Kipling for Labor Day

Monday, September 2, AD 2013

 

 

 

 

The twenty-seventh 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 and here.

Two frequent targets of Kipling’s ire over the years was Kaiser Wilhelm, who Kipling viewed as a buffoon and a menace long before World War I, and anything that smacked of socialism.  In the poem An Imperial Rescript (1890), Kipling got to attack both his bête noirs when the Kaiser unveiled a program of social reform to “help” working men.  I rather think the Kaiser’s heart was in the right place on this occasion, even if his head was not.  Kipling viewed the plan as rubbish since most men, the acolytes of Alfred. P Doolittle (see video above) excepted, work for the well-being of their families, a well-being that he thought governments would prove ill-equipped to preserve, and therefore they would work as hard as they were able for the wife and the kids.  It is an arguable point, although Kipling’s view is directly contrary to what passes for the common wisdom of our day, which could mean that Kipling might very well be correct!

 

Now this is the tale of the Council the German Kaiser decreed,
To ease the strong of their burden, to help the weak in their need,
He sent a word to the peoples, who struggle, and pant, and sweat,
That the straw might be counted fairly and the tally of bricks be set.

The Lords of Their Hands assembled; from the East and the West they drew --
Baltimore, Lille, and Essen, Brummagem, Clyde, and Crewe.
And some were black from the furnace, and some were brown from the soil,
And some were blue from the dye-vat; but all were wearied of toil.

And the young King said: -- "I have found it, the road to the rest ye seek:
The strong shall wait for the weary, the hale shall halt for the weak:
With the even tramp of an army where no man breaks from the line,
Ye shall march to peace and plenty in the bond of brotherhood -- sign!" 
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Arithmetic

Tuesday, August 13, AD 2013

arithmetic on the frontier

The twenty-seventh 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 and here.  Kipling was always concerned with the British Army.  Here in one of his earliest poems, Arithmetic on the Frontier, written in 1886 when he was 21, he bemoans the difficulty of fighting on the northwest frontier of India when it was so expensive to educate and train a British officer compared to the cheap in cost native troops they were fighting.  It is a striking poem filled with striking imagery, but it was a bad analysis of the military situation.  Comparatively few of the troops used by Britain were brought from the United Kindom.  Most were native troops, not much costlier than the foes they faced for the White Queen.  Add in the wide technology disparity, and as long as Britain was willing to pay the financial cost, it could hold its empire in India indefinitely.  The British Raj ended some 62 years after Kipling wrote the poem due to a rising political consciousness of the minute Indian middle and upper classes and because a bankrupt Britain was no longer willing to shoulder the cost.  The poem actually has more relevance for our time than Kipling’s, as America’s experience in Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrates.  Oh well, it is still a marvelous poem!:

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4 Responses to Arithmetic

  • The purpose of “Game” was to keep out the Russians, right?

    Early on, the author of No Easy Day writes about combat soldiers’ quick realizations that that round that snapped past their ears could have blown out their brains.

    Some of Kipling’s short stories also echo the theme, e.g., “The Rout of the White Hussars” and “The Drums of the Fore and Aft.”

    Fear (Phobos) and Terror (Deimos) are yoked to Ares’ chariot.

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  • Don, I think you have somehow missed the point. Theoretically, the manpower reserves of the Indian army, coupled with naval supremacy, should have made Britain a superpower. However, the Indian army was basically for the defence of India. Although Sikh cavalry appeared on the Western Front as early as 1914, the crucial support for British military success in the Great War was from the white Dominions of the British Empire (and when Englishmen spoke of the Empire they were thinking more of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa – the Indian Empire was a thing apart). Despite the romantic attitude of Curzon or Churchill it was clear that India was being prepared for self-government. If you want to keep a people in subjugation you don’t deliberately educate them and encourage them to be part of the administrative process. Modern India, with its political, educational, industrial, and transport infrastructure is a British creation. The Victorian engineers who built the Indian railways may not have realized it, but they were forging a new nation. Britain could not hold her Indian Empire indefinitely, and nor did she expect to. The Second World War and its aftermath certainly speeded things up, and the consequences were pretty dire. And thanks to the system of ‘sterling balances’ India was still a drain on the British taxpayer after independence.

  • Don

    A good post. A few points.

    In terms of financial value of education and training, I would think the average Indian soldier as worth a bit more than his opponents. If I remember correctly the cost of an Indian battalion was a third iof the cost of British battalion, and as I am sure you remember from Kipling’s other poems Her Majesties government was not inclined to pay a lot for the health and well being of the British soldier.

    What Kipling is writing about to his English middle class audience is the officers, largely recruited from the middle class. Whose education was far more expensive the soldiers British, Indian, or Pathan.

    While Kipling generally supported the Imperial polices of HM’s Government, he saw the costs and ironies. Here is pointing them out, as usual more effectively than the diatribes of the opposition at home..

    Hank’s Eclectic Meanderings

Tomlinson Our Contemporary

Monday, July 22, AD 2013

But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, not hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth.

Revelations 3:16

 

 

 

The twenty-sixth 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 and here.  For a man who was not conventionally religious, it is surprising how many of Kipling’s poems deal with religious themes.  Here he deals with the fate of the soul of Tomlinson who floated through life and did almost no good and almost no ill.  He fits to the full T.S. Eliot’s hollow men and CS Lewis’s chestless men.

CS Lewis in his essay Screwtape Proposes a Toast in 1959 tells us how common this type of individual is in the modern world:

Your dreaded Principal has included in a speech full of points something like an apology for the banquet which he has set before us. Well, gentledevils, no one blames him. But it would be in vain to deny that the human souls on whose anguish we have been feasting tonight were of pretty poor quality. Not all the most skillful cookery of our tormentors could make them better than insipid.

Oh, to get one’s teeth again into a Farinata, a Henry VIII, or even a Hitler! There was real crackling there; something to crunch; a rage, an egotism, a cruelty only just less robust than our own. It put up a delicious resistance to being devoured. It warmed your inwards when you’d got it down.

Instead of this, what have we had tonight? There was a municipal authority with Graft sauce. But personally I could not detect in him the flavour of a really passionate and brutal avarice such as delighted one in the great tycoons of the last century. Was he not unmistakably a Little Man — a creature of the petty rake-off pocketed with a petty joke in private and denied with the stalest platitudes in his public utterances — a grubby little nonentity who had drifted into corruption, only just realizing that he was corrupt, and chiefly because everyone else did it? Then there was the lukewarm Casserole of Adulterers. Could you find in it any trace of a fully inflamed, defiant, rebellious, insatiable lust? I couldn’t. They all tasted to me like undersexed morons who had blundered or trickled into the wrong beds in automatic response to sexy advertisements, or to make themselves feel modern and emancipated, or to reassure themselves about their virility or their “normalcy,” or even because they had nothing else to do. Frankly, to me who have tasted Messalina and Cassanova, they were nauseating. The Trade Unionist stuffed with sedition was perhaps a shade better. He had done some real harm. He had, not quite unknowingly, worked for bloodshed, famine, and the extinction of liberty. Yes, in a way. But what a way! He thought of those ultimate objectives so little. Toeing the party line, self-importance, and above all mere routine, were what really dominated his life.

But now comes the point. Gastronomically, all this is deplorable. But I hope none of us puts gastronomy first. Is it not, in another and far more serious way, full of hope and promise?

Consider, first, the mere quantity. The quality may be wretched; but we never had souls (of a sort) in more abundance.

And then the triumph. We are tempted to say that such souls — or such residual puddles of what once was soul — are hardly worth damning. Yes, but the Enemy (for whatever inscrutable and perverse reason) thought them worth trying to save. Believe me, He did. You youngsters who have not yet been on active duty have no idea with what labour, with what delicate skill, each of these miserable creatures was finally captured.

The difficulty lay in their very smallness and flabbiness. Here were vermin so muddled in mind, so passively responsive to environment, that it was very hard to raise them to that level of clarity and deliberateness at which mortal sin becomes possible. To raise them just enough; but not that fatal millimetre of “too much.” For then, of course, all would possibly have been lost. They might have seen; they might have repented. On the other hand, if they had been raised too little, they would very possibly have qualified for Limbo, as creatures suitable neither for Heaven nor for Hell; things that, having failed to make the grade, are allowed to sink into a more or less contented subhumanity forever.

Kipling wrote Tomlinson in 1891 and unfortunately his Tomlinson was a forerunner of a type all too common today.  God did not bring us into this world so we could spend our days in indifference and ennui, wasting both our time and our lives.  The poem has a comedic tone, but I have always regarded it as perhaps Kipling’s most damning indictment of his time and ours.

 

 

Now Tomlinson gave up the ghost in his house in Berkeley Square,
And a Spirit came to his bedside and gripped him by the hair —
A Spirit gripped him by the hair and carried him far away,
Till he heard as the roar of a rain-fed ford the roar of the Milky Way:
Till he heard the roar of the Milky Way die down and drone and cease,
And they came to the Gate within the Wall where Peter holds the keys.

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Boots

Friday, June 7, AD 2013

The twenty-fifth 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 and here.  Kipling often wrote in his poems about the British Army and celebrated the courage and endurance of the average British soldier.  However, he never romanticized war, viewing it as a dirty, albeit often necessary, business.  Few poems have better illustrated the endless tedium and ennui of war better than the poem Boots written in 1903 after the Boer War had concluded.  The use of repetition in the poem skillfully conveys an endless and exhausting march.  Ironically, it was set to music and a poem about the tedium of military service became a music hall favorite.

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Hail Liberty! Hail!

Wednesday, May 29, AD 2013

The twenty-fourth 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 and here.   Published in 1918, Hail Liberty! Hail!  is a translation by Rudyard Kipling, of the first few stanzas of the poem that is the basis of the Greek National Anthem.  It was written by him at the request of the Greek Ambassador to England D. Kaklamanos.

The original poem consisted of 158 stanzas written by Dionysios Solomos in 1823 during the Greek War of Independence.

Abandoning its neutrality, Greece had entered World War I on the side of the Allies in 1917.  Conflict between Greeks favoring neutrality, led by King Constantine, and those favoring Allied intervention led by Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos.  Eventually the forces favoring intervention won out, and King Constantine was forced to abdicate in favor of his son King Alexander.  This all turned out to be disastrous after the War as Venizelos, a Cretan by birth, was a strong proponent of the Big (Megale) Idea which proposed Greek control of the regions in Asia Minor along the Mediterranean Sea that had Greek majorities.  After the War the Greeks seized Smyrna in Asia Minor which led to the disastrous, for Greece, Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922.  The Greeks were resoundingly defeated by the Turks under Kemal Ataturk, and 1.5 million Greeks were expelled from lands in Asia Minor that they had occupied since the beginnings of Greek recorded history.  A half million Turks and muslim Greeks were expelled from a Greece that they had lived in for almost half a millenium.  The sentiments of the poem are quite high minded, but it serves as an example that high minded sentiments are not a substitute for wisdom in governmental policy.

WE knew thee of old,

Oh divinely restored,

By the light of thine eyes

And the light of thy Sword.

 From the graves of our slain

Shall thy valour prevail

As we greet thee again—

Hail, Liberty! Hail!

 Long time didst thou dwell

Mid the peoples that mourn,

Awaiting some voice

That should bid thee return.

Ah, slow broke that day

And no man dared call,

For the shadow of tyranny

Lay over all:

 And we saw thee sad-eyed,

The tears on thy cheeks

While thy raiment was dyed

In the blood of the Greeks.

Yet, behold now thy sons

With impetuous breath

Go forth to the fight

Seeking Freedom or Death.

 From the graves of our slain

Shall thy valour prevail

As we greet thee again

Hail, Liberty! Hail!

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Mother O’ Mine

Sunday, May 12, AD 2013

Mother Love

 

If I were hanged on the highest hill,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!
    I know whose love would follow me still,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!

    If I were drowned in the deepest sea,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!
I know whose tears would come down to me,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!

    If I were damned of body and soul,
    I know whose prayers would make me whole,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!

Rudyard Kipling

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One Response to Mother O’ Mine

  • Amen!

    From “Epitaphs of the War 1914 – 1918”

    AN ONLY SON

    I have slain none except my Mother.
    She (Blessing her slayer) died of grief for me.

    Our soldier son called from Japan. He changed his facebook profile pic to one of his Mother and himself taken on the sunny day he graduated Ranger School.

    He also posted a video of his brigade’s return from Afghanistan saying that that is what Mother’s Day means to him.

    “They also serve who only stand and wait.”

Quotes Suitable for Framing: Thomas Jefferson And Rudyard Kipling

Wednesday, May 8, AD 2013

17 Responses to Quotes Suitable for Framing: Thomas Jefferson And Rudyard Kipling

  • I think the following is the definitive Kipling poem to describe Obama and the current political class.

    “A Servant When He Reigneth”

    Three things make earth unquiet
    And four she cannot brook
    The godly Agur counted them
    And put them in a book –
    Those Four Tremendous Curses
    With which mankind is cursed;
    But a Servant when He Reigneth
    Old Agur entered first.
    An Handmaid that is Mistress
    We need not call upon.
    A Fool when he is full of Meat
    Will fall asleep anon.
    An Odious Woman Married
    May bear a babe and mend;
    But a Servant when He Reigneth
    Is Confusion to the end.

    His feet are swift to tumult,
    His hands are slow to toil,
    His ears are deaf to reason,
    His lips are loud in broil.
    He knows no use for power
    Except to show his might.
    He gives no heed to judgment
    Unless it prove him right.

    Because he served a master
    Before his Kingship came,
    And hid in all disaster
    Behind his master’s name,
    So, when his Folly opens
    The unnecessary hells,
    A Servant when He Reigneth
    Throws the blame on some one else.

    His vows are lightly spoken,
    His faith is hard to bind,
    His trust is easy boken,
    He fears his fellow-kind.
    The nearest mob will move him
    To break the pledge he gave —
    Oh, a Servant when he Reigneth
    Is more than ever slave!

  • Thank you both, T. Shaw and Donald.
    The abuses of the office and blatant disregard to the peoples voice has done wonders for gun & ammo. sales. Go figure.

  • Politicians should remember they are playing a dangerous game. As Talleyrand reminds them, “Governing has never been anything other than postponing by a thousand subterfuges the moment when the mob will hang you from the lamp-post, and every act of government is nothing but a way of not losing control of the people.”

  • “Politicians should remember they are playing a dangerous game.”

    Politicians will only remember this is a dangerous game when the people over whom they lord their authority are armed sufficiently to remind them.

    “He said to them, ‘But now, let him who has a purse take it, and likewise a bag. And let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one.'” Luke 22:36

  • When Obama said “Because what they suggest is that our brave, creative, unique experiment in self-rule is just a sham with which we can’t be trusted.” I am reminded that you can never trust someone who urges you to trust them. Obama references “voices” rather than facts. This is because all he has is a “voice” and not truth. The real irony is that he says he’s engaged in an experiment in self-government. He’s not. He’s engaged in removing self-government and placing everything in the hands of a leftist authoritarian bureaucracy. This is proven by everything that Donald has listed, and then some. I would add to this the complicity of the press through hiding facts rather than reporting them. This is done so that the only “voice” most people hear is that of the administration. When only misinformation is being fed to voters, then there is no possibility for “self-government”. Gosnell, Benghazi, Obama’s birth place, and the way the Affordable Care Act was presented to the American public were all examples of the media acting as an arm of the administration in burying the facts and substituting rhetoric and lies.

  • A.S.
    “…misinformation is being fed to voters…”

    Control the media, unfortunately they will control the voters. What a battle….uphill all the way.

  • “tyranny” is beside the point, people on both sides’d agree that the government is under no obligation have to tolerate something that’s wrong, they just disagree on what’s wrong. and a lot of conservative talking heads are unwilling to substantively oppose Obama on several of the aforementioned issues cuz they don’t seriously disagree with him on the merits. The HHS mandate, for instance, you had a bunch of pundits essentially saying “well we agree the Church’s position is insane but this is overreach” vs. “birth control is a fundamental right.” one of those stakes out a stronger claim than the other

  • Rubbish JDP. The idea that the government can compel religious groups to fund contraception is the very epitome of tyranny. You miss the point completely.

  • Thomas Jefferson: “The beauty of the Second Amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it.”

    Variation: “The people will not understand the importance of the Second Amendment until it is too late.”

    A big problem among conservatives, that doesn’t exist among hate-filled liberals, is the propensity to scratch out each others’ eyes.

    The other night I had a beautiful dream. In the dream, I woke up and Ronald Reagan was President.

  • “The beauty of the Second Amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it.”

    Variation: “The people will not understand the importance of the Second Amendment until it is too late.”

    One of many fake Jefferson quotes floating around the internet T.Shaw:

    http://www.monticello.org/site/jefferson/beauty-second-amendment-quotation
    Jefferson did quote Cesare Beccaria in regard to laws restricting fire arms:

    “Laws that forbid the carrying of arms . . . disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes . . . Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”

  • Mac,

    Thanks. I was going to put in the caveat that I saw that on facebook; but I also saw it elsewhereo.

    In any case, it fits the expanding tyranny situation.

  • Am I wrong about pundits’ refusal to engage Obama/the Democrats on the merits of these issues? The mainstream conservative position is indifferent to SSM and only objects to it procedurally, i.e. they don’t want it done through the courts. Similarly most agree with Obama that the Church’s position on BC is irrational. Once that’s conceded what’s to stop people from saying it’s something that has to be provided, religious objections or no, and lumping denial of coverage in with other practices we don’t permit period, even with a religious liberty defense.

    i’m speaking broadly about known “mainstream conservatives” but, their heart really doesn’t seem to be in these sorts of arguments, except for discussing the political angles.

  • Name the pundits you are referring to JDP. What I have found is that there has been widespread appreciation of the tyranny of the Obama administration attempting to cause groups to act against their consciences. One does not have to share the opposition of the Church to contraception to recognize that simple fact.

  • Well if any well-known conservative pundit’s argued against/expressed skepticism of BC in and of itself since this happened I’d be very surprised, I haven’t heard of it. I think Hannity some time ago told a priest he thought good Catholics could use contraception. My main point though is a sort of asymmetry in the arguments. You’re right that you don’t have to be against it to oppose the HHS mandate but when one side is asserting that the Church’s position is irrational/evil/whatever, and the other doesn’t strongly dispute this but instead appeals to religious liberty in general, they’re not addressing the left side’s premises.

  • u’re right that you don’t have to be against it to oppose the HHS mandate but when one side is asserting that the Church’s position is irrational/evil/whatever, and the other doesn’t strongly dispute this but instead appeals to religious liberty in general, they’re not addressing the left side’s premises.

    In a sense, this is completely backwards. The fact that pundits and commentators are backing the Church despite disagreeing with the teaching on contraception only strengthens the religious liberty argument. If we turn this into a simple bc good vs. bc bad debate, then we’re losing sight of the larger issue.

    As for this:

    The mainstream conservative position is indifferent to SSM and only objects to it procedurally

    Rubbish. While it’s true that many conservatives discuss the undemocratic way in which SSM is forced upon us, that is only one of a larger set of arguments employed against SSM. As one who listens to and reads a lot of conservative opinion leaders, most (Ingraham, Medved, Levin, Bennett, Prager on radio, just to name some, and scores others on blogs and opeds) make substantive arguments against same sex marriage.

    It seems you are picking nits in the methods of argument for no particular reason.

  • I am a nit-picker. I think tyranny & tolerance rhetoric is useless cuz in today’s political environment, for good or ill, people with the strongest opinions are generally willing to be pretty authoritarian so long as they think doing so’s good for society.

    “The fact that pundits and commentators are backing the Church despite disagreeing with the teaching on contraception only strengthens the religious liberty argument”

    yes and no. A general religious liberty argument seems more broadly appealing, but if people don’t engage on substance, how do they object when others start lumping it in with other religious practices we wouldn’t or don’t tolerate, or going on about how religious organizations can’t “impose” their views in matters like this? Like I mentioned, one side is staking out a stronger claim here that the religious liberty arguments don’t match, because liberals don’t believe in religious liberty for “irrational” views when they intersect with the public sphere, and this characterization isn’t meaningfully challenged.

    I spoke generally on SSM. However I get the sense that a bunch of the GOP political class/select conservative pundits are either resigned to it/supportive and just waiting for a more opportune time to say so. i realize it’s not everyone, but on the whole it seems like it’s given up.

  • Tyranny may consist of taking from you your arms, your property, your right to speak and so on but the worst tyranny is that which tries to take away your soul.

The Men That Fought At Minden

Tuesday, April 16, AD 2013

 

The twenty-third 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 and here.  In his poems Kipling was fond of the theme of education.  In several poems he tied in education with another great theme of his poetry, the British Army, Kipling being fascinated by the rough and ready process by which soldiers learned how to be soldiers.

One feature of the British Army that has helped make it such a formidable force over the centuries is the pride in regimental history taken by officers and men.  In the poem The Men That Fought at Minden a sergeant, or perhaps a corporal, is using the battle of Minden as an example to tell new recruits what to expect as they learn how to be soldiers.

On August 1, 1759 an Anglo-German army won a striking victory over a larger French army at the battle of Minden in Germany.  The victory was one of the numerous victories won by the British in 1759, the Annus Mirabilis, which included the taking of Quebec.  The following British regiments fought at Minden and are known as Minden regiments:   12th of Foot, 20th Foot, 23rd of Foot, 25th of Foot, 37th of Foot and  51st Foot.  Minden Day is still observed on August 1, when the men of these regiments wear roses in their caps.  Lord George Sackville was cashiered from the British Army due to cowardice that day.  As Lord George Germain he would serve as George III’s Secretary of State during the American Revolution, contributing greatly to the British loss in that War.  The Marquis de Lafayette’s father died at the battle, and sparked in Lafayette a strong desire for revenge on the British that he brought to fruition in the aid that he brought to the American cause in the Revolution.

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2 Responses to The Men That Fought At Minden

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  • No fewer than ten units of the present-day British Army claim descent from those that fought at Minden, and are presented with roses on Minden Day, 1 August. They are based in Scotland and Wales as well as England, and include a battery of the Royal Artillery which during the Korean War had roses flown out from Japan which they wore in action. A painting commemorating this hangs in the RA Mess at Larkhill.

    The Seven Years War is significant. It was the first world war and established Britain as a world Power. The Royal Navy reached a peak of efficiency – it was the most complex organization in the world and is admirably described by Dr NAM Rodger in his book ‘The Wooden World – an anatomy of the Georgian Navy’, a groundbreaking work which effectively demolishes the ‘rum, sodomy and the lash’ myth.

Wholly Slave

Sunday, April 7, AD 2013

The twenty-second 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 and here.  Kipling throughout his life was an ardent foe of socialism.  His opposition was not primarily due to its economic follies, but rather due to its exaltation of the State.  Kipling was patriotic, but he never in his writings, contrary to the stereotype of him,  turned Britain into an idol to be worshiped.  Kipling understood men too well to think that any group of men, under the rubric of The State, could be exempt from the follies and vices that plague our species.  He viewed government as a necessary evil, with the emphasis on evil, and thought that those wielding the power of the State always needed to be carefully watched and restrained.

These themes were eloquently on display in the poem MacDonough’s Song written by Kipling in 1917.  The poem was a continuation of a science fiction, yes, Kipling wrote science fiction, story called A.B.C., written by Kipling in 1912, where a world government, the Aerial Board of Control, in 2065 acts to crush a rebellion in Chicago against its authority.  Go here to read the short story.  I view it both as an attack on socialist ideas of utopia and a satire on the demagoguery that usually goes with politics.

The poem is fairly bleak in its unsparing look at human nature and government.  The couplet

If it be wiser to kill mankind Before or after the birth— has a dire resonance with our abortion on demand culture.  Separation of Church and State is a common theme on the Left today, while many of the same people labor ceaselessly to make the State all powerful. Kipling’s warning is just as relevant today as when he wrote it.  Here is the text of the poem:

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5 Responses to Wholly Slave

  • WHETHER the State can loose and bind
    In Heaven as well as on Earth:

    If it be wiser to kill mankind
    Before or after the birth—

    These are matters of high concern
    Where State-kept schoolmen are;

    Whether it is ‘wiser’ to … ?

    It seems state-kept ‘men’ no longer even consider wisdom, and some define holiness with terror … in order to redefine wisdom with their ‘loud throats’.
    Their ‘high concerns’ for The People don’t even concern them.

  • I have seen this clip several times. There is one thing I would disagree with Friedman on is that he seems to accept the premise that greed and self-interest are one and the same. They are not, although in real life practice the lines between them often blur. The standard leftist tactic Phil Donahue uses is actually pretty shrewd one when you think about it. in that he defines the terms of the debate.

    Human sins of its practioners notwithstanding, capitalism is the only economic system that requires the profiteer to think of the other person. That is the antithesis of greed. And that is how the debate is to be framed.

  • …and what a warning it is.
    Soul stirring. Thanks.

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Of Centurions, Love and Kipling

Thursday, March 21, AD 2013

 

The twenty-first 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 and here.  Kipling throughout his literary career had two great loves:  his love for England and his love for the British Army that guarded England.  A variant on these two themes is displayed in The Roman Centurion’s Song  which Kipling wrote for A Child’s History of England in 1911.  This is the lament of a Roman Centurion who has served forty years in Britannia.  His cohort, circa 300 AD, has been ordered back to Rome and the Centurion does not want to go.  After forty years Britannia has become his home and he wishes to stay.

Kipling once famously wrote in his poem The ‘Eathen, that the backbone of an army is the non-commissioned man.  That was certainly the case with the Roman Legions.  The centurions were an interesting combination of sergeant major and captain.  They were long service men, almost all risen from the ranks.  They normally commanded 60-80 men, although senior centurions, at the discretion of the Legate in charge of the Legion, could command up to a cohort, 500-1,000 men.  Each centurion had a place in the chain of command  with the primus pilus being the head centurion of a legion.  The military tribunes and legates who led the legions were Roman aristocrats, most of whose military experience was much less than the centurions under them.  If they were wise, they left the day to day management of their legion up to the centurions and paid heed to their advice in combat situations.  In the contemporary histories that have come down to us, the centurions are normally treated with great respect.  This is reflected in the movie Spartacus where Senator Gracchus notes that if the Senate punished every commander who ever made a fool of himself, there would be no one left in the Legions above the rank of centurion.

It was not uncommon for centurions to become quite fond of the people and the foreign lands they were stationed in for lengthy periods.  We see this with the Centurion Cornelius and his encounter with Peter described in Acts 10:

[1] And there was a certain man in Caesarea, named Cornelius, a centurion of that which is called the Italian band; [2] A religious man, and fearing God with all his house, giving much alms to the people, and always praying to God. [3] This man saw in a vision manifestly, about the ninth hour of the day, an angel of God coming in unto him, and saying to him: Cornelius. [4] And he, beholding him, being seized with fear, said: What is it, Lord? And he said to him: Thy prayers and thy alms are ascended for a memorial in the sight of God. [5] And now send men to Joppe, and call hither one Simon, who is surnamed Peter:

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11 Responses to Of Centurions, Love and Kipling

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  • I think you are being too literal in your reading of this piece. This is yet another pretender’s tilt are being the next new Rome. I must have some sort of paranoid delusion of Protestants under every bed, but I can not read this Kip’s lines w/o seeing a pathetic sentimental defense of Anglicanism. It is as if he says, “Oh, well, yes I know I am by nature a Roman (Catholic ), but you see, I have just become so attached to the land and tradition of England (Anglican ) that I just can’t bare the thought of leaving.”

    Never mind that his ancestors begged their king not to cleave the link with Roman tradition.

  • Darren I can assure you that Kipling had no such intentions as you have read into his poem. Kipling was many things in his life, but an enthusiastic Anglican was never one of them! The man described himself as a Christian atheist. At best he was a Deist. Oddly he does seem to have had a devotion to Mary that comes out in some of his other works.

  • I deleted your last comment Darren since you ignored the evidence I presented to you and you held to your bizarre interpretation. I have also placed you on moderation. I work fairly hard on these posts and I do not appreciate them being taken down strange byways by someone obviously bone ignorant on the subject being discussed.

  • Good post. This retired soldier can relate. Well written. Thanks

  • Don, you might be interested in checking out “The Centurion” by Leonard Wibberly (best known as the author of “The Mouse that Roared” and its sequels). It is a fictionalized story of Longinus, the centurion who attended Christ’s crucifixion, which presents him as having once been captured by Britons, and as having a British servant/slave who is also his father-in-law (meaning that he must have been married to a Briton at one time). I’ve only gotten a few chapters into it — Holy Week might be a good time to try to finish it — and it’s very good.

  • Thank you Elaine. I do not believe that I have read that and I will have to do so!

  • Don

    Good post.

    One can not but feel the pain of the Centurian.

    But he is a solidier, he will follow orders even if he can’t get the Legate to change them.

    —————–
    Leslie Fish published several CD’s of his poems put to music. The videos made with these are usually pretty good. worth taking a quick look when your looking for a video.

  • Thank you Robb and Hank. Since in my mispent youth I wore Army Green, I guess I qualify as an old soldier, and the poem speaks deeply to me also.

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Our Lady of the Sackcloth

Monday, March 4, AD 2013

 

The twentieth 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 and here.  Kipling was something of a mystery when it came to religion.  He once jokingly referred to himself as a Christian Atheist.  However, religion not infrequently came up in Kipling’s poetry and prose.  For a Protestant he seemed to have a fondness for the Virgin Mary.  In his poem A Hymn Before Action we see this devotion in this stanza:

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!

We also see this devotion in a poem Kipling wrote in the year before his death, Our Lady of the Sackcloth.  It is based on one of the stories in a 15th Century Ethiopian book, One Hundred and Ten Miracles of Our Lady Mary that had been translated into English in 1933.  At age 68 and his health declining I suspect Kipling saw himself in the role of the elderly priest who could only recall the daily prayer to the Virgin.  Note the reference to the Eucharist:  When the Bread and the Body are one.   Kipling’s poem reminds us that we are all beneficiaries of the love of the Mother of God, even though we are unaware of it:

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The Last of the Light Brigade

Friday, February 15, AD 2013

C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre!  (It is magnificent but it is not war!)

Comment of French Mashal Pierre Bosquet on the charge of the light brigade

The nineteenth 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 and here.   Kipling throughout his career always had a soft spot in his heart for the common British soldier.  Soldiers in Kipling’s youth were regarded at worst as common criminals and at best a necessary evil:  to be cheered as heroes in time of peril and left to rot in penury in peace time when they were too old to serve.  By his poems pointing out the rank ingratitude of this treatment meted out to men who fought for Queen and country, Kipling played a large role in changing civilian attitudes toward the military and improving the lives of the “Tommys”.

One of his most searing poems on this subject was The Last of the Light Brigade.

The British have produced some of the great captains of History, Marlborough and Wellington quickly come to mind.  However, a more common theme in British military history is the courage of common soldiers redeeming with their blood the mistakes of their generals.  Few conflicts better exemplify this than the Crimean War.  Fought between 1853-1856, the war consisted of France, Great Britain, the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Sardinia (prior to it growing to encompass all Italy) against Russia.  The causes of the war boiled down to the fact that the Ottoman Empire was in a state of rapid decay and France and Russia were squabbling about which power would have predominance as “protecting power” of the Holy Places in the Holy Land, with the traditional antipathy of Catholics and Orthodox lending fuel to the fire.  This fairly meaningless squabble eventually led to war between the Ottoman Empire and Russia with Great Britain and France rallying to The Sick Man of Europe as the Turks were called.

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9 Responses to The Last of the Light Brigade

The Muse Among the Motors

Wednesday, January 30, AD 2013

Rudyard Kipling and car

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.

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3 Responses to The Muse Among the Motors

  • Thank you for bringing Kipling to mind again. It has been a long time since I have read any of his poems. I have a kindred spirit with all poets. It has been over thirty years and 500 poems since I discovered a gift for poetry, and at 85 I still average at least two a month. What a blessing that has been for me all these years. The first 200 I considered it a hobby only for my own enjoyment. My wife was my greatest fan, and now that she is gone, my oldest daughter has been distributing them to her friends. I am happy others now say they appreciate them very much. My computer is the lifeline for a crippled retired writer. Despite almost constant pain, I try to be the youngest 85-year old in existence. A friend once called me “The oldest living technical writer in captivity. So many people do not understand what a blessing suffering can be if you use it wisely to earn the eternal gratitude of souls in purgatory. Never waste graces.

  • I’m new here, but mind if I play?

    Chaucer, obviously; Lovelace, possibly; Byron, I’m sure; Milton, it sounds like; and the last one puts me in mind of Swinburne.

    A magnificent and moving series. I thank you, Sir, for all eighteen, and hope there may be more to come.

  • Thank you for your kind comments Tom. Correct as to Chaucer, Byron and Milton.

Kipling’s Commentary on the Age of Obama

Thursday, November 29, AD 2012

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!

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10 Responses to Kipling’s Commentary on the Age of Obama

  • Awesome . I wish we could read it to Congress

  • I cannot help but think of good men like George Bush and Mitt Romney and the lying, liberal (I repeat myself again) media when I read these lines from “If.”

    “If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, ”

    Kipling takes “wisdom” from Proverbs.

    “For three things the earth is disquieted, and for four which it cannot bear. For a servant when he reigneth, and a fool when he is filled with meat; for an odious woman when she is married, and an handmaid that is heir to her mistress.” — PROV. XXX. 21-22-23.

    “Three things make earth unquiet
    And four she cannot brook
    The godly Agur counted them
    And put them in a book —
    Those Four Tremendous Curses
    With which mankind is cursed;
    But a Servant when He Reigneth
    Old Agur entered first.

    “An Handmaid that is Mistress
    We need not call upon.
    A Fool when he is full of Meat
    Will fall asleep anon.
    An Odious Woman Married
    May bear a babe and mend;
    But a Servant when He Reigneth
    Is Confusion to the end.

    “His feet are swift to tumult,
    His hands are slow to toil,
    His ears are deaf to reason,
    His lips are loud in broil.
    He knows no use for power
    Except to show his might.
    He gives no heed to judgment
    Unless it prove him right.

    “Because he served a master
    Before his Kingship came,
    And hid in all disaster
    Behind his master’s name,
    So, when his Folly opens
    The unnecessary hells,
    A Servant when He Reigneth
    Throws the blame on some one else.

    “His vows are lightly spoken,
    His faith is hard to bind,
    His trust is easy broken,
    He fears his fellow-kind.
    The nearest mob will move him
    To break the pledge he gave —
    Oh, a Servant when he Reigneth
    Is more than ever slave!”

  • Donald McClarey I know this is not an open thread but reading this (and with the awareness of Coptic Catholics under death sentence for their part in the movie that Obama/ Clinton made famous, building on the work of some mullahs) puts me in mind of something else I have read and I wonder if you would be interested in it.
    http://drsanity.blogspot.com/2006/05/four-pillars-of-socialist-revival-and.html

  • Can we Turn the Tide?

    Our nation is really losing ground.
    Moral values are now seldom found.
    Life is held in such low estate,
    murder is unborn children’s fate

    Our leaders pander to greed and lust.
    God is no longer the one they trust.
    With them in charge of public discourse,
    religion is allowed no recourse.

    Genocide being proposed as a right,
    is an abomination in God’s sight.
    The family is under assail.
    It must be protected without fail.

    Free speech is a vanishing right.
    Protest must be kept out of sight.
    We are governed by a dictator’s hand.
    Liberty is silenced throughout out land.

    The future now rests in our care.
    No way can they silence prayer.
    If everyone will do their share,
    we can depend on God to repair.

    Thank you so much for reminding us of the poetic artistry of Rudyard Kipling.

  • “puts me in mind of something else I have read and I wonder if you would be interested in it.
    http://drsanity.blogspot.com/2006/05/four-pillars-of-socialist-revival-and.html

    Obama comes out of the left of the Democrat party and is a fairly typical specimen. What we are seeing happen to the Democrat party during his Presidency is fairly interesting however, with it going ever further to the left. The Blue Dogs were largely wiped out in 2010 and there are few moderate Democrats left in Congress. While the Democrats now control with an overwhelming predominance blue states like California and Illinois, they have become less competitive in other many states where the GOP controls both the legislature and the state house. I expect this trend to be reflected in the 2014 election with the Republicans strengthening their control in the Red States and the Democrats doing so in the Blue States, with fierce battles being waged in purple states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

    The Democrats in the most recent election won and have convinced themselves that they can always win nationally by running to the left especially on social issues.

    As a result of all of the foregoing, I anticipate the Democrats morphing into a European style socialist party with election contests becoming increasingly bitter as the parties follow their divergent paths farther from each other.

  • I hope you are right that they will trend further from each other. Some of the discussions I hear from some Republicans now seem to favor becoming more like each other, being for what Democrats are for.

  • Wow. Thank you Donald. Timely indeed.
    As I finished the last stanza an infamous sign came to mind; “Arbeit Macht Frei.”
    Work sets you free.
    Something for those new residents of Auschwitz to ponder.
    Again thanks for this “soul food” from Kipling.

  • “Some of the discussions I hear from some Republicans now seem to favor becoming more like each other, being for what Democrats are for.”

    Parties that have suffered an electoral defeat, especially an unexpected one, often make those type of noises in the aftermath of defeat. I expect nothing to come of it, as is usually the case. The Republican party is a conservative party and draws its strength from conservative voters. That will not change. As the economy slips back into recession next year, and Obama begins the popularity plummet that I anticipate for him as a result, the GOP will regain their nerve and begin looking towards 2014. The party of two term Presidents often get shellacked in the third election cycle of their term, think Bush in 2006, and I suspect that Obama will be looking at a reprise in 2014 of 2010 on a lesser scale.

  • Like Chesterton, Kipling has a sound and prophetic ring, like some others from that era. Its sad that our education institutions has been infected with this rabid socialism, entitlement mentality, and human rights that aren’t, and will take much to reverse. Cataclysims have that effect.

  • The breakdown of our educational system Don has destroyed our memories throughout the Western World of most of what came before circa 1965. A similiar process has been at work within the Church with similar dire consequences.

Runnymede

Tuesday, November 13, AD 2012

The sixteenth in my ongoing series examining the poetry of Rudyard Kipling. The other posts in the series may be read here, here , here , herehere , 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, lack 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.

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Kipling on Benghazi

Sunday, November 4, AD 2012

The fifteenth in my ongoing series examining the poetry of Rudyard Kipling. The other posts in the series may be read here, here , here , herehere , 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:

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4 Responses to Kipling on Benghazi

  • …but the idle-minded overlings who quibbled while they died…shall they thrust for high employments as of old? Shall we only threaten and be angry for an hour….

    Donald. All of it fits unfortunately. Angry for an hour? So absurd that O uses ( revenge ) in his rousing the libs, yet washes his hands with video rubbish. I pray a tsunami of votes sweeps away the destructor.
    Thanks for this Kipling poem which parallels the disgrace in Benghazi.

  • Wow! Powerful then and still today.

  • From ‘Epitaphs of the War 1914 – 1918’
    R. Kipling

    “COMMON FORM

    “If any question why we died,
    Tell them, because our fathers lied.

    “A DEAD STATESMAN

    “I could not dig: I dared not rob:
    Therefore I lied to please the mob.
    Now all my lies are proved untrue
    And I must face the men I slew.
    What tale shall serve me here among
    Mine angry and defrauded young?”

    My main “issue” with the latter is the good statesman is not where the heroes’ souls repose.

  • T Shaw….that’s powerful!
    Life for all, born & unborn.

Kipling and Brown Bess

Friday, October 26, AD 2012

The fourteenth in my ongoing series examining the poetry of Rudyard Kipling. The other posts in the series may be read here, here , here , herehere , here, here, here, here , here, here, here and hereCertain 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:

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