Rudyard Kipling's "Helen All Alone"

Rudyard Kipling


The Collected Poems of Rudyard Kipling


The speaker in the Kipling's "Helen All Alone" is addressing the issue of temptation, and he professes relief at the end that he did not give in to it.

Rudyard Kipling's "Helen All Alone" consists of four stanzas with eight rimed lines and a final stanza with nine lines. His allusion to Helen works to personify the concept of temptation.

First Stanza: "There was darkness under Heaven"

The first stanza finds the speaker describing his state of the melancholy, a mental condition that causes the human mind to become stressed and then urges the person to behave against his own best interest.

The speaker names his particular temptation, "Helen," alluding to the beautiful mythological character, who is reputed to have brought on the Trojan War, after she fled from her husband Menelaus with the handsome warrior Paris.

The speaker paints a scene of darkness with "Sun and moon and stars" hidden and claims that "God has left His Throne." In darkness without the presence of God, the human heart becomes open to unwholesome desires. In this state of mind, "Helen" or temptation comes to him. Each stanza's last line sums up Helen's relationship to the speaker, both spatially and emotionally.

Second Stanza: "Side by side (because our fate"

After Helen appears, the two hand in hand try to escape that forgotten land between heaven and earth. They run toward earth furiously seeking to escape their nihilistic state of existence.

They run "Hand in pulling hand amid / Fear no dreams have known." Their fate had "damned" them to be placed in Limbo even before their birth. But together they try to pull ahead of their fears "Looking for Earth" or a place where they can inhabit bodies in order to experience a sensuous existence.

Third Stanza: "When the Horror passing speech"

The two encounter "Horror passing speech" which motivates them to hold to each other. This out-of-body experience seems quite similar to in-body experience: "In the teeth of Things forbid / And Reason overthrown."

They are aware that there are some things they should not do. They also perceive that they cannot always reason or understand exactly what those things are.

Fourth Stanza: "When, at last, we heard those Fires"

In the fourth stanza, the speaker and Helen "hear those Fires / Dull and die away." And now it is becoming daylight or clear thought is returning. And they are "rid / Of what that Night had shown." They had passed through the turbulence of temptation.

Fifth Stanza: "Let her go and find a mate"

The speaker realizes that Helen would not have been a fit mate for him nor he for her. His temptation brought on by melancholy of night has lifted as Helen has passed out of his sight. He can leave the notion of Limbo behind him and not be concerned with those remaining there, nor the temptations with which man is tormented.

The speaker avers that "There is knowledge God forbid." And he knows now that the illusion in the form of the Hellenic temptation is "More than one should own." He is lucky that he was able to overcome, for he knows that many who remain behind Limbo Gate have not been so lucky.

So as Helen goes from him, he does not despair but instead celebrates: "So Helen went from me, she did, / Oh, my soul, be glad she did!" He realizes that he has dodged the bullet, and he breathes his well-earned sigh of relief.

Reading of Kipling's "Helen All Alone"

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes

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