Cities and Thrones and Powers

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Like flowery fields the nations stand

Pleased with the morning light;

The flowers beneath the mower’s hand

Lie withering ere ‘tis night.

Isaac Watts,  Our God, Our Help in Ages Past

 The twenty-ninth in my ongoing series examining the poetry of Rudyard Kipling. The other posts in the series may be read here, here , here , here, here , here, here, here, here, here, here, here , here, here, here , here, here, here , here, here, here , here, here , here , here, here, here and here.

Kipling will always be remembered as a British patriot and a lover of the British Empire.  Both of those facts are true enough, although Kipling was not blind to the faults of his nation and its empire, but Kipling also had the ability, shared by some true great artists, to step momentarily outside his time and place to make some imperishable commentary on the human condition.  Kipling did it in his poem Recessional, written on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee, which rather than a rah, rah celebration of Great Britain, envisages a time when the glory and power of Britain and its Empire will have passed, one with Nineveh and Tyre, and a stark warning for his British contemporaries to use the power they currently possessed responsibly, and prays to God for mercy upon them.  This unexpected Jeremiad contains what I have always regarded as the most moving lines of poetry ever written by a secular poet:

 

The tumult and the shouting dies;
   The Captains and the Kings depart:   
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
   An humble and a contrite heart.
Kipling returned to the theme of the transitory nature of earthly power in Puck of Pook’s Hill, 1906.  Ostensibly a children’s book combining History and Fantasy, Kipling put into it some of his deepest thinking on many subjects, including the poem Cities and Thrones and Powers which reminds us of the the fact that on this globe civilizations rise and fall like the flowers that bloom and die, but that like flowers the civilizations return in new guises:

 

CITIES and Thrones and Powers
Stand in Time’s eye,
Almost as long as flowers,
Which daily die:
But, as new buds put forth
To glad new men,
Out of the spent and unconsidered Earth,
The Cities rise again.

This season’s Daffodil,
She never hears,
What change, what chance, what chill,
Cut down last year’s;
But with bold countenance,
And knowledge small,
Esteems her seven days’ continuance
To be perpetual.

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!”

 

8 Responses to Cities and Thrones and Powers

  • Thanks for this overflowing cup of hope.

    “but with bold countenance, and knowledge small, Esteems her seven days’ continuance To be perpetual.”

    Personally this stanza relates precisely to the left. Bold faced yet lacking in the ways of natural law, ( moral knowledge or implementation of that knowledge. Even a respect of those who do.)

    And fooling themselves that there enlightened actions will stand the test of time.

  • psalm 103

    15 As for mortals, their days are like grass;
    they flourish like a flower of the field;
    16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
    and its place knows it no more.
    17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
    on those who fear him,
    and his righteousness to children’s children,
    18 to those who keep his covenant
    and remember to do his commandments.

  • Anzylne.

    This is exactly why I love to frequent TAC. It’s the uplifting comments affirmations and perfectly placed scriptural quotes that fill my heart.

    You have done so just now. :)

    Thank you.
    A simple seeker of truth appreciates your faith and insights.

  • I love the Poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling.

    “If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
    If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
    If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
    Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise”

    The first verse is my favorite.

    It always reminds me of my dad- he always taught his children to hold their head up high and just try. He still reminds us to this day.

  • Ez.

    Beautiful truths.
    Thanks for sharing.
    For good and bad his words ring clear in my past and the hope of today is to do as your father asked; “..to hold your head up high and just try.”
    Peace.

  • Phillip, yes Kipling’s words are very beautiful.

    We are all struggling in, what Mr McClarey refers to often, as “in this vale of tears.”

    Some more than others. Thank God for the hope of heaven.

    God Bless you always Phillip.

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