We are in God’s hand, brother, not in theirs.
Henry V to his brother prior to Agincourt, Henry V, Act III, Scene 6
The thirtieth 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, here and here.
Kipling, as I have often observed in this series, was not conventionally religious. Any man who could refer to himself as a good Christian atheist obviously would never qualify as being conventional in any sense in regard to faith. However, many of Kipling’s poems do deal with religion, and few more powerfully than The Answer. At first glance a brief and simple poem, it deals with immensely complicated theological questions involving death, innocence, predestination and trust in God, a poetic rendition of the same issues raised in the Book of Job.
This poem, like Job, I suspect can only be understood completely by those afflicted with grief. The temptation when disaster overtakes us in this Vale of Tears, particularly disaster not brought on by any evil on our part, is to rail against our fate and against God. This is natural, and it is always a mistake. We are the children of a loving God and ultimately our response to what befalls us in this life can only be that of Job when he stands before God:
 Then Job answered the Lord, and said:
 I know that thou canst do all things, and no thought is hid from thee.
 Who is this that hideth counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have spoken unwisely, and things that above measure exceeded my knowledge.
 Hear, and I will speak: I will ask thee, and do thou tell me.
 With the hearing of the ear, I have heard thee, but now my eye seeth thee.
 Therefore I reprehend myself, and do penance in dust and ashes.
A Rose, in tatters on the garden path,
Cried out to God and murmured ‘gainst His Wrath,
Because a sudden wind at twilight’s hush
Had snapped her stem alone of all the bush.
And God, Who hears both sun-dried dust and sun,
Had pity, whispering to that luckless one,
“Sister, in that thou sayest We did not well —
What voices heardst thou when thy petals fell?”
And the Rose answered, “In that evil hour
A voice said, `Father, wherefore falls the flower?
For lo, the very gossamers are still.’
And a voice answered, `Son, by Allah’s will!'”
Then softly as a rain-mist on the sward,
Came to the Rose the Answer of the Lord:
“Sister, before We smote the Dark in twain,
Ere yet the stars saw one another plain,
Time, Tide, and Space, We bound unto the task
That thou shouldst fall, and such an one should ask.”
Whereat the withered flower, all content,
Died as they die whose days are innocent;
While he who questioned why the flower fell
Caught hold of God and saved his soul from Hell.