Friday, 25 February 2011

The Way through the Woods by Rudyard Kipling

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.

The more I read this poem the better it becomes. I like especially how Kipling jolts his lilt, breaking up the rhythm, making the way through the poem less straightforward than you expect it to be - as though trees had been planted.

If you read the story that this poem prefaces ('Marlake Witches') you'll find that the swishing skirt might be said to belong to a 16 year old girl called Philadelphia.

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