'The Path' by Edward Thomas

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RUNNING along a bank, a parapet
That saves from the precipitous wood below
The level road, there is a path. It serves
Children for looking down the long smooth steep,
Between the legs of beech and yew, to where
A fallen tree checks the sight: while men and women
Content themselves with the road and what they see
Over the bank, and what the children tell.
The path, winding like silver, trickles on,
Bordered and even invaded by thinnest moss
That tries to cover roots and crumbling chalk
With gold, olive, and emerald, but in vain.
The children wear it. They have flattened the bank
On top, and silvered it between the moss
With the current of their feet, year after year.
But the road is houseless, and leads not to school.
To see a child is rare there, and the eye
Has but the road, the wood that overhangs
And underyawns it, and the path that looks
As if it led on to some legendary
Or fancied place where men have wished to go
And stay; till, sudden, it ends where the wood ends.

Editor 1 Interpretation

A Journey Through "The Path" by Edward Thomas

Have you ever stumbled upon a path that seems to lead you into the heart of the world? A path that appears to be more than just a physical trail, but a metaphorical journey that takes you through the innermost musings of a poet's mind? This is precisely what Edward Thomas's poem "The Path" does to its readers. It invites them to wander through the woods and fields, and at the same time, it delves deep into the speaker's psyche, exploring themes of life, death, and the human condition.

At first glance, "The Path" may seem like a simple ode to the natural world, a celebration of the beauty and serenity of a country walk. But as we unravel the layers of meaning in the poem, we discover that Thomas has woven a multi-faceted narrative that encompasses a range of emotions and ideas.

The Journey Begins: The Setting and Atmosphere

The poem opens with a vivid description of the physical setting – a path that winds through the countryside, past fields, hedges, and trees. The speaker sets out on his journey, accompanied by his thoughts and the sounds of nature. Here, Thomas creates an atmosphere of calm and tranquillity, evoking a sense of peace that is hard to come by in the hustle and bustle of modern life.

"The path runs straight between the trees,
A hedge on either side,
And over it the cuckoo cries,
Faint echoes for a guide.

The woodbine through the hedge throws out
Attenuated blooms,
Sweet is the scent, yet oh, alas,
So swiftly it consumes!

Here overhead the white-thorn hangs,
The bramble-branch is black,
And here and there a lusty ash
Shoots towering from the track.

Here seems to be a little, law,
No trespass need I fear;
My right-of-way I'll exercise
For all the coming year."

But as the speaker progresses along the path, the tone of the poem shifts, and we begin to see a darker, more sombre side to the journey.

The Metaphorical Journey: Life and Death

As the speaker walks, he contemplates the fleeting nature of life, the inevitability of death, and the transience of all things. Thomas uses the natural world as a metaphor for the cycle of life and death, and the speaker's musings become a meditation on the human condition.

"This is the path I have to tread,
The path that bears me on;
In all my comings, in my goings,
The track wherefrom I've gone.

The earth that's nature's motherhood
Receives us at our birth,
And cares and cradles, feeds and makes
A field and street and firth.

And we are lulled by dreams and die
In honour's airy arms,
In glory's lap at last to lie
And slumber free from harms."

The poem touches on the idea that life is a journey, and that death is not an end but a continuation of that journey. The path becomes a metaphor for the road of life, with all its twists and turns, highs and lows.

The Human Condition: The Search for Meaning

As the speaker walks, he also ponders the question of meaning, the purpose of life, and the role of the individual in the wider scheme of things. Thomas uses nature as a mirror for the human condition, highlighting our struggles, our fears, and our hopes.

"We have gone past the edge of the wood
And further from it now,
And I am not sure that we shall find
The way the wheatears go.

The wildness of the country leaves
No limit to the range
Of vision, and the windmill's sails
Are in reality strange.

And near or far it is not less
But more, that I can say;
Here on this little mound the wind
Is in my face to-day."

As the speaker wanders through the countryside, he is confronted with the vastness and complexity of the world, and the uncertainty that comes with it. He muses on the role of the individual in this vastness, and the search for meaning that is inherent in the human condition.

The Final Journey: Death and Resurrection

The poem concludes with a final meditation on death and resurrection, and the idea that death is not an end but a new beginning. The speaker contemplates the cycle of life and death, and the eternal nature of the natural world.

"The path comes to an end at last
In the clearing's open space;
The what and why now clear at last,
The secret of the place.

The hedge is cut, the lackland dry,
The victors cross the field,
And soon we reach the slope where I
When life was good, concealed

The blemish of an old descent,
The poverty of blood,
And tears drop on the road, the scent
Of honeysuckle flood

The path uphill to the farm, the lane
That leads to home is found.
I cannot say that I have gone
A long way; rather, round

And through the journey I was dead,
Dead to the roots of trees,
Leaves rustled, and the sleeping birds
Did whisper to the knees."

The poem ends with the speaker's return home, having completed his journey both physically and metaphorically. The path becomes a symbol of the journey of life, and the cyclical nature of existence. Death and resurrection are intertwined, and the natural world becomes a metaphor for the eternal cycle of life.


In "The Path," Edward Thomas has created a masterpiece of poetic expression, weaving together themes of life, death, and the human condition into a rich tapestry of imagery and emotion. The poem invites us on a journey through the natural world, and at the same time, takes us on a journey into the depths of the poet's soul. It is a poem that inspires contemplation, that encourages us to reflect on our own journeys and the meaning of our lives. As we follow the path through the woods and fields, we are reminded of the beauty and fragility of life, and the eternal cycle of death and resurrection that lies at the heart of all things.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry has the power to transport us to another world, to make us feel emotions we never thought possible, and to inspire us to see the world in a different light. One such poem that does all of this and more is "The Path" by Edward Thomas. This classic poem is a beautiful exploration of nature, life, and the journey we all take.

The poem begins with the speaker describing a path that winds through the countryside. The path is described as "a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor," which immediately sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The use of the word "ribbon" suggests something delicate and fragile, while "moonlight" creates an ethereal, otherworldly atmosphere. The path is not just a physical entity, but a symbol of the journey we all take through life.

As the speaker continues to describe the path, we get a sense of the beauty and tranquility of the natural world. The path is surrounded by "heather, thyme, and yellowing ferns," and the air is filled with the scent of "sweet briar and the fern." The use of sensory language here is particularly effective, as it allows us to imagine ourselves walking along the path and experiencing the sights, sounds, and smells of the countryside.

However, the poem is not just a celebration of nature. It also explores the idea of mortality and the fleeting nature of life. The speaker notes that the path "leads nowhere," and that "no end to the journey is visible." This suggests that life is a journey without a clear destination, and that we must make the most of the time we have.

The poem also touches on the idea of memory and the way in which our experiences shape us. The speaker notes that the path "has been walked by many feet," and that "each has left a mark." This suggests that our experiences, both good and bad, leave a lasting impression on us and shape who we are as individuals.

As the poem draws to a close, the speaker reflects on the beauty of the path and the natural world, and notes that "the beauty is not of the kind / That endures." This is a poignant reminder that everything in life is temporary, and that we must appreciate the beauty around us while we can.

Overall, "The Path" is a beautiful and thought-provoking poem that explores some of the most fundamental aspects of human existence. It reminds us of the beauty and fragility of the natural world, the fleeting nature of life, and the importance of making the most of the time we have. Edward Thomas's use of sensory language and vivid imagery creates a powerful sense of place and atmosphere, and his exploration of these universal themes makes the poem a timeless classic that continues to resonate with readers today.

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