Lenten Thoughts From Kipling

The earth is full of anger,
The seas are dark with wrath,
The Nations in their harness
Go up against our path:
Ere yet we loose the legions --
Ere yet we draw the blade,
Jehovah of the Thunders,
Lord God of Battles, aid!

High lust and froward bearing,
Proud heart, rebellious brow --
Deaf ear and soul uncaring,
We seek Thy mercy now!
The sinner that forswore Thee,
The fool that passed Thee by,
Our times are known before Thee --
Lord, grant us strength to die!

For those who kneel beside us
At altars not Thine own,
Who lack the lights that guide us,
Lord, let their faith atone!
If wrong we did to call them,
By honour bound they came;
Let not Thy Wrath befall them,
But deal to us the blame.

From panic, pride, and terror
Revenge that knows no rein --
Light haste and lawless error,
Protect us yet again,
Cloke Thou our undeserving,
Make firm the shuddering breath,
In silence and unswerving
To taste Thy lesser death.

Ah, Mary pierced with sorrow,
Remember, reach and save
The soul that comes to-morrow
Before the God that gave!
Since each was born of woman,
For each at utter need --
True comrade and true foeman --
Madonna, intercede!

E'en now their vanguard gathers,
E'en now we face the fray --
As Thou didst help our fathers,
Help Thou our host to-day.
Fulfilled of signs and wonders,
In life, in death made clear --
Jehovah of the Thunders,
Lord God of Battles, hear!

A Hymn Before Action, 1896
5

A Hymn Before Action

The second in my series examining the poetry of Kipling.  Kipling liked to keep his religious views obscure.  In 1908 he described himself as a “God-fearing Christian atheist”.  There are many other remarks he made about his religious views which are just as cryptic.  Why he did this is hard to say, except perhaps for his own amusement.  Kipling had a well-developed sense of humor and enjoyed practical jokes both literary and otherwise.  He was an enthusiastic mason for a number of years, but there is little evidence he viewed it as anything other than an amusing convivial organization.

In his poems Kipling did not shy away from religious themes.  More than a few of his poems, short stories and novels have a fairly strong religious element.  Perhaps his most strongly religious poem is a Hymn Before Action which he composed in 1896:

Continue Reading