The eighteenth 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 and here. Kipling had a very distinctive style, a style which has produced endless poems imitating him. It occasionally amused Kipling to do a poem in the style of some other poet. Between 1904 and 1929 he did a series of short poems in the style of various poets. The subject of the poems was the new horseless carriage. Kipling loved cars, although it is unclear whether he ever drove one himself. Here are a few of the poems in his series The Muse Among the Motors. I will leave to the readers in the comboxes to guess the poet being copied. We will start out with an easy one:
The Justice’s Tale
With them there rode a lustie Engineere
Wel skilled to handel everich waie her geere,
Hee was soe wise ne man colde showe him naught
And out of Paris was hys learnynge brought.
Frontlings mid brazen wheeles and wandes he sat,
And on hys heade he bare an leathern hat.
Hee was soe certaine of his governance, That, by the
Road, he tooke everie chaunce.
For simple people and for lordlings eke
Hee wolde not bate a del but onlie squeeke
Behinde their backes on an horne hie
Until they crope into a piggestie.
He was more wood than bull in china-shoppe,
And yet for cowes and dogges wolde hee stop,
Not our of Marcie but for Preudence-sake–
Than hys dependaunce ever was hys brake. Continue reading
The seventeenth 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 and here. Throughout his life Kipling was ever the foe of cant, especially when the cant was dressed up as the latest new thing. In 1919 he aimed his poetic skills at various latest new things in the modern world that Kipling realized were very old bad ideas dressed up with jargon and sold to the gullible. His poem The Gods of the Copybook Headings reads like a current commentary on our predicament, and more is the pity.
AS I PASS through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.
We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.
We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.
With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.
When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “Stick to the Devil you know.”
On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”
In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”
Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.
As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return! Continue reading
The sixteenth 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 and here.
One of the great passions in the life of Kipling was English history. Runnymede was one of several poems on English history he wrote for A School History of England (1911). Another great passion of his was liberty, and in the poem Runnymede, Kipling combined both of these passions. Whenever in English history some great struggle has arisen since 1215 the cry of Magna Carta has usually been raised. The basis of English liberty, the Great Charter has an honored place both in English and American history. To look at Magna Carta with a modern eye is initially to be disappointed, since much of it deals with disputes between his barons and King John which, at first glance, lacks any contemporary relevance. However, the binding of the power of the government, and the restriction of the scope and power of the State, is of crucial importance today, as it is in all times and places. There are passages additionally that do have a contemporary resonance:
(38) In future no official shall place a man on trial upon his own unsupported statement, without producing credible witnesses to the truth of it.
(39) No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.
(40) To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.
It is no accident that Saint Thomas More referred to the passage in Magna Carta that guarantees the liberty of the Church in his speech after his trial:
That Law was even contrary to the Laws and Statutes of the Kingdom yet unrepealed, as might evidently be seen by Magna Charta, wherein are these Words; Ecclesia Anglicana libera sit, & habet omnia jura integra, & libertates suas illcesas: And it is contrary also to that sacred Oath which the King’s Majesty himself, and every other Christian Prince, always take with great Solemnity, at their Coronations. Continue reading
The fifteenth 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 and here.
At National Review Online they had the superb idea of taking Kipling’s poem Mesopotamia and applying it to the Benghazi debacle. The Mesopotamian, modern day Iraq, Campaign had been a disaster for the British in 1916 with a British army surrendering to the Turks at Kut. British public opinion was outraged at the incompetence that led to the defeat. When a report by the government on Kut was published in 1917, Kipling responded with his devastating poem. (Ironically the British in 1917, under the able General Frederick Maude, had succeeded in capturing Baghdad by the time the poem appeared.) The lines of the Kipling poem do seem to apply word for word to the Benghazi shame: Continue reading
The fourteenth 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 and here. Certain themes recurred in many of Kipling’s poems: a fascination with mechanical devices, strong British patriotism and a puckish sense of humor. All three of these themes were on display in the poem Brown Bess written in 1911 and which was part of the School History of England authored by Kipling and C.R.L. Fletcher . The poem was a paean to the British Land Pattern Musket, affectionately know by the Redcoats as Brown Bess. Brown Bess was the standard English long gun from 1722-1838, an astounding length of service for those who live in a time of ceaseless and rapid technological change.
The video at the beginning of this post is taken from Sharpe’s Eagle and depicts the battle of Talavera. It illustrates the impact of massed British volleys of Brown Bess musket fire on French columns. (The redcoats are armed with muskets; Sharpe and his green jacketed men are armed with rifles.) The British Army was a curious thing during the period of Brown Bess. The men were almost entirely desperately poor, poverty being the main inducement to don the Red Coat, service in the Army with its low pay, harsh discipline and danger being highly unpopular. The officers tended to be aristocratic wastrels who purchased their commissions and were often regarded by their families as dunderheads fit only for gunpowder. However, from this unpromising material was created the finest army in the world. This was largely a function of ferocious discipline, constant training in drill and volley firing, good career noncoms, a few brilliant generals like Amherst and Wellington, and extreme combativeness and courage, amply displayed both by the common soldiers and the aristocrats who led them.
Kipling’s poem was based upon the device of treating the Brown Bess musket as if she was a fashionable belle of society. Kipling told his father, ‘A conceit somewhat elaborately beaten out but it amused me in the doing – sign that may be t’will amuse other folks to read.’ Here is the text of the poem: Continue reading
There is a great scene in Kipling’s story The Man Who Would Be King. Two British adventurers take over a fictional kingdom, with one of them pretending to be a god. The whole exploit goes pear-shaped when the “god” attempts to marry a local girl. She belts him and he begins to bleed. The local pagan priests seeing this yell out, “Neither God nor Devil but a man!” and things head badly south for the two conmen.
Something similar has happend to the erstwhile South side Messiah since his first debate with Romney. Byron York interviewed a young woman who, I think, speaks now for many in her generation:
Danielle Low, a 22 year-old preschool teacher in Lebanon, is the quintessential Romney target voter. In 2008, she was newly eligible to vote, and she chose Barack Obama. “But then I gave birth to my first son, and I knew we needed a change,” Low said. “We bought a house in ’09 and we’re struggling every day, my husband and I are. I just want to see things turn around. I want to be able to afford to have another child. I want to be able to afford to buy a house where we want to live, and right now, with the economy the way it is, we can’t do that.”
“I think President Obama tricked me into voting for him,” Low continued in an impromptu discussion that could have doubled as a Romney ad. “I feel like he lied to me. He made promises he couldn’t keep. He played on my young emotions. He played on me because I was young and naïve. I didn’t know anything about the world. I believed that he was going to give us a change. I just feel like he made a lot of promises — there’s no way he followed through with them. I haven’t seen any change. I’ve seen change for the worse, not change for the better. So I hope Mitt Romney can carry us through the next four years.” Continue reading
Andrew Klavan at City Journal explains how the media creation Obama ended with the debate this week:
The Obama of the imagination is the media’s Obama. Out of their fascination with the color of his skin and their mindless awe at his windy teleprompted rhetoric, they constructed a man of stature and accomplishment. Now, with the White House on the line, they’re waging an ongoing battle against the undeniable evidence that he has never been, in fact, that man. The result in these quadrennial autumn days has been media coverage of a fantasy election, an election in the news that may bear no relation whatsoever to the election as it is. Polls consistently skewed to favor Democrats in percentages beyond any reasonable construct of reality have left us virtually ignorant of the state of the race. Orchestrated frenzies over alleged gaffes by Mitt Romney have camouflaged an imploding Obama foreign policy, an Obama economy threatened by a new recession, and an Obama campaign filled with vicious personal attacks and lies.
Governor Romney’s unprecedented dismantling of the president in their first debate—an encounter so one-sided it reminded me of the famous cartoon in which Godzilla meets Bambi, with predictable results—was surprising only for Romney’s warmth and clarity. Obama’s hapless fumbling, bad temper, and inarticulate inability to defend his record were actually thoroughly predictable. They were simply facets of the man as he truly is, unfiltered by the imagination of his media supporters: a man who has succeeded, really, at almost nothing but the winning of elections; a man who cannot distinguish between his ideology and life; a man who does not seem to know how the machinery of the world actually works.
Fantasy is a powerful thing, but reality will out. Perhaps by Election Day, the public will have awakened from the media’s dream. Continue reading
The thirteenth 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 and here. I have noted several times in this series that Kipling was not conventionally religious, yet many of his poems dealt with religious themes. One of his lesser known poems, Cold Iron, written in 1910, I have always found personally very moving.
Gold is for the mistress — silver for the maid –
Copper for the craftsman cunning at his trade.”
”Good!” said the Baron, sitting in his hall,
”But Iron — Cold Iron — is master of them all.”
So he made rebellion ‘gainst the King his liege,
Camped before his citadel and summoned it to siege.
”Nay!” said the cannoneer on the castle wall,
”But Iron — Cold Iron — shall be master of you all!”
Woe for the Baron and his knights so strong,
When the cruel cannon-balls laid ‘em all along;
He was taken prisoner, he was cast in thrall,
And Iron — Cold Iron — was master of it all!
Yet his King spake kindly (ah, how kind a Lord!)
”What if I release thee now and give thee back thy sword?”
”Nay!” said the Baron, “mock not at my fall,
For Iron — Cold Iron — is master of men all.”
“Tears are for the craven, prayers are for the clown –
Halters for the silly neck that cannot keep a crown.”
”As my loss is grievous, so my hope is small,
For Iron — Cold Iron — must be master of men all!”
Yet his King made answer (few such Kings there be!)
”Here is Bread and here is Wine — sit and sup with me.
Eat and drink in Mary’s Name, the whiles I do recall
How Iron — Cold Iron — can be master of men all!”
He took the Wine and blessed it. He blessed and brake the Bread.
With His own Hands He served Them, and presently He said:
”See! These Hands they pierced with nails, outside My city wall,
Show Iron — Cold Iron — to be master of men all.”
“Wounds are for the desperate, blows are for the strong.
Balm and oil for weary hearts all cut and bruised with wrong.
I forgive thy treason — I redeem thy fall –
For Iron — Cold Iron — must be master of men all!”
“Crowns are for the valiant — sceptres for the bold!
Thrones and powers for mighty men who dare to take and hold!”
”Nay!” said the Baron, kneeling in his hall,
”But Iron — Cold Iron — is master of men all!
Iron out of Calvary is master of men all!” Continue reading
The twelfth 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 and here. Kipling was not conventionally religious. He once described himself jokingly as a pious Christian atheist. However, many of his poems dealt with religious themes. One of his most moving religious poems he wrote in 1932, four years before his death.
At His Execution
I am made all things to all men–
Hebrew, Roman, and Greek–
In each one’s tongue I speak,
Suiting to each my word,
That some may be drawn to the Lord!
I am made all things to all men–
In City or Wilderness
Praising the crafts they profess
That some may be drawn to the Lord–
By any means to my Lord!
Since I was overcome
By that great Light and Word,
I have forgot or forgone
The self men call their own
(Being made all things to all men)
So that I might save some
At such small price to the Lord,
As being all things to all men.
I was made all things to all men,
But now my course is done–
And now is my reward…
Ah, Christ, when I stand at Thy Throne
With those I have drawn to the Lord,
Restore me my self again! Continue reading