hundred years ago, in Lahore -- today the second city in independent Pakistan
but then an administrative center in British India -- a 17-year-old subeditor,
fresh out of school in England, worked very hard to get out each day's
edition of the Civil and Military Gazette. His name was Rudyard
Kipling. [Image: (Joseph) Rudyard Kipling, 1865-1936.]
Every now and then the young subeditor,
with his editor's assent, would fill up a little left-over space in the
newspaper with a poem of his own composition, much to the annoyance of
the Indian typesetters, who did not like to use the special typefaces which
Kipling deemed appropriate to distinguish his poems from the prose around
them. In 1886 he gathered up all of these poems from the previous three
years and republished them in a book, under the title Departmental Ditties.
The book was an immediate hit with other British colonials, and the first
printing sold out very quickly.
Then it was one book after another,
for from 1883 until his death in 1936 Kipling's pen was seldom idle; hardly
a week went by that he did not write one or more poems. Because his poetry
expressed so well the common sentiment of the race -- the deep soul-sense
of men conscious of their breeding and of their responsibility to live
up to a standard set by their forebears -- it became very popular with
his fellows. He was by far the most widely read -- and the best-loved --
poet writing in English at the beginning of this century; every cultured
person in the English-speaking world was familiar with at least some of
his poems. In 1907 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
chose as his symbol -- his personal rune -- the swastika, the ancient Aryan
sign of the sun and of health and of good fortune. Most editions of his
works published in the first decades of this century are adorned with this
symbol. Beginning in 1933, however, Jewish pressure was brought to bear
against the publishers, and the swastikas were dropped from subsequent
printings. [Image: Kim, (1901).]
Unfortunately, the censorship did
not end there. Kipling's poetry was obnoxious to the new men who began
tightening their grip on the cultural and informational media of the English-speaking
world in the 1930's -- obnoxious and dangerous. Actually, the whole spirit
of Kipling's writing was dangerous to them, totally at odds with the new
spirit they were promoting so assiduously, but they could not simply ban
all further publication of his works.
What they did instead was take
measures to have dropped from new editions of his collected writings those
of his poems and stories which expressed most explicitly the spirit and
the ideas they feared: the spirit and the ideas of proud, free White men.
Today every school child still reads a bit of Kipling's poetry: such things
as "Mandalay" and "FuzzyWuzzy" and "Gunga Din," which superficially seem
safely in tune with an age of multiracialism and "affirmative action" and
But what American schoolchild has
ever been given an opportunity to read Kipling's "The Children's Song"?
The first two stanzas of that poem are:
Land of our Birth, we pledge to
Our love and toil in the years
When we are grown and take our
As men and women with our race.
Father in Heaven who lovest all,
Oh help Thy children when they
That they may build from age to
An undefiled heritage.
There are many other Kipling poems,
equally dangerous, which have been deleted from every edition of his works
published since the Second World War. Here are three of them:
A Song of the White Men
Now, this is the cup the White
When they go to right a wrong,
And that is the cup of the old
world's hate --
Cruel and strained and strong.
We have drunk that cup -- and
a bitter, bitter cup
And tossed the dregs away.
But well for the world when the
White Men drink
To the dawn of the White Man's
Now, this is the road that the
White Men tread
When they go to clean a land --
Iron underfoot and levin overhead
And the deep on either hand.
We have trod that road -- and a
wet and windy road
Our chosen star for guide.
Oh, well for the world when the
White Men tread
Their highway side by side!
Now, this is the faith that the
White Men hold
When they build their homes afar
"Freedom for ourselves and freedom
for our sons
And, failing freedom, War. "
We have proved our faith -- bear
witness to our faith,
Dear souls of freemen slain!
Oh, well for the world when the
White Men join
To prove their faith again!
The Stranger within my gate,
He may be true or kind,
But he does not talk my talk --
I cannot feel his mind.
I see the face and the eyes and
But not the soul behind.
The men of my own stock
They may do ill or well,
But they tell the lies I am wonted
They are used to the lies I tell,
And we do not need interpreters
When we go to buy and sell.
The Stranger within my gates,
He may be evil or good,
But I cannot tell what powers
What reasons sway his mood;
Nor when the Gods of his far-off
Shall repossess his blood.
The men of my own stock,
Bitter bad they may be,
But, at least, they hear the things
And see the things I see;
And whatever I think of them and
They think of the likes of me.
This was my father's belief
And this is also mine:
Let the corn be all one sheaf
And the grapes be all one vine,
Ere our children's teeth are set
By bitter bread and wine.
Song of the Fifth River
When first by Eden Tree,
The Four Great Rivers ran,
To each was appointed a Man
Her Prince and Ruler to be.
But after this was ordained,
(The ancient legends tell),
There came dark Israel,
For whom no River remained.
Then He Whom the Rivers obey
Said to him: "Fling on the ground
A handful of yellow clay,
And a Fifth Great River shall
Mightier than these Four,
In secret the Earth around;
And Her secret evermore,
Shall be shown to thee and thy
So it was said and done.
And, deep in the veins of Earth,
And, fed by a thousand springs
That comfort the market-place,
Or sap the power of Kings,
The Fifth Great River had birth,
Even as it was foretold
The Secret River of Gold!
And Israel laid down
His sceptre and his crown,
To brood on that River bank,
Where the waters flashed and sank,
And burrowed in earth and fell,
And bided a season below,
For reason that none might know,
Save only Israel.
He is Lord of the Last --
The Fifth, most wonderful, Flood.
He hears Her thunder past
And Her Song is in his blood.
He can foresay: "She will fall,"
For he knows which fountain dries
Behind which desert-belt
A thousand leagues to the South.
He can foresay: "She will rise."
He knows what far snows melt
Along what mountain-wall
A thousand leagues to the North.
He snuffs the coming drouth
As he snuffs the coming rain.
He knows what each will bring
And turns it to his gain.
A ruler without a Throne,
A Prince without a Sword,
Israel follows his quest.
In every land a guest,
Of many lands a lord,
In no land King is he.
But the Fifth Great River keeps
The secret of Her deeps
For Israel alone,
As it was ordered to be.
Most Famous Poem
If you can keep your head when
all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming
it on you;
If you can trust yourself when
all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting
If you can wait and not be tired
Or being lied about, don't deal
Or being hated don't give way
And yet don't look too good, nor
talk too wise;
If you can dream -- and not make
dreams your master;
If you can think -- and not make
thoughts your aim,
If you meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters
just the same:
If you can bear to hear the truth
Twisted by knaves to make a trap
Or watch things you gave your
life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with
If you can make one heap of all
And risk it all on one turn of
And lose, and start again at your
And never breathe a word about
If you can force your heart and
nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after
they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing
Except the Will which says to
them: "Hold on!"
If you can talk with crowds and
keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings -- nor lose
the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends
can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but
none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving
With sixty seconds' worth of distance
Yours is the Earth and everything
that's in it,
And -- which is more -- you'll
be a Man, my son!
Vanguard, March 1984.