Thursday, February 02, 2012

Kipling - The Way 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.
I'm posting this because we walked through the woods, and couldn't remember who wrote the poem.  I thought it was de la Mare - it has something of the feel of

Walter de la Mare - The Listeners -

"Is there anybody there?" said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grass
Of the forest's ferny floor;
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Traveller's head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
"Is there anybody there?" he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
By the lonely Traveller's call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
'Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
Louder, and lifted his head:--
"Tell them I came, and no one answered,
That I kept my word," he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
When the plunging hoofs were gone. 

Robert Frost - The Road not taken

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;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

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.


Anne said...

I tried to have students read (and enjoy) "The Road Not Taken"...Poetry is the most difficult thing to share with 17-year-old French students !

aliqot said...

Songs? I used to learn an awful lot from French songs - more on my own than in school, though. Poetry can work better with younger students in some cases - but humour always helps, I think. As for poetry, it's an odd thing how it sticks in the head once learned.
I feel the need to exercise my brain in that way from time to time. But I can write a poem out from memory far more easily than recite it fluently - in English or French!

Anonymous said...

The ones I can still recite without much hesitation are La Fontaine's fables ! In English I never actually learnt poems by heart I'm afraid.

aliqot said...

A challenge! Though I'm not sure how to judge its effectiveness! You learn either The Way through the Woods or Stopping by Woods on a snowy evening, and I'll revise/re-learn (I knew bits of it once - Le Corbeau et le Renard I'll copy it out on to this blog, so that I have no excuse!

Just exercising those 'little grey cells' as Madame Christie's Poirot would say - I think.