The poem, “The Way through the Woods”, surrounds itself entirely with the road that has been closed for “seventy years”. And as the poem proceeds, we find several themes placing their emergence in the lines of the poem, or in the tone in which the lines represent themselves. Despite the possibility of a handful themes being addressed in the poem like that of supernatural discourse or that of mystery or that of memory, the one which seems most prominent and obvious, is the theme of the triumph of Nature over Man’s deeds or creation.
Throughout the poem, we learn in the form of two stanzas, the past and the present state of the “way through the woods”, regarding its existence and its gradual disappearance, in a span of “seventy years”. After the road was “shut”, it was the “weather” and the “rain” that had mostly “undone” it, so much so that it was impossible to distinguish the road anymore. So, from the very beginning, we see that Nature is the only one which contributed wholly to demolish the road that there was. Again, it is the plantation of trees, “coppice” and “heath” and the “thin anemones”, under which the road is hidden.
On the trees, responsible for the disappearance of the road, “broods” the “ring-dove” and on the grass that has more efficiently covered the road with its existence, rolls the “badgers”. Invisible to all except the “keeper” – the road that makes the poet brood, either in recollection or in fantasy. Thus we see that Nature is in the center of the whole poem, and it effortlessly triumphs over the road that was made by Man for its use. As soon as the road is abandoned by Man, Nature claims its child (the road) and transforms it into what its true self-was (as it is now). The central theme of the poem being the triumph of Nature over Man, sits in its most befitting manner, in “The Way through the Woods”
Again, in the second stanza, we find the prominence of the central theme heightened. As the “trout-ringed pools” in a late summer night finds an otter signaling its companion to arrive since there are but very few humans that can be found, they do not seem to be afraid. However, the sensation of a horse’s feet beating and the “swish of a skirt in the dew” suggest supernatural activity, since the horse steadily canters through the woods, as if it knows the “lost road” but it should be impossible since it is “lost” and since not only grasses but trees have also grown above and on the ground that was once a road.
Thus, though the last line – “There is no road through the woods”, confirms that Nature has triumphed over what was but Man-made once by restoring the road back to its former appearance, filled with trees and grass, thus impressing on us the central theme of the poem. However, we do remain in doubt and in anticipation of the supernatural that lurks in the poem and in the last line more profoundly, thus touching on the other aspects and themes of the poem. Hope you enjoyed going through the central idea of The way through the woods.