The six stanzas of ‘The Forest Path’ are filled with allusions to Greek mythology and great examples of literary devices. Montgomery also uses fairly direct language throughout the text. This makes the poem easy to understand and pleasurable to read. It’s also accessible for readers of different ages.
Explore The Forest Path
‘The Forest Path’ by Lucy Maud Montgomery is a direct and beautiful poem about the natural world and how it should be celebrated.
Throughout the lines of this piece, Montgomery’s speaker describes a forest and the sights and sounds within it. Rather than directly depicting them, though, she uses Greek mythology to make the forest feel even more magical and otherworldly than it already does. This allows her to allude to Pan, dryads, gnomes, and more.
Throughout ‘The Forest Path,’ the poet engages with themes of nature and myth. The poem explores the natural world, using mythical references in order to make every sight and sound more magical-feeling Readers are meant to walk away with a new appreciation for nature and inspired to seek out their own magic in everyday situations. Nature, the poem concludes, goes on and on, only becoming more beautiful the more one spends time within it.
Structure and Form
‘The Forest Path’ by Lucy Maud Montgomery is a six-stanza poem that is separated into sets of four lines, known as quatrains. These quatrains follow a simple rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD, and so on, changing end sounds from stanza to stanza. This direct and easy-to-understand pattern helps center the poem’s message, ensuring that it’s delivered clearly. It also makes the poem sound upbeat and optimistic as the poet takes the reader “Deep and deeper” into the forest.
Montgomery makes use of several literary devices in ‘The Forest Path.’ These include, but are not limited to:
- Enjambment: occurs when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point. For example, the transition between lines one and two of the first stanza as well as lines one and two of the fourth stanza.
- Alliteration: occurs when the poet repeats the same consonant sound at the beginning of multiple words. For example, “dappled” and “dance” in line two of stanza one and “Where” and “white” in line four of stanza two.
- Imagery: can be seen when the poet uses descriptions that trigger a reader’s senses. These should be easy to envision and require the reader to tap into sight, sound, etc., in order to imagine them. For example, “dappled shadows dance” in stanza one and “whispers low and airy / Ring us in on every side!” in stanza three.
- Allusion: occurs when the poet references something but doesn’t clearly define it. This often occurs when the poet uses historical or cultural information. In ‘The Forest Path,’ the poet alludes to Greek mythology through her references to “dryads” and the “pipe of Pan.” This connects the poem to the imagery of Arcadia and how this utopian destination is used throughout Greek mythology.
Oh, the charm of idle dreaming
Where the dappled shadows dance,
All the leafy aisles are teeming
With the lure of old romance!
In the first stanza of ‘The Forest Path,’ the speaker begins by describing how charming dreaming in and about the natural world can be. She’s considering what it’s like to “dream… / Where the dappled shadows dance.” The use of alliteration and personification in this line help set the tone for the rest of the poem. It’s going to be upbeat and even magical-feeling at times.
Down into the forest dipping,
Deep and deeper as we go,
One might fancy dryads slipping
Where the white-stemmed birches grow.
The second stanza uses the third-person pronoun “we.” This suggests that the listener is part of the journey into the woods. “We” are diving deeper into the undergrowth, preparing to explore whatever the forest has to offer. There, one might “fancy” or imagine seeing “fancy dryads” moving through the woods. A dryad is a forest spirit from Greek mythology. They are usually seen inhabiting trees.
Lurking gnome and freakish fairy
In the fern may peep and hide . . .
Sure their whispers low and airy
Ring us in on every side!
The magic feeling grows in the next lines as the poet brings in images of fairies and gnomes. It’s clear that this is a fanatical poem based on a dream world. But, the use of these creatures evokes a particular atmosphere the speaker truly experiences in the forest. It feels as though all these things “Ring us in on every side!”
Saw you where the pines are rocking
Nymph’s white shoulder as she ran?
Lo, that music faint and mocking,
Is it not a pipe of Pan?
The next stanzas contain questions. The speaker is directing them towards the listener, asking if they saw what she saw. There was the movement of the Nymph’s shoulder and the sound of the “music faint.” By asking, “Is it not a pipe of Pan?” the speaker is in effect asking if what she heard is his music.
Hear you that elusive laughter
Of the hidden waterfall?
Nay, a satyr speeding after
The fifth stanza contains another question, adding to the overall atmosphere of the poem. There is whisper and laughter, in addition to music, coming from who knows where. Perhaps, she says, it’s coming from the “hidden waterfall.” No, she immediately contradicts. It’s “a satyr speeding after / Ivy-crowned bacchanal.” These are more references to Greek mythology, suggesting that a satyr, or a creature who is half man and half goat, is in pursuit of drunkenness or someone else who is drunk.
Far and farther as we wander
Sweeter shall our roaming be,
Come, for dim and winsome yonder
Lies the path to Arcady!
The final six lines firmly refer to “Arcady,” a different way of describing Arcadia, a concept that again dates back to Greece. It was used to describe an idealized natural landscape, one that evokes all the feelings Montgomery conveys in her poem. There is only more sweetness to see, the speaker says, the farther “we roam.” Such is the case with Arcadia. There is only peace and happy coexistence to be found.
The tone is uplifting and joyful. The speaker spends the lines celebrating the natural world and even elevating it to a new magical level in order to adequately convey how she feels about the environment.
It’s unclear who the speaker is in this poem. It’s someone who is very taken by the forest and has an active imagination. She takes pleasure from imagining that the sights and sounds are more than what they appear to be. They are satyrs, dryads, and pan.
The meaning is that the more time one spends in the natural world, the more beautiful and endearing it becomes. One might also interpret the meaning that one’s imagination is a powerful way to elevate an experience.
It’s likely the poet would’ve wanted readers to set out and explore the natural world with a more joyful attitude after reading her work. But, it’s impossible to know for sure exactly why the poet wrote the lines of ‘The Forest Path.’
The mood in ‘The Forest Path’ is optimistic and inspiring. A reader will likely feel closer to nature after reading this piece. One might find themselves looking at nature in a different way, inspired to read more into the sights and sounds than they’d normally do.
Readers who enjoyed ‘The Forest Path’ should also consider reading some other related poems. For example:
- ‘Patience Taught By Nature‘ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning – is a reminder to readers that there is a whole world beyond one’s own that is uninfluenced by the dreary, everyday problems of human life.
- ‘Hymn to the Spirit of Nature’ by Percy Bysshe Shelley – comes from “Prometheus Unbound” and is sung by a voice in the air and addressed to Asia who represents Intellectual Beauty, or the Soul of the world
- .’Eagle Poem‘ by Joy Harjo – urges us to feel our inner self by emphasizing the idea of spirituality and self-knowledge.