods” would be the “old ways” of human kind in healthy communion with nature, inside and outside oneself. That’s the way I understand the reference to the mating otter and even the “swish of a skirt in the dew”: both things are suggesting communion with sexual instinct, that being nature itself inside human being.

    I am not a native English speaking person, so I can most provably be wrong. Anyhow I thought It was worth the effort sharing the idea.

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