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Rudyard Kipling's "Helen All Alone"

Poetry became my passion after I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class circa 1962.

Rudyard Kipling

Introduction and Text of "Helen All Alone"

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.

(Please note: The spelling, "rhyme," was introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson through an etymological error. For my explanation for using only the original form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.")

Helen All Alone

There was darkness under Heaven
For an hour’s space—
Darkness that we knew was given
Us for special grace.
Sun and moon and stars were hid,
God had left His Throne,
When Helen came to me, she did,
Helen all alone!

Side by side (because our fate
Damned us ere our birth)
We stole out of Limbo Gate
Looking for the Earth.
Hand in pulling hand amid
Fear no dreams have known,
Helen ran with me, she did,
Helen all alone!

When the Horror passing speech
Hunted us along,
Each laid hold on each, and each
Found the other strong.
In the teeth of Things forbid
And Reason overthrown,
Helen stood by me, she did,
Helen all alone!

When, at last, we heard those Fires
Dull and die away,
When, at last, our linked desires
Dragged us up to day;
When, at last, our souls were rid
Of what that Night had shown,
Helen passed from me, she did,
Helen all alone!

Let her go and find a mate,
As I will find a bride,
Knowing naught of Limbo Gate
Or Who are penned inside.
There is knowledge God forbid
More than one should own.
So Helen went from me, she did,
Oh my soul, be glad she did!
Helen all alone!

Reading of "Helen All Alone"

Commentary

After the speaker in the Kipling's "Helen All Alone" examines the issue of temptation, he offers a fascinating conclusion resulting from his thinking on the subject.

First Stanza: A State of Melancholy

There was darkness under Heaven
For an hour’s space—
Darkness that we knew was given
Us for special grace.
Sun and moon and stars were hid,
God had left His Throne,
When Helen came to me, she did,
Helen all alone!

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: Escaping Nihilism

Side by side (because our fate
Damned us ere our birth)
We stole out of Limbo Gate
Looking for the Earth.
Hand in pulling hand amid
Fear no dreams have known,
Helen ran with me, she did,
Helen all alone!

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: Determining Behavior

When the Horror passing speech
Hunted us along,
Each laid hold on each, and each
Found the other strong.
In the teeth of Things forbid
And Reason overthrown,
Helen stood by me, she did,
Helen all alone!

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: The Return of Clear Thought

When, at last, we heard those Fires
Dull and die away,
When, at last, our linked desires
Dragged us up to day;
When, at last, our souls were rid
Of what that Night had shown,
Helen passed from me, she did,
Helen all alone!

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: Overcoming Temptation

Let her go and find a mate,
As I will find a bride,
Knowing naught of Limbo Gate
Or Who are penned inside.
There is knowledge God forbid
More than one should own.
So Helen went from me, she did,
Oh my soul, be glad she did!
Helen all alone!

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, the speaker 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.

Rudyard Kipling

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes