Selected Poems Rudyard Kipling (Penguin Classics)
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Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) is often regarded as the unofficial Laureate of the British Empire. Yet, his writing reveals a ferociously independent figure at times violently opposed to the dominant political and literary tendencies of his age. Arranged in chronological order, this diverse selection of his poetry shows the development of Kipling's talent, his deepening maturity and the growing sombreness of his poetic vision. Ranging from early, exhilarating celebrations of British expansion overseas, including "Mandalay" and "Gunga Din", to the dignified and inspirational "If" - and the later, deeply moving "Epitaphs of the War" - inspired by the death of Kipling's only son - it clearly illustrates the scope and originality of his work. It also offers a compelling insight into the Empire both at its peak and during its decline in the early years of the twentieth century.
… And all unseen Romance brought up the nine-fifteen. His hand was on the lever laid, His oil-can soothed the worrying cranks, His whistle waked the snowbound grade, 40 His fog-horn cut the reeking Banks; By dock and deep and mine and mill The Boy-god reckless laboured still! Robed, crowned and throned, He wove His spell, Where heart-blood beat or hearth-smoke curled, 45 With unconsidered miracle, Hedged in a backward-gazing world: Then taught His chosen bard
hawse-pipes’ guttering wail, Sobbing my heart out through the uncounted watches. 25 Blind in the hot blue ring Through all my points I swing – Swing and return to shift the sun anew. Blind in my well-known sky I hear the stars go by, 30 Mocking the prow that cannot hold one true. White on my wasted path Wave after wave in wrath Frets ’gainst his fellow, warring where to send me. Flung forward, heaved aside, 35 Witless and dazed I bide The mercy of the
Sacrifice, Honour and Fortitude! Which things must perish. But Our hour Comes not by staves or swords So much as, subtly, through the power 20 Of small corroding words. No need to make the plot more plain By any open thrust; But – see Their memory is slain Long ere Their bones are dust! 25 Wisely, but yearly, filch some wreath – Lay some proud rite aside – And daily tarnish with Our breath The ends for which They died. Distract, deride, decry, confuse –
Deever’ (p. 17). Scots Observer, 22 February 1890; Barrack-Room Ballads (1892). A question-and-answer ballad between the ordinary soldiers (‘Files-on-Parade’) and their Colour-Sergeant (responsible for attending the regimental colours on an occasion such as this). It is often claimed that Kipling was drawing on literary sources from earlier in the nineteenth century for this event, but military executions of the kind described here did take place in India in the 1880s. Line 6, ’ollow square,
example of Sweden); line 42, Bunhill Fields, the Nonconformists’ cemetery in the City of London where Bunyan is buried; lines 51–2, Daniel Defoe, another Nonconformist, is usually described as the ‘Father of the English novel’, but Bunyan’s religious allegories showed him the way. ‘Jobson’s Amen’ (p. 157). First two stanzas used as epigraph to an article ‘A Return to the East’, Nash’s Magazine, July 1914, but the complete poem at the close of the story ‘In the Presence’, A Diversity of Creatures