Not quite talking about the song from the Lion King, but the idea in that story, of life coming full circle, starting with the birth of one lion king (prince?) Simba, and coming to a close with another–his cub–and knowing that whatever events occur in between–happy or sad, easy or hard–the circle will keep recurring–birth and death, the new always replacing the old. Life will always thus go on (in some form or other). This is the idea that comes across, I think, in Rudyard Kipling’s short poem, ‘Cities and Thrones and Powers’, which appeared in his book Puck of Pook’s Hill, accompanying one of the stories.

Boy with Crown
Source: Pexels

Looking at it from the perspective of time, Kipling compares Cities, Thrones, and Powers to flowers that die each day, for from time’s eye, this is how they appear–as insignificant, or perhaps, as significant–since for everlasting time, the space they occupy is as small. But like flowers that bloom and die each days, cities, thrones, and power too go through cycles, of different durations perhaps, but come to an end they do, only for new ones to rise again. As he puts it,

But, as new buds put forth
  To glad new men,
Out of the spent and unconsidered Earth
  The Cities rise again.
Image source: Pexels

But as Kipling goes on to write, while birth and death, a beginning and an end is the natural course for everyone, everything even–living, or man-made–solace lies in the fact that for them, that short existence they have is perpetual. The daffodil, as he says it approaches her seven-day life boldly, unaware of what has become of her predecessors, considering the time spared her as perpetual:

But with bold countenance,
  And knowledge small,
Esteems her seven days' continuance,
  To be perpetual.

That is the kindness that time shows everyone–time that is perpetual, that is everlasting, makes us in a sense as blind, believe in the myth of our life being everlasting, and as bold as that little daffodil who has but seven days, so that we too think that life is perpetual, and can live forever (even when we humans know that there is an end, we do too), and approach life with as much boldness and try to life it as fully. (After all, there wouldn’t really be ‘life’ otherwise, would there?) For time of course, these cycles continue forever, and each–whether the seven-day life of a daffodil, or many hundred years of a city or power–is but the blink of an eye.

But I am not quite sure what to make of the last stanza, the last couple of lines, particularly:

So Time that is o'er-kind
  To all that be,
Ordains us e'en as blind,
  As bold as she:
That in our very death,
  And  burial sure,
Shadow to shadow, well persuaded, saith,
  "See how our works endure!"

Does Kipling mean that time’s works are enduring, or that we (blind in a sense to the eventuality of our lives) consider our works (our cities, thrones, and powers, among them) as ever enduring?

What do you make of these last lines? Have you read this poem before? How do you like it, it’s message? Looking forward to your thoughts!

Find the full poem here

Find my previous posts on some of Kipling’s other poems here and here

2 thoughts on “Circle of Life #Poetry #Kipling

  1. That was beautifully interpreted. As for the last few lines, I would go with the view that man thinks he leaves behind an enduring legacy in his work(s).

    Liked by 1 person

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