Benedict XV, Rudyard Kipling, John Bunyan and G. K. Chesterton

Thursday, December 31, AD 2015

Benedict-XV 

The cheapest and most childish of all the taunts of the Pacifists is, I think, the sneer at belligerents for appealing to the God of Battles. It is ludicrously illogical, for we obviously have no right to kill for victory save when we have a right to pray for it. If a war is not a holy war, it is an unholy one — a massacre.

                                                                                  G.K. Chesterton, October 23, 1915

(Rudyard Kipling was born one hundred and fifty years ago yesterday on December 30, 1865.  To observe the date I am reposting this post from 2011.  On all that I have written about Kipling, and that is now a considerable amount, this is my favorite piece. I would observe in passing that both Chesterton and CS Lewis, although they differed considerably from Kipling’s views on many topics, were both fans of him as a writer.)

The eighth in my ongoing series examining the poetry of Rudyard Kipling.   The other posts in the series may be read here, here , here , herehere , here and here.   Kipling wrote quite a few poems during his lifetime.  Some are world-famous, most are not, and some are today almost completely forgotten.   The Holy War (1917) is today one of Kipling’s most obscure poems, but caused something of a stir when he wrote it in Advent during 1917.

A tinker out of Bedford,
A vagrant oft in quod,
A private under Fairfax,
A minister of God–
Two hundred years and thirty
Ere Armageddon came
His single hand portrayed it,
And Bunyan was his name!_

He mapped, for those who follow,
The world in which we are–
 ‘This famous town of Mansoul’
That takes the Holy War
Her true and traitor people,
The gates along her wall,
From Eye Gate unto Feel Gate,
John Bunyan showed them all.

All enemy divisions,
Recruits of every class,
 And highly-screened positions
For flame or poison-gas,
The craft that we call modern,
The crimes that we call new,
John Bunyan had ’em typed and filed
In Sixteen Eighty-two

Likewise the Lords of Looseness
That hamper faith and works,
The Perseverance-Doubters,
 And Present-Comfort shirks,
With brittle intellectuals
Who crack beneath a strain–
John Bunyan met that helpful set
In Charles the Second’s reign.

Emmanuel’s vanguard dying
For right and not for rights,
My Lord Apollyon lying
 To the State-kept Stockholmites,
 The Pope, the swithering Neutrals,
The Kaiser and his Gott–
 Their roles, their goals, their naked souls–
He knew and drew the lot.

Now he hath left his quarters,
 In Bunhill Fields to lie.
The wisdom that he taught us
Is proven prophecy–
One watchword through our armies,
One answer from our lands–
 ‘No dealings with Diabolus
 As long as Mansoul stands.

_A pedlar from a hovel,
The lowest of the low,
The father of the Novel,
Salvation’s first Defoe,
Eight blinded generations
Ere Armageddon came,
He showed us how to meet it,
And Bunyan was his name!_

At one level the poem is a fairly straight-forward paean to John Bunyan, the English writer who penned Pilgrims’s Progress, which every school child used to read back in days when schools spent far more time on academics and far less time on political indoctrination and fake subjects like “Consumer Ed”.  He also wrote quite a few other books and pamphlets, perhaps the best known of which is The Holy War, which portrays a war for the City of Mansoul between the good defenders and the evil besiegers.  I need not spell out the allegorical meaning of the work when the city’s named is rendered as Man Soul.  Kipling had been a devotee of Bunyan since his childhood, and I suppose that part of his motivation in writing the poem was to pay back a literary debt.

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11 Responses to Benedict XV, Rudyard Kipling, John Bunyan and G. K. Chesterton

  • I learned more history about WW I in this essay than I did in all my years of public schooling.

  • I too am a big fan of Kipling. An added benefit is that liberals’ heads explode when I mention his name.
    .
    Not all liberals, tho. My father (old soldier, Kipling man) was still with us and able to attend my son’s US Army commissioning ceremony at the lovely chapel in Fordham U. We were all pleasantly surprised when, after Father President gave the benediction, another Jesuit priest (apparently he does this every year) did a fine reading of Kipling’s “Recessional.”
    .

    Kipling’s short stories are valuable, as well.
    .

    .

  • It is hard to see how Great Britain could have seen WWI as anything other than a war that must be fought through to a just victory, a “holy war” perfectly valid against the Kaiser and his ruthless military leadership.

    Just for one point, it was the first use of senseless aerial bombing (both Zeppelin and early long-range bombers) against civilian population centers, needlessly killing hundreds and wounding hundreds more.

  • The irony is that Kipling did get his wish concerning German militarism, but only in 1945, and after Foch’s twenty year armistice.

  • (World War I) was the first use of senseless aerial bombing (both Zeppelin and early long-range bombers) against civilian population centers, needlessly killing hundreds and wounding hundreds more.
    Steve Phoenix

    Aerial bombing of civilian population centers was an easily anticipated response to Britain’s Starvation Blockade (yes, that’s what the British Government openly called it) barring all shipping, even from neutrals and even of food, to Germany. The other noteworthy response of Germany to Britain’s plan to starve civilians to death en masse was her submarine warfare against British shipping and other ships carrying war materiel to Britain. By the way, British practice was to mingle passenger ships within convoys of warships and armed merchant ships carrying war material to Britain. Think about that when the current heir to Wilson’s positions as Democrat party leader and US President complains about ISIS positioning its fighters among civilians.

    2016 is the 100th anniversary of Woodrow “He Kept Us Out Of War” Wilson’s re-election. Yes, the Democrat KKK-fanboy marched the USA right into war after his re-election. There were over 300,000 casualties of young American men, over 100,000 of which were deaths. (But to hear the feminist Mrs. Clinton tell it, women had it worse.)

  • Great article, just correct:
    In 1907 Pope BENEDiCT….

    By the way, yeah on Pope Pius XIi, but he was silent too many times and the Second War was clearer where was the evil.

    Best regards,
    Pedro

  • Thanks for catching that Pedro. I have made the correction. During World War II nobody was criticizing the Pope for silences. Everyone knew where he stood.

  • “yes, that’s what the British Government openly called it)”

    No, that is what the Kaiser’s government called it as part of their propaganda. Germany imported food from the Netherlands and Scandinavia throughout the War. Due to their victories against Russia, they had access to the grain producing regions of Poland and the Ukraine during the latter part of the War. German food rationing, and stealing food from conquered areas, kept starvation from happening in Germany, hysterical Teutonic propaganda to the contrary notwithstanding.

    ” marched the USA right into war after his re-election.”

    The Republicans were much more eager for War against the Central Powers than Wilson. His hand was forced by the Zimmerman telegram in which Germany promised Mexico parts of the US in exchange for Mexican support of Germany in any war between Germany and the US.

  • You are always welcome.
    Yes everyone knew and he even plotted to kill Hitler, but the own Pius xii recognized his silence in his speeches as Pope.
    I recommend the excellent book “The church of spies” . Riebling clarifies.
    Best regards,
    Pedro

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  • Yes, I agree that we should do something about our schools – voting comes to mind

Benedict XV, Rudyard Kipling, John Bunyan and G. K. Chesterton

Wednesday, November 9, AD 2011

 The cheapest and most childish of all the taunts of the Pacifists is, I think, the sneer at belligerents for appealing to the God of Battles. It is ludicrously illogical, for we obviously have no right to kill for victory save when we have a right to pray for it. If a war is not a holy war, it is an unholy one — a massacre.

                                                                                  G.K. Chesterton, October 23, 1915

The eighth in my ongoing series examining the poetry of Rudyard Kipling.   The other posts in the series may be read here, here , here , herehere , here and here.   Kipling wrote quite a few poems during his lifetime.  Some are world-famous, most are not, and some are today almost completely forgotten.  We are going to at one of the poems today in the final category, that is today one of Kipling’s most obscure ones, but caused something of a stir when he wrote it in Advent during 1917.  The Holy War:

 

A tinker out of Bedford,
A vagrant oft in quod,
A private under Fairfax,
A minister of God–
Two hundred years and thirty
Ere Armageddon came
His single hand portrayed it,
And Bunyan was his name!_

He mapped, for those who follow,
The world in which we are–
 ‘This famous town of Mansoul’
That takes the Holy War
Her true and traitor people,
The gates along her wall,
From Eye Gate unto Feel Gate,
John Bunyan showed them all.

All enemy divisions,
Recruits of every class,
 And highly-screened positions
For flame or poison-gas,
The craft that we call modern,
The crimes that we call new,
John Bunyan had ’em typed and filed
In Sixteen Eighty-two

Likewise the Lords of Looseness
That hamper faith and works,
The Perseverance-Doubters,
 And Present-Comfort shirks,
With brittle intellectuals
Who crack beneath a strain–
John Bunyan met that helpful set
In Charles the Second’s reign.

Emmanuel’s vanguard dying
For right and not for rights,
My Lord Apollyon lying
 To the State-kept Stockholmites,
 The Pope, the swithering Neutrals,
The Kaiser and his Gott–
 Their roles, their goals, their naked souls–
He knew and drew the lot.

Now he hath left his quarters,
 In Bunhill Fields to lie.
The wisdom that he taught us
Is proven prophecy–
One watchword through our armies,
One answer from our lands–
 ‘No dealings with Diabolus
 As long as Mansoul stands.

_A pedlar from a hovel,
The lowest of the low,
The father of the Novel,
Salvation’s first Defoe,
Eight blinded generations
Ere Armageddon came,
He showed us how to meet it,
And Bunyan was his name!_

At one level the poem is a fairly straight-forward paean to John Bunyan, the English writer who penned Pilgrims’s Progress, which every school child used to read back in days when schools spent far more time on academics and far less time on political indoctrination and fake subjects like “Consumer Ed”.  He also wrote quite a few other books and pamphlets, perhaps the best known of which is The Holy War, which portrays a war for the City of Mansoul between the good defenders and the evil besiegers.  I need not spell out the allegorical meaning of the work when the city’s named is rendered as Man Soul.  Kipling had been a devotee of Bunyan since his childhood, and I suppose that part of his motivation in writing the poem was to pay back a literary debt.

Continue reading...

10 Responses to Benedict XV, Rudyard Kipling, John Bunyan and G. K. Chesterton

  • This is a very interesting interweaving of historical strands. Thanks.

  • As I recall, Kipling also versified harshly against America’s neutrality. Can’t quite pinpoint the poem, alas.

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  • An interesting poem, and a most useful, perceptive commentary.

    As for Benedict XV, in fact, Merry del Val was replaced as Secretary of State soon after Benedict’s election, and appointed secretary of the Holy Office. Benedict’s Secretary of State was Pietro Gasparri, the architect of the 1929 Lateran Treaty and the 1917 Code of Canon Law.

    I have always figured that Pius XII’s caution during WW II was partly the result of his experiences while serving as a papal diplomat under Benedict, and witnessing how Benedict’s much-maligned neutrality was ultimately vindicated.

  • Katherine you are correct! Perhaps Pope Benedict did have a grudge about the cardinal’s hat after all! I have made the necessary correction in the post.

  • Dale, Kipling wrote the following poem in regard to the American entry into the War. I have always regarded it as a dreadful piece of drek and one of the worst poems ever written by Kipling.

    Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)
    THE CHOICE

    1917

    The American Spirit speaks:

    To the Judge of Right and Wrong
    With Whom fulfilment lies
    Our purpose and our power belong,
    Our faith and sacrifice.

    Let Freedom’s land rejoice!
    Our ancient bonds are riven;
    Once more to use the eternal choice
    Of Good or Ill is given.

    Not at a little cost,
    Hardly by prayer or tears,
    Shall we recover the road we lost
    In the drugged and doubting years.

    But, after the fires and the wrath,
    But, after searching and pain,
    His Mercy opens us a path
    To live with ourselves again.

    In the Gates of Death rejoice!
    We see and hold the good—
    Bear witness, Earth, we have made our choice
    For Freedom’s brotherhood!

    Then praise the Lord Most High
    Whose Strength hath saved us whole,
    Who bade us choose that the Flesh should die
    And not the living Soul!

    To the God in Man displayed—
    Where’er we see that Birth,
    Be love and understanding paid
    As never yet on earth!

    To the Spirit that moves in Man,
    On Whom all worlds depend,
    Be Glory since our world began
    And service to the end!

  • That’s the one! Yes, far from his best, but “the drugged and doubting years” is an excellent turn of phrase.

  • Agreed Dale. Even when writing a poor poem, Kipling included nuggets of gold!

  • Hmmm, based upon this I can see why Merry del Val was not kept as Secretary of State!

    “Reportedly Della Chiesa had been elected by one vote. According to the rules in force at the time, the ballot papers had a numbering on the reverse side, so that, if the election was decided by only one vote, it could be checked whether or not the elected person had voted for himself, in which case the election would be void. According to that account, Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val, who had been Pius X’s Secretary of State, insisted that the ballots be checked to ensure that Della Chiesa had not voted for himself – he had not. When the cardinals offered their homage to the new pope, Benedict allegedly said to Merry del Val, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” To which the unabashed Merry del Val replied with the next verse of Psalm 118: “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.””