The tenth 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 and here. Rudyard Kipling had an intensely ambivalent attitude towards America and Americans. His wife was an American and he and she after their marriage resided in Vermont from 1892-1896. The Kiplings loved Vermont, Rudyard Kipling especially loving the rugged natural beauty of the Green Mountain State. but eventually returned to England due to a now forgotten diplomatic squabble between the US and Great Britain over the boundary between Venezuela and British Guiana and which led to the last talk of war between those two nations, and a family squabble involving some of Kipling’s wife’s relatives.
Kipling admired American energy and inventiveness, but hated traditional American antipathy to Britain and what he regarded as a boorishness that afflicted many Americans. This ambivalence is well reflected in the poem American Rebellion which appeared in A School History of England (1911) by C. R. L. Fletcher and Kipling. The poem is in two strikingly different sections. Here is the first section:
- TWAS not while England’s sword unsheathed
- Put half a world to flight,
- Nor while their new-built cities breathed
- Secure behind her might;
- Not while she poured from Pole to Line
- Treasure ships and men–
- These worshippers at Freedom’s shrine
- They did not quit her then!
- Not till their foes were driven forth
- By England o’er the main–
- Not till the Frenchman from the North
- Had gone with shattered Spain;
- Not till the clean-swept oceans showed
- No hostile flag unrolled,
- Did they remember what they owed
- To Freedom–and were bold.