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

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

(Pope Benedict issued his peace proposal on August 1, 1917.  To observe the occasion I am reposting this post from 2011.  Of 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. (more…)

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Published in: on August 3, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Benedict XV, Rudyard Kipling, John Bunyan and G. K. Chesterton  
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Eddi’s Service

The thirty-second in my on-going series on 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 , here , herehere, here , here and here.

Kipling was not conventionally religious, but religious themes frequently occur in his poetry.  Christmas was a theme that Kipling came back to throughout his career, beginning with the poem Christmas in India which he wrote when he was twenty.  Eddi’s Service first appeared in Kipling’s book Rewards and Fairies in 1910 and features a most unusual Christmas midnight mass:

Eddi’s Service

(A.D. 687)

EDDI, priest of St. Wilfrid

In his chapel at Manhood End,

Ordered a midnight service

For such as cared to attend.

But the Saxons were keeping Christmas,

And the night was stormy as well.

Nobody came to service,

Though Eddi rang the bell.

‘Wicked weather for walking,’

Said Eddi of Manhood End.

‘But I must go on with the service

For such as care to attend.

The altar-lamps were lighted,

An old marsh-donkey came,

Bold as a guest invited,

And stared at the guttering flame.

The storm beat on at the windows,

The water splashed on the floor,

And a wet, yoke-weary bullock

Pushed in through the open door.

‘How do I know what is greatest,

How do I know what is least?

That is My Father’s business,’

Said Eddi, Wilfrid’s priest.

‘But – three are gathered together –

Listen to me and attend.

I bring good news, my brethren!’

Said Eddi of Manhood End.

And he told the Ox of a Manger

And a Stall in Bethlehem,

And he spoke to the Ass of a Rider,

That rode to Jerusalem.

They steamed and dripped in the chancel,

They listened and never stirred,

While, just as though they were Bishops,

Eddi preached them The Word,

Till the gale blew off on the marshes

And the windows showed the day,

And the Ox and the Ass together

Wheeled and clattered away.

And when the Saxons mocked him,

Said Eddi of Manhood End,

‘I dare not shut His chapel

On such as care to attend.’

 

 

Published in: on December 19, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Eddi’s Service  
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The Widow at Windsor

 

 

 

The thirty-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, here, here , here, here , here , here , here , herehere, here and here.

Going away the most popular monarch in British history was Queen Victoria who reigned 63 years and seven months over the United Kingdom and the British Empire, being acclaimed Empress of India on May 1, 1876.  To most of her British subjects she became a mother figure, as her reign went on, particularly in the 1880s and 1890s.  After the death of her beloved husband Prince Albert in 1861, shortly after his efforts in toning down a British message to the Lincoln administration during the Trent affair helped avert war between the United States and Great Britain, she put on black mourning which she wore for the remainder of her life.  Her relative isolation after that perhaps added to her air of majesty as she became a symbol of her far flung domains encompassing a quarter of the population of the Earth.

Kipling had a fairly ambivalent attitude to the British monarchy, liking them well enough as human beings, but also recognizing the struggle that had been waged throughout English history to gain liberties.  The role of British monarchs during Kipling’s life time suited Kipling:  they were now out of politics and reigned but did not rule.  Kipling had boundless contempt for almost all politicians, calling them little tin gods on wheels, an expression not original to him but which he dearly loved.  In his Barrack Room Ballads (1892) Kipling inserted a tribute by a common soldier to the Widow of Windsor:

‘Ave you ‘eard o’ the Widow at Windsor
With a hairy gold crown on ‘er ‘ead?
She ‘as ships on the foam — she ‘as millions at ‘ome,
An’ she pays us poor beggars in red.
(Ow, poor beggars in red!)
There’s ‘er nick on the cavalry ‘orses,
There’s ‘er mark on the medical stores —
An’ ‘er troopers you’ll find with a fair wind be’ind
That takes us to various wars.
(Poor beggars! — barbarious wars!)
Then ‘ere’s to the Widow at Windsor,
An’ ‘ere’s to the stores an’ the guns,
The men an’ the ‘orses what makes up the forces
O’ Missis Victorier’s sons.
(Poor beggars! Victorier’s sons!)

Walk wide o’ the Widow at Windsor,
For ‘alf o’ Creation she owns:
We ‘ave bought ‘er the same with the sword an’ the flame,
An’ we’ve salted it down with our bones.
(Poor beggars! — it’s blue with our bones!)
Hands off o’ the sons o’ the Widow,
Hands off o’ the goods in ‘er shop,
For the Kings must come down an’ the Emperors frown
When the Widow at Windsor says “Stop”!
(Poor beggars! — we’re sent to say “Stop”!)
Then ‘ere’s to the Lodge o’ the Widow,
From the Pole to the Tropics it runs —
To the Lodge that we tile with the rank an’ the file,
An’ open in form with the guns.
(Poor beggars! — it’s always they guns!)

We ‘ave ‘eard o’ the Widow at Windsor,
It’s safest to let ‘er alone:
For ‘er sentries we stand by the sea an’ the land
Wherever the bugles are blown.
(Poor beggars! — an’ don’t we get blown!)
Take ‘old o’ the Wings o’ the Mornin’,
An’ flop round the earth till you’re dead;
But you won’t get away from the tune that they play
To the bloomin’ old rag over’ead.
(Poor beggars! — it’s ‘ot over’ead!)
Then ‘ere’s to the sons o’ the Widow,
Wherever, ‘owever they roam.
‘Ere’s all they desire, an’ if they require
A speedy return to their ‘ome.
(Poor beggars! — they’ll never see ‘ome!)  (more…)

Published in: on May 13, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Widow at Windsor  
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Danegeld

 

The thirtieth 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 , here , here,  here and here.  One of the many reasons to read Kipling is due to how much of his writing stands the test of time.  A good example of this is Dane-geld written in 1911.  Danegeld was a tax levied by the Kings of Wessex to buy peace with the various invading warbands of Danes in the ninth through the eleventh century.  The Danegeld of course convinced the various Danes in Denmark that it was a good idea to invade England, be bought off in gold by a Saxon king and then to settle in England and repeat the process whenever money ran short.  One would think that the bad consequences of giving way to such extortion should be obvious, but it is amazing how often this simple lesson has been repeated down the centuries.  The Obama administration has paid Danegeld of a sort to various enemies, or would be enemies, of the US, including Iran, Russia, North Korea, thus having the US pay for trouble down the road.

Kipling is not merely to be read for amusement during an idle hour.  Read carefully he often has wisdom useful for today.  Here is the text of Dane-geld: (more…)

Published in: on May 5, 2016 at 3:30 am  Comments Off on Danegeld  
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Laws for Wolves and Men

The twenty-ninth 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 , here , here and here.

Kipling had a love, hate relationship with the law and authority in general.  He regarded law as necessary to the human condition, but he was too sharp an observer of the humanity not to notice that more than a few men in authority were fools, and that they manipulated laws to their advantage.  In our confused times we have individuals who are stridently against laws that support traditional morality, while calling for government micro management in other areas of life that would have astounded most of the tyrants in history who lived prior to the last century.  In his The Jungle Book (1894), Kipling sets forth a law code for a group, a wolf pack, that would at first blush seem completely lawless:

The Law of the Jungle
(From The Jungle Book)
by Rudyard Kipling


Now this is the Law of the Jungle —
as old and as true as the sky;
And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper,
but the Wolf that shall break it must die.

As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk
the Law runneth forward and back —
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf,
and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.


Wash daily from nose-tip to tail-tip;
drink deeply, but never too deep;
And remember the night is for hunting,
and forget not the day is for sleep.
(more…)

Published in: on March 18, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Laws for Wolves and Men  
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Benedict XV, Rudyard Kipling, John Bunyan and G. K. Chesterton

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.  We are going to look at one of the poems  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. (more…)

Published in: on December 31, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Benedict XV, Rudyard Kipling, John Bunyan and G. K. Chesterton  
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The Young British Soldier

 

 

The twenty-eighth 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 , here and here.

One frequent subject of Kipling’s poems were the rankers of the British Army.  His unsentimental but affectionate look at these common men who held up the British Empire with their courage usually brings a special spark to his verse and that is certainly the case with The Young British Soldier (1892).   In the form of a chant like song by a veteran soldier it provides sound advice to recruits:  don’t drink bad liquor, avoid disease which is helped by not getting drunk, wear your helmet in the sun, be civil with noncoms on work details, a wife who can cook is preferable to a beautiful wife who can’t, don’t meet adultery with murder, keep calm under fire, take care of your rifle, the Martini-Henry rifle is referred to, and it will take care of you, pick off the gunners of opposing artillery and don’t be terrified of the noise of cannon fire, running from a fight is the shortest route to being killed and suicide is preferable to death by torture.  I differ with the last piece of advice but I doubt if God does not have a great deal of sympathy for poor souls facing the choice of self murder or death by being cut apart by fiends.  Here is the text of the poem: (more…)

Published in: on December 8, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Young British Soldier  
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But Is It Art?

(I originally posted this at The American Catholic, and I thought the art and kipling mavens of Almost Chosen People might enjoy it.)

When the flush of a newborn sun fell first on Eden’s green and gold,  
Our father Adam sat under the Tree and scratched with a stick in the mold;  
And the first rude sketch that the world had seen was joy to his mighty heart,  
Till the Devil whispered behind the leaves: “It’s pretty, but is it Art?”  
  
Wherefore he called to his wife and fled to fashion his work anew—
The first of his race who cared a fig for the first, most dread review;  
And he left his lore to the use of his sons—and that was a glorious gain  
When the Devil chuckled: “Is it Art?” in the ear of the branded Cain.  
  
They builded a tower to shiver the sky and wrench the stars apart,  
Till the Devil grunted behind the bricks: “It’s striking, but is it Art?”
The stone was dropped by the quarry-side, and the idle derrick swung,  
While each man talked of the aims of art, and each in an alien tongue.  
  
They fought and they talked in the north and the south, they talked and they fought in the west,
Till the waters rose on the jabbering land, and the poor Red Clay had rest—  
Had rest till the dank blank-canvas dawn when the dove was preened to start, 
And the Devil bubbled below the keel: “It’s human, but is it Art?”  
  
The tale is old as the Eden Tree—as new as the new-cut tooth—  
For each man knows ere his lip-thatch grows he is master of Art and Truth;  
And each man hears as the twilight nears, to the beat of his dying heart,  
The Devil drum on the darkened pane: “You did it, but was it Art?” 
  
We have learned to whittle the Eden Tree to the shape of a surplice-peg,  
We have learned to bottle our parents twain in the yolk of an addled egg,  
We know that the tail must wag the dog, as the horse is drawn by the cart;  
But the Devil whoops, as he whooped of old: “It’s clever, but is it Art?”  
  
When the flicker of London’s sun falls faint on the club-room’s green and gold, 
The sons of Adam sit them down and scratch with their pens in the mold—  
They scratch with their pens in the mold of their graves, and the ink and the anguish start  
When the Devil mutters behind the leaves: “It’s pretty, but is it art?”  
  
Now, if we could win to the Eden Tree where the four great rivers flow,  
And the wreath of Eve is red on the turf as she left it long ago,
And if we could come when the sentry slept, and softly scurry through,  
By the favor of God we might know as much—as our father Adam knew.

Rudyard Kipling

Published in: on September 15, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on But Is It Art?  
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If: Sound Fatherly Advice

I originally posted this at The American Catholic on Father’s Day, and I assumed the Kipling mavens of Almost Chosen People might like it.)
The twenty-eighth 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, here and here.
Nothing is more appropriate in all of Kipling’s writings for a Father’s Day than the poem If.
Written in 1895 as a tribute to the now forgotten Leander Starr Jameson, who helped set the stage for the Boer War, it was not published by Kipling until 1910 when it appeared in his childrens’ book Rewards and Fairies.
The poem takes the form of advice from a father to his son, and it is filled with the type of sage advice that the best of fathers attempt to pass on to bored children, hoping against hope that their kids will recall it in time of need.  Kipling had three children:  Josephine who died at eight in 1899,  Elsie who would live to be eighty and who died in 1976 and John “Jack” Kipling who died shortly after his 18th birthday fighting bravely at the Battle of Loos in 1915.  Kipling took the death of two of his children very hard, unsurprising since the grief that comes with the death of a child is  a temptation to bury oneself in a pit of despair for the rest of one’s  life.  However, Kipling did not do this, keeping his private grief private, and continuing his work, living out in his own life the advice that he gave in If:

(more…)

Published in: on June 26, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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In Memory of Baby

babydoglarge

(My dog Baby passed away during the evening of May 22-23 last week.  I originally posted this at The American Catholic and I thought the dog lovers of Almost Chosen People might wish to read it.)

His Apologies

MASTER, this is Thy Servant. He is rising eight weeks old. He is mainly Head and Tummy. His legs are uncontrolled. But Thou hast forgiven his ugliness, and settled him on Thy knee . . . Art Thou content with Thy Servant? He is very comfy with Thee.

Master, behold a Sinner? He hath done grievous wrong. He hath defiled Thy Premises through being kept in too long. Wherefore his nose has been rubbed in the dirt, and his self-respect has been bruiséd. Master, pardon Thy Sinner, and see he is properly looséd.

Master — again Thy Sinner! This that was once Thy Shoe, He hath found and taken and carried aside, as fitting matter to chew. Now there is neither blacking nor tongue, and the Housemaid has us in tow. Master, remember Thy Servant is young, and tell her to let him go!

Master, extol Thy Servant! He hath met a most Worthy Foe! There has been fighting all over the Shop — and into the Shop also! Till cruel umbrellas parted the strife (or I might have been choking him yet). But Thy Servant has had the Time of his Life — and now shall we call on the vet?

Master, behold Thy Servant! Strange children came to play, And because they fought to caress him, Thy Servant wentedst away. But now that the Little Beasts have gone, he has returned to see (Brushed — with his Sunday collar on —) what they left over from tea. . .  . . .

Master, pity Thy Servant! He is deaf and three parts blind, He cannot catch Thy Commandments. He cannot read Thy Mind. Oh, leave him not in his loneliness; nor make him that kitten’s scorn. He has had none other God than Thee since the year that he was born!

Lord, look down on Thy Servant! Bad things have come to pass, There is no heat in the midday sun nor health in the wayside grass. His bones are full of an old disease — his torments run and increase. Lord, make haste with Thy Lightnings and grant him a quick release!

Rudyard Kipling

My dog Baby, a terrier poodle mix, passed away over night, after a mercifully brief illness.  She had been in decent health until recently.  We brought her home from an animal shelter 13 years ago.  She was so eager to make a good impression on us that she didn’t bark for three days!  She was the companion of our children when they were young and the solace of my bride and I as our fledglings left the nest.  For years I would take her for a pre-dawn stroll which she loved and was the high point of her day.  I was also always the easiest touch for treats and hand outs, and she would always beg from me whenever I ate, although otherwise she was a mommy dog.  I would feed her chocolate occasionally although I was warned that the black sweetness was bad for dogs.  I replied that at least she would die with a smile on her snout!  She was a grand dog and led a grand life, bringing us love and companionship every day that she was with us, from her first to her last.  We will miss her, which is not a bad epitaph for man or beast.

Published in: on May 30, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on In Memory of Baby  
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