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POETRY: Catching Life by the Throat

Rudyard Kipling has been stereotyped--demonised?--as an arch colonialist.  He believed in the British Empire, but only an author of great sensitivity with a deep understanding of India and its people, could have written 'Kim'.   In Catching Life by the Throat, one of Josephine Hart's notable anthologies of poetry readings......... in her preamble to Kipling she says, 'he was a passionate child of Empire, a fact as central to his life as Jean-Paul Sartre's Communism was to his... Unlike other passionate believers in a political world Kipling exposed the fault lines in the system, ruthlessly.'   Kipling also regularly expressed his contempt for the 'flannelled fools at the wickets of the muddied oafs at the goals'.

In this admirable collection, there are Kipling's epitaphs of the war [1914-1918]. Her are four of them:



A SERVANT
We were together since the War began.
He was my servant-and the better man.

HINDU SEPOY IN FRANCE
This man in his own country prayed we know not to what Powers
We pray Them to reward him for his bravery in ours.

THE BEGINNER
On the first hour of my first day
In the front trench I fell.
(Children in boxes at play
Stand up to watch it well.

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

1 comments:

  1. Totally agree that Kim is a great book, but it really puzzled me. Not so much because of Kipling's imperialistic reputation but because of his biography, as he spent very little grown-up time here in India: left at 5, returned at 17, and left again at 24. So how did he get to know the country so well? The book Kipling Sahib by Charles Allen answered that question.

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