Rudyard Kipling

Start Free Trial

Please provide a summary and explain the central idea of the poem "The Way Through the Woods."

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

"The Way Through the Woods" is a poem about an abandoned road that was shut down by man and reclaimed by nature. It reveals the central ideas of power, time, and memory.

In the first stanza, the speaker describes a road that used to cut through a forest. However, "seventy years ago," "they" shut down that road by planting new trees and letting the surrounding plants and trees grow wild. The road is now covered with "anemones" and other growth.

In the second stanza, the speaker says that the animals who live in the area don't fear humans "Because they see so few." But if you ever enter this forest late at night, "You will hear the beat of a horse's feet...Steadily cantering through The misty solitudes." It's unclear if this is a skilled equestrian who knows of the faded path or if this is a symbolic representation of the people who once used this road. The poem ends with the line, "But there is no road through the woods," aiming to show that once the generation who know of the road die out, the road will be gone forever.

It seems there are a few main themes in this poem. The first is power. Man used its power to create the road, yet once abandoned, nature uses its power to overtake the area and reclaim it as its own. What was once powerful can shift over time. Time is another central idea because, over the course of time, many changes occur in this one area. Time has the ability to heal and create change.

The last prominent theme is memory. The people who were alive to see the road know it existed because they were able to experience it. Once the road was overtaken by nature, the only memory that exists is passed on through word of mouth. Once those generations die out, the road literally and figuratively ceases to exist. Memory can keep things alive long after they're gone.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team