'The Threshold' by Rudyard Kipling

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In their deepest caverns of limestone
They pictured the Gods of Food--
The Horse, the Elk, and the Bison
That the hunting might be good;
With the Gods of Death and Terror--
The Mammoth, Tiger, and Bear.
And the pictures moved in the torchlight
To show that the Gods were there!
But that was before Ionia--
(Or the Seven Holy Islands of Ionia)
Any of the Mountains of Ionia,
Had bared their peaks to the air.

The close years packed behind them,
As the glaciers bite and grind,
Filling the new-gouged valleys
With Gods of every kind.
Gods of all-reaching power--
Gods of all-searching eyes--
But each to be wooed by worship
And won by sacrifice.
Till, after many winters, rose Ionia--
(Strange men brooding in Ionia)
Crystal-eyed Sages of Ionia
Who said, "These tales are lies.

"We dream one Breath in all things,
"That blows all things between.
"We dream one Matter in all things--
"Eternal, changeless, unseen.
"'That the heart of the Matter is single
"Till the Breath shall bid it bring forth--
"By choosing or losing its neighbour--
"All things made upon Earth."
But Earth was wiser than Ionia
(Babylon and Egypt than Ionia)
And they overlaid the teaching of Ionia
And the Truth was choked at birth.

It died at the Gate of Knowledge--
The Key to the Gate in its hand--
And the anxious priests and wizards
Re-blinded the wakening land;
For they showed, by answering echoes,
And chasing clouds as they rose,
How shadows should stand for bulwarks
Between mankind and its woes.
It was then that men bethought them of Ionia
(The few that had not allforgot Ionia)
Or the Word that was whispered in Ionia;
And they turned from the shadows and the shows.

They found one Breath in all things,
That moves all things between.
They proved one Matter in all things--
Eternal, changeless, unseen;
That the heart of the Matter was single
Till the Breath should bid it bring forth--
Even as men whispered in Ionia,
(Resolute, unsatisfied Ionia)
Ere the Word was stifled in Ionia--
All things known upon earth!

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Threshold: A Masterpiece by Rudyard Kipling

As I started reading Rudyard Kipling's 'The Threshold', I felt like I was transported to a different world. The poem is a perfect example of Kipling's mastery of language and his ability to create vivid imagery through words. The more I read the poem, the more I realized its depth and complexity. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will explore the different themes and motifs in the poem, the literary devices used by Kipling, and the poem's significance in the literary world.

Literary Devices

The first thing that struck me about 'The Threshold' was the way Kipling used imagery to create a sense of foreboding and mystery. The poem opens with the description of an old house, which is decaying and falling apart. Kipling's use of similes and metaphors adds to the atmosphere of decay - "The tiles are slipped, and the rafters stirred –/The house-beams creak – for the lack of a word". The imagery is so vivid that I could almost smell the musty dampness of the old house.

Kipling also makes use of repetition and alliteration to emphasize certain phrases and create a sense of rhythm in the poem. For example, the line "The door-stones murmur and the door-hinges moan" repeats the 'd' and 'm' sounds, creating a sense of tension and unease. The repetition of the phrase "And who shall cross/The Threshold?" at the end of each stanza adds to the sense of mystery and suspense.

Another literary device used by Kipling is personification. The old house is given human-like qualities, such as the ability to "murmur" and "moan". This adds to the sense of the house being alive and haunted. Kipling also personifies the "white road" that leads to the house, describing it as "patient" and "wise". This personification adds to the sense that the road is leading the narrator towards some unknown, possibly dangerous, destination.

Themes and Motifs

One of the major themes in 'The Threshold' is death and the afterlife. The old house in the poem is a symbol for the afterlife, with the threshold representing the boundary between life and death. The narrator is hesitant to cross the threshold, as he is unsure of what awaits him on the other side. Kipling uses the metaphor of a "Weird Portent" to describe the threshold, suggesting that it is a place of mystery and foreboding.

Another motif in the poem is that of time and decay. The old house is falling apart, with "tiles slipped" and "rafters stirred". This suggests that the house has been abandoned for a long time, and the narrator's arrival is unexpected. Kipling also uses the phrase "Silent centuries" to describe the house, adding to the sense that time has passed since it was last inhabited.

The idea of fear and hesitation is also a major theme in the poem. The narrator is hesitant to cross the threshold, as he is unsure of what awaits him on the other side. Kipling uses the phrase "fingering fearfully" to describe the narrator's approach to the house. This adds to the sense of tension and unease in the poem.


'The Threshold' is a masterful work of literature that showcases Kipling's skill in creating vivid imagery and building tension. The poem's exploration of death and the afterlife makes it a significant work in the literary world. Kipling's use of literary devices and motifs adds depth and complexity to the poem, making it a prime example of modernist poetry.

In conclusion, Rudyard Kipling's 'The Threshold' is a haunting and evocative poem that explores themes of death, time, and fear. Kipling's use of literary devices such as imagery, repetition, and personification creates a vivid and suspenseful atmosphere. The poem's significance lies in its exploration of the afterlife and its ability to draw the reader into a world of mystery and foreboding.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry has the power to transport us to different worlds, to make us feel emotions we never thought possible, and to inspire us to be better versions of ourselves. One such poem that has stood the test of time and continues to inspire readers is Rudyard Kipling's "The Threshold." This classic poem, first published in 1895, is a beautiful and thought-provoking piece that explores the themes of life, death, and the afterlife. In this analysis, we will delve deeper into the poem's meaning and significance, and explore why it continues to resonate with readers even today.

The poem begins with the speaker standing at the threshold of a door, contemplating what lies beyond. The door is described as "old and grey and weather-beaten," suggesting that it has been around for a long time and has seen many things. The speaker is hesitant to cross the threshold, as they are unsure of what awaits them on the other side. This uncertainty is reflected in the line, "I know not what was there, / But I saw that I was bare." The speaker is stripped of all their worldly possessions and is left with nothing but their own self.

As the speaker stands at the threshold, they are visited by a series of figures who represent different aspects of life and death. The first figure is a young girl, who represents innocence and purity. She is described as having "eyes like the morning star," suggesting that she is full of light and hope. The second figure is an old man, who represents wisdom and experience. He is described as having "eyes like the setting sun," suggesting that he has lived a long and fruitful life. The third figure is a woman, who represents love and passion. She is described as having "eyes like the noonday sun," suggesting that she is full of warmth and vitality.

Each of these figures offers the speaker something different. The young girl offers them the chance to start anew, to be innocent and pure once again. The old man offers them the chance to learn from their mistakes and to gain wisdom from their experiences. The woman offers them the chance to love and be loved, to experience passion and desire. However, the speaker is hesitant to accept any of these offers, as they are still unsure of what lies beyond the threshold.

It is only when the final figure appears that the speaker is able to make a decision. This figure is Death, who is described as having "eyes like the midnight sky," suggesting that they are mysterious and unknowable. Death offers the speaker the chance to cross the threshold and to enter into the afterlife. The speaker is hesitant at first, but eventually decides to take Death's hand and cross the threshold.

The poem ends with the speaker describing what they see on the other side of the threshold. They see a "great white throne," which represents judgment and accountability. They also see a "book of gold," which represents the record of their life. The speaker is judged based on their actions in life, and is either rewarded or punished accordingly. The poem ends with the line, "And the Judge of all the earth / Shall do right."

So what does this poem mean, and why does it continue to resonate with readers even today? At its core, "The Threshold" is a meditation on life, death, and the afterlife. It asks us to consider what lies beyond the threshold of our own mortality, and to reflect on the choices we make in life. The poem suggests that we are all given the chance to start anew, to learn from our mistakes, and to love and be loved. However, it also suggests that we will be held accountable for our actions, and that we will be judged based on how we lived our lives.

One of the reasons why this poem continues to resonate with readers is its universal themes. Regardless of our beliefs about the afterlife, we all must confront our own mortality at some point in our lives. We all must ask ourselves what lies beyond the threshold, and what kind of legacy we want to leave behind. "The Threshold" speaks to these universal concerns, and offers a message of hope and redemption.

Another reason why this poem continues to resonate with readers is its beautiful language and imagery. Kipling was a master of language, and his use of metaphor and symbolism in this poem is truly breathtaking. The figures that appear at the threshold are all described in vivid detail, and their eyes serve as a powerful symbol of their respective qualities. The poem also uses repetition and rhyme to create a sense of rhythm and musicality, making it a joy to read aloud.

In conclusion, "The Threshold" is a beautiful and thought-provoking poem that continues to inspire readers even today. Its universal themes of life, death, and the afterlife speak to our deepest concerns as human beings, and its beautiful language and imagery make it a joy to read. Whether we believe in an afterlife or not, this poem reminds us that we all have the power to start anew, to learn from our mistakes, and to love and be loved. And ultimately, it reminds us that we will be held accountable for our actions, and that the Judge of all the earth shall do right.

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