Author Rudyard Kipling is probably best known for writing the classic children's tale “The Jungle Book.” Kipling was also an accomplish poet in his lifetime (1865 - 1936) and still considered one of the greatest literary minds. Much of his work focused on glorifying the common soldier, but other work focused on other social themes. “Cities and Thrones and Powers” is about the eternal force that is life.
While short, the poem makes a powerful statement. The choice and flow of the words also add to this impact.
The very first lines of the poem, “Cities and Thrones and Powers, / Stand in Time's eye,” set the stage for the meaning. Kipling is saying with these lines that nothing in our world last forever. Kipling goes on to say: “Almost as long as flowers, / Which daily die.” Not only does nothing in society last forever but in the grand scheme of things our lives are very fleeting. By comparing society to flower in this manner, Kipling is also saying it is small in comparison to the bigger picture.
In the second stanza the poet focuses on the life of a tiny Daffodil and is comparing our own existence to the flower. Like the flower too often do we focus on our own life and thing that it will last forever. Such is the case with the Daffodil in the poem and society itself.
The last stanza of the poem is also the most powerful. Kipling takes the image of the tiny Daffodil in the second stanza and twists it. He says that “Time that is o'er -kind, / To all that be,” and this means that the shortness of life, like that of a Daffodil, is actually a blessing. The next line, “Ordains us e'en as blind,” means that the shortness of allows everyone to enjoy the experience and not get caught up in the hardships.
Kipling ends the poem with a haunting image of “shadow to shadow”, or ghost of the forms of life that have died, saying “‘See how our works endure!” This means that in the end, people are not life itself but merely a piece of it and this is why life will truly never end.
Kipling paints an image of how life is everlasting. Life might change form, but it is an unstoppable force. Lives and the societies that will be built are merely parts of existence.