Category Archive 'Rudyard Kipling'

02 Jan 2023

Words of Wisdom



“A man can never have too much red wine, too many books, or too much ammunition.”

Rudyard Kipling, 30th December 1865 – 18th January 1936

Kipling by Sir Philip Burne-Jones [1899]

He should try telling this to my wife!

19 Jul 2018

Kipling’s “If” Removed from University Wall by Students

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He is regarded as one of England’s greatest writers, whose poems were praised as the nation’s favourites and whose books were lauded as classics of children’s literature.

But it appears that Rudyard Kipling has fallen out of favour with today’s generation of students, after it emerged that his “If” poem has been scrubbed off a building by university students who claim he was a “racist”.

Student leaders at Manchester University declared that Kipling “stands for the opposite of liberation, empowerment, and human rights”.

The poem, which had been painted on the wall of the students’ union building by an artist, was removed by students on Tuesday, in a bid to “reclaim” history on behalf of those who have been “oppressed” by “the likes of Kipling”.

In lieu of Kipling’s If, students used a black marker pen to write out the poem Still I Rise by Maya Angelou on the same stretch of wall.

    today, as a team, we removed an imperialist’s work from the walls of our union and replaced them with words of the maya angelou – god knows black and brown voices have been written out of history enough, and it’s time we try to reverse that, at the very least in our union ✊🏽
    — Fatima Abid (@fatimabidSU) July 16, 2018

Sara Khan, the liberation and access officer at Manchester’s students’ union (SU), blamed a “failure to consult students” during the renovation of the SU building for the Kipling poem being painted on the wall in the first place.

“We, as an exec team, believe that Kipling stands for the opposite of liberation, empowerment, and human rights – the things that we, as an SU, stand for,” Miss Khan said.


01 Oct 2017

Boris Quotes Kipling in Burma: “Good Stuff!”

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British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, being a literate chap educated at Eton and Oxford, naturally had the famous Kipling poem come to mind & tongue when invited to bang the bell in a temple of the Great God Budd in what used to be known as Rangoon, Burma.

The wet ends at the Guardian, and the British Left generally, had a cow over the incident.

Boris Johnson caught on camera reciting Kipling in Myanmar temple.

Foreign secretary’s impromptu recital of colonial-era poem was so embarrassing the UK ambassador was forced to stop him.

‘Not appropriate’: Boris Johnson recites Kipling poem in Myanmar temple.

The foreign secretary has been accused of “incredible insensitivity” after it emerged he recited part of a colonial-era Rudyard Kipling poem in front of local dignitaries while on an official visit to Myanmar in January.

Boris Johnson was inside the Shwedagon Pagoda, the most sacred Buddhist site in the capital Yangon, when he started uttering the opening verse to The Road to Mandalay, including the line: “The temple bells they say/ Come you back you English soldier.”

Kipling’s poem captures the nostalgia of a retired serviceman looking back on his colonial service and a Burmese girl he kissed. Britain colonised Myanmar from 1824 to 1948 and fought three wars in the 19th century, suppressing widespread resistance.

Johnson’s impromptu recital was so embarrassing that the UK ambassador to Myanmar, Andrew Patrick, was forced to stop him. …

The previously unbroadcast footage shows the diplomat managing to halt Johnson before he could get to the line about a “Bloomin’ idol made o’ mud/ Wot they called the Great Gawd Budd” – a reference to the Buddha.

The gaffe came on the first visit to Myanmar by a British foreign secretary in five years. He had taken part in a ritual involving pouring water over a golden statue of what he described as “a very big guinea pig”, when he approached a 42-tonne bell, rang it with a wooden stick and spontaneously started reciting Kipling’s poem.

A visibly tense ambassador stood by as Johnson continued: “The wind is in the palm trees and the temple bells they say …” Then Patrick reminded him: “You’re on mic,” adding: “Probably not a good idea…”

“What?” Johnson replied. “The Road to Mandalay?”

“No,” said the ambassador sternly. “Not appropriate.”

“No?” replied Johnson looking down at his mobile phone. “Good stuff.”

“It is stunning he would do this there,” said Mark Farmaner, director of the Burma Campaign UK. “There is a sensitivity about British colonialism and it is something that people in Burma are still resentful about. British colonial times were seen as a humiliation and an insult.

“It shows an incredible lack of understanding especially now we are seeing the impact of Buddhist nationalism, especially in Rakine state [where Rohingya muslims have been been the subject of violent persecution].”


The sooner the Tories make Boris PM the better.



BY THE old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin’ lazy at the sea,
There’s a Burma girl a-settin’, and I know she thinks o’ me;
For the wind is in the palm-trees, and the temple-bells they say:
“Come you back, you British soldier; come you back to Mandalay! ”
Come you back to Mandalay,
Where the old Flotilla lay:
Can’t you ‘ear their paddles chunkin’ from Rangoon to Mandalay ?
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin’-fishes play,
An’ the dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘crost the Bay!

‘Er petticoat was yaller an’ ‘er little cap was green,
An’ ‘er name was Supi-yaw-lat – jes’ the same as Theebaw’s Queen,
An’ I seed her first a-smokin’ of a whackin’ white cheroot,
An’ a-wastin’ Christian kisses on an ‘eathen idol’s foot:
Bloomin’ idol made o’ mud
Wot they called the Great Gawd Budd
Plucky lot she cared for idols when I kissed ‘er where she stud!
On the road to Mandalay…

When the mist was on the rice-fields an’ the sun was droppin’ slow,
She’d git ‘er little banjo an’ she’d sing “Kulla-lo-lo!
With ‘er arm upon my shoulder an’ ‘er cheek agin my cheek
We useter watch the steamers an’ the hathis pilin’ teak.
Elephints a-pilin’ teak
In the sludgy, squdgy creek,
Where the silence ‘ung that ‘eavy you was ‘arf afraid to speak!
On the road to Mandalay…

But that’s all shove be’ind me – long ago an’ fur away
An’ there ain’t no ‘busses runnin’ from the Bank to Mandalay;
An’ I’m learnin’ ‘ere in London what the ten-year soldier tells:
“If you’ve ‘eard the East a-callin’, you won’t never ‘eed naught else.”
No! you won’t ‘eed nothin’ else
But them spicy garlic smells,
An’ the sunshine an’ the palm-trees an’ the tinkly temple-bells;
On the road to Mandalay…

I am sick o’ wastin’ leather on these gritty pavin’-stones,
An’ the blasted English drizzle wakes the fever in my bones;
Tho’ I walks with fifty ‘ousemaids outer Chelsea to the Strand,
An’ they talks a lot o’ lovin’, but wot do they understand?
Beefy face an’ grubby ‘and –
Law! wot do they understand?
I’ve a neater, sweeter maiden in a cleaner, greener land!
On the road to Mandalay…

Ship me somewheres east of Suez, where the best is like the worst,
Where there aren’t no Ten Commandments an’ a man can raise a thirst;
For the temple-bells are callin’, an’ it’s there that I would be
By the old Moulmein Pagoda, looking lazy at the sea;
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the old Flotilla lay,
With our sick beneath the awnings when we went to Mandalay!
O the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin’-fishes play,
An’ the dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘crost the Bay !

05 Aug 2016

Kipling, Still Prominent on the Left’s Index

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Michael Dirda discovers that the lumpen-intelligentsia today has not read Kipling, but has so thoroughly imbibed all the stereotypes and prejudices of the radical left’s ideology that even mere mention of The Jungle Books provokes outrage and animosity toward their author.

Earlier this summer I was on a panel at a literary conference where I happened to say that Rudyard Kipling was a wonderful writer. Immediately, a number of people in the audience began to boo and hiss. Two of my fellow panelists nearly shrieked that Kip­ling was utterly beyond the pale, being at once racist, misogynist and imperialist. Not entirely surprised by this reaction, but nonetheless flabbergasted by its vehemence, I made a flustered attempt to champion the author of “Plain Tales From the Hills,” “The Jungle Books ” and “Kim.” I declared what many believe, that he is the greatest short-story writer in English. This only made things worse. Finally, with some desperation I blurted out: “How much Kipling have you actually read?”

A short silence followed, and, without any answer to my question, the discussion moved on to other, less heated topics.

Read the whole thing.

05 Jul 2016

Noel Annan on Kipling

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Rudyard Kipling, 1865-1936.

Noel Annan, Our Age: English Intellectuals Between the World Wars: A Group Portrait:

[Britain’s Edwardian] serenity was misplaced. Astute observers at home warned that Britain was losing its industrial supremacy and was indifferent to its ill educated population. Acute observers abroad declared that the solidarity of British life was an illusion. The American historian Brooks Adams (brother of Henry) forecast the departure of Britain from the historical stage. The steel production of the United States and Germany was overtaking that of Britain; and the Boer war had revealed Britain’s inefficiency as a world power. Conrad heard the tumult beneath the surface of that thin crust men called civilization – the anarchist world of the secret agent or of Henry James’s Hyacinth Robinson. But there was one writer in particular who was aware how thin the crust was and who redefined the gentlemanly ethos, and it was often through his eyes that Our Age was told to admire it. That was Kipling.

Kipling wanted his generation to recall how much the gentleman owed to society. He valued the independence of the individual – as an artist how could he not? But the individual left on his own, isolated and lonely, disintegrated. Particularly in India where men and their wives died young, where to take one’s work seriously could result in madness because government, unlike in England, never achieved results. What prevented such a society from going over the precipice? Kipling answered: religion, law, custom convention, morality – the forces of social control – which imposed upon individuals certain rules which they broke at their peril. Conventions enabled men to retain their self-respect and even to live together under appalling circumstances. Those who break the conventions must be punished. Numbers of Kipling stories contain scenes in which the individualistic, the eccentric, the man who offends against the trivial rules of the club, are tarred and feathered with gleeful brutality. If the offender is not brought to heel, society will suffer. It is not worth spending much effort, Kipling thought, debating whether the customs, morality and religion of the place you live in are right or wrong. His contemporary, the anthropologist James Frazer, was informing the learned public that religion and magic were a kind of primitive science which would vanish as scientific knowledge spread; but for Kipling, as for Max Weber, religion was a social fact.

These forces of social control, as Kipling admitted, were harsh. The harshness could be alleviated by belonging to in-groups. These in-groups protect the individual, give him privacy, identity and self-confidence. They are the family, the school and the craft or profession you follow. These in-groups, too, teach us our place. We all need a course of indoctrination to find our place and, if you have come up in the world, to be taught it. But when the individual has proven himself in his in-group, and so long as he is not in the strict sense of the word of an eccentric, then the more daring his behaviour and the more abundant his action, the greater is the addition of joy in the world. Stalky was the prototype of this socialized individualism. He acted beyond the formal law of school or army regulations and possessed the gift of seeing himself from the outside in relation to society. In Kipling’s world action revitalized man. That was the obverse of suffering it caused. And suffering was inevitable. Political action is often not a choice between good and evil but between lesser and greater evil.

Social realities interested Kipling. The liberal pictures man as choosing goals to pursue and asks whether or not he is free to pursue them. Kipling thought that men and women were forced to accept those goals which their group or clan in society chose for them and only when they had accepted these constraints were they free to exercise their individuality and take it for a trot. He is not unlike Durkheim who saw the individual as a bolt which might snap if the nut of society held it too tightly, or by being too loose allowed it to vibrate. Excessive integration as in the officer caste in the Army could be as dangerous as imperfect integration.

Brought up in a society untouched for generations by civil wars, revolution or economic disaster, Kipling’s English contemporaries were never compelled to consider why society still continues to hang together. But in India Kipling was forced to consider it. He believed that man achieves happiness when he comprehends where he himself fits into the scheme of things. He has to realize that spring cannot forever be spring and that winter succeeds autumn. Since men continue to nurse illusions they must be taught the terms on which they are allowed to rise. Subject the upstart, therefore, to a course of indoctrination to bring his ambition within bounds and turn his children into gentlemen. Whereas for most of the greatest writers society, with its rules, conventions, customs, morality and taboos surrounding the sacred, is the enemy and their characters in fiction are depicted as locked in heroic combat with them, for Kipling they are a donnée with which mankind has to come to terms or perish.

Kipling therefore defined the gentleman differently from Trollope. His gentleman has come down in the world, is harsher, more meagre, with fewer graces and more limitations. The gentleman has now become the manager, the colonial administrator, the engineer and the skilled worker. You feel his gentleman is more beleaguered. He is threatened from above by the politicians, threatened from below by the lower orders who now have the vote, and threatened by the new barbarians in Europe. In the fable of England he wrote for his children Kipling scanned the future with anxious eyes. Would the wall of British civilization fall again before the democratic hordes of little men and the barbarians, the Prussian Winged Hats? Were not the younger rulers like Churchill tainted by the same ambition that made Roman generals overpower the emperor? Were not the financiers manipulating trade and industry to their own ends, were not luxury and wealth corrupting the ruling class and turning their children to flannelled fools at the wicket? What would be England’s fate?

15 Apr 2016

io9 Reviewer and “The Jungle Book” (2016)

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Katherine Trendacosta and Rudyard Kipling

Then leftist W.H. Auden, paying valedictory tribute to the reactionary William Butler Yeats in 1939, condescendingly conceded that Kipling’s literary merit gained him forgiveness for his Imperialist views:

Time that is intolerant
Of the brave and the innocent,
And indifferent in a week
To a beautiful physique,

Worships language and forgives
Everyone by whom it lives;
Pardons cowardice, conceit,
Lays its honours at their feet.

Time that with this strange excuse
Pardoned Kipling and his views,
And will pardon Paul Claudel,
Pardons him for writing well.

Columbia graduate Katherine Trendacosta, night editor of io9, writing in 2016 is a lot less tolerant than was W.H. Auden back then.

Ms. Trendacosta decisively warns potential viewers of Disney Movie’s “The Jungle Book” (2016) that “Rudyard Kipling Was a Racist Fuck and The Jungle Book Is Imperialist Garbage.”

We are currently in the 21st century. We are in the second decade of the 21st century and there are not one, not two, but three Jungle Book movies on the horizon. And that means that it’s time to remind everyone that Rudyard Kipling was a piece of racist, imperialist trash. …

[There is] inherent racism and imperialism baked into The Jungle Book. And the argument about when the book was written and by whom doesn’t excuse either Disney or Warner Bros. from making adaptations of it in the 21st century. Unless these movies are loaded with historical context, or are subversive critiques of Kipling, they’re still adapting, for entertainment, a story that has fundamental issues. …

I’m not saying that Kipling should be censored, but I am saying that he cannot be presented without context. There are messages in The Jungle Book that are very hard to remove. Hell, Disney managed to add to the problems in the 1960s when it added a character called King Louie, who is widely seen as a racist caricature of black people. (Kipling’s book has monkeys, which are the worst of the animal lot, being incapable of having government and only able to mimic others without a decent culture of their own.)

And, at the end of the day, we’re still left with a story where a white person exoticizes a country and its people. How does this idea pass muster in 2016?

Whole thing.

Spectacular, isn’t it?

I find, to my amazement, that I now live in a world in which a graduate of an elite university is (apparently) unable to read “The Jungle Book,” a tremendously lovable children’s classic, with appreciation or enjoyment because she finds the author’s world-view and politics ideologically offensive.

Ms. Trendacosta does not actually find it necessary to review the Disney cartoon. She considers it sufficient to indict the author of the book on which, I expect, the animated feature is very loosely based, and to heap abuse on him and the original book.

I am frankly more than a little skeptical as to whether this reviewer has ever actually read “The Jungle Book.” She is probably, in reality, just applying political taxonomy based on a glance at the Wikipedia plot summary and an on-line political critique by Edward Said she found somewhere. Had she really read the book, I have to believe that she would speak differently.

Apart from this reviewer’s manifest unfamiliarity with, what the late Susan Sontag would have referred to as, the erotics of the reading experience of “TJB,” I was myself struck by this writer’s total reliance upon petitio principii, “the assumption of the initial point.” It never remotely occurs to Ms. Trendacosta that she is under any obligation to offer arguments against Imperialism or the late Rudyard Kipling’s belief in the superiority of British culture and institutions to those indigenous to India. Her own perspective is totally absolute and goes without saying, and if you were to violate it by thought crime, one gets the impression that you’d be lucky to get off being merely humiliated and ostracised. You should really be immediately taken out and shot.

io9 is a techie geek sort of blog, the kind of blog that reviews games, software developments, and nerd culture sorts of things, Marvel comics, Star Wars, Game of Thrones. It is depressing and alarming to find the likes of io9 infested by Social Justice Warrior-types, too illiterate to have ever read “The Jungle Book,” but ideologically intolerant and arrogant enough to denounce it anyway.

12 Oct 2014

I’ve Thought the Same Myself

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27 Feb 2013

Kipling Poems Found


The BBC reports that more than 50 unpublished poems by Rudyard Kipling have been unearthed by an American scholar who intends to release them shortly.

Thomas Pinney found the manuscripts in a number of places including a Manhattan House that was being renovated and among the papers of a former head of the Cunard Line.

Pinney described it as a “tremendously exciting time for scholars and fans”.

The poems will be published alongside 1,300 others in the first ever complete edition of Kipling’s verse on 7 March.


Let’s hope he found more like this:

The Young British Soldier

When the ‘arf-made recruity goes out to the East
‘E acts like a babe an’ ‘e drinks like a beast,
An’ ‘e wonders because ‘e is frequent deceased
Ere ‘e’s fit for to serve as a soldier.
Serve, serve, serve as a soldier,
Serve, serve, serve as a soldier,
Serve, serve, serve as a soldier,
So-oldier OF the Queen!

Now all you recruities what’s drafted to-day,
You shut up your rag-box an’ ‘ark to my lay,
An’ I’ll sing you a soldier as far as I may:
A soldier what’s fit for a soldier.
Fit, fit, fit for a soldier . . .

First mind you steer clear o’ the grog-sellers’ huts,
For they sell you Fixed Bay’nets that rots out your guts —
Ay, drink that ‘ud eat the live steel from your butts —
An’ it’s bad for the young British soldier.
Bad, bad, bad for the soldier . . .

When the cholera comes — as it will past a doubt —
Keep out of the wet and don’t go on the shout,
For the sickness gets in as the liquor dies out,
An’ it crumples the young British soldier.
Crum-, crum-, crumples the soldier . . .

But the worst o’ your foes is the sun over’ead:
You must wear your ‘elmet for all that is said:
If ‘e finds you uncovered ‘e’ll knock you down dead,
An’ you’ll die like a fool of a soldier.
Fool, fool, fool of a soldier . . .

If you’re cast for fatigue by a sergeant unkind,
Don’t grouse like a woman nor crack on nor blind;
Be handy and civil, and then you will find
That it’s beer for the young British soldier.
Beer, beer, beer for the soldier . . .

Now, if you must marry, take care she is old —
A troop-sergeant’s widow’s the nicest I’m told,
For beauty won’t help if your rations is cold,
Nor love ain’t enough for a soldier.
‘Nough, ‘nough, ‘nough for a soldier . . .

If the wife should go wrong with a comrade, be loath
To shoot when you catch ’em — you’ll swing, on my oath! —
Make ‘im take ‘er and keep ‘er: that’s Hell for them both,
An’ you’re shut o’ the curse of a soldier.
Curse, curse, curse of a soldier . . .

When first under fire an’ you’re wishful to duck,
Don’t look nor take ‘eed at the man that is struck,
Be thankful you’re livin’, and trust to your luck
And march to your front like a soldier.
Front, front, front like a soldier . . .

When ‘arf of your bullets fly wide in the ditch,
Don’t call your Martini a cross-eyed old bitch;
She’s human as you are — you treat her as sich,
An’ she’ll fight for the young British soldier.
Fight, fight, fight for the soldier . . .

When shakin’ their bustles like ladies so fine,
The guns o’ the enemy wheel into line,
Shoot low at the limbers an’ don’t mind the shine,
For noise never startles the soldier.
Start-, start-, startles the soldier . . .

If your officer’s dead and the sergeants look white,
Remember it’s ruin to run from a fight:
So take open order, lie down, and sit tight,
And wait for supports like a soldier.
Wait, wait, wait like a soldier . . .

When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier.
Go, go, go like a soldier,
Go, go, go like a soldier,
Go, go, go like a soldier,
So-oldier of the Queen!

09 Feb 2008


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Toledo, Ohio has joined Berkeley, California in ordering the Marine Corps out of town.

Toledo Blade:

A company of Marine Corps Reservists received a cold send-off from downtown Toledo yesterday by order of Mayor Carty Finkbeiner.

The 200 members of Company A, 1st Battalion, 24th Marines, based in Grand Rapids, Mich., planned to spend their weekend engaged in urban patrol exercises on the streets of downtown as well as inside the mostly vacant Madison Building, 607 Madison Ave.

Toledo police knew days in advance about their plans for a three-day exercise. Yet somehow the memo never made it to Mayor Finkbeiner, who ordered the Marines out yesterday afternoon just minutes before their buses were to arrive.

“The mayor asked them to leave because they frighten people,” said Brian Schwartz, the mayor’s spokesman.

“He did not want them practicing and drilling in a highly visible area.”


9/11 is over six years in the past, far longer than the American public’s attention span typically lasts. People in Berkeley and Toledo again feel terribly safe.

This sort of civilian hostility and disdain toward the fighting men whose service allows the same civilians at home to sleep safe in their beds in an old story. Rudyard Kipling responded in 1892 to the same kind of attitudes and behavior in Victorian Britain with the poem Tommy. The title refers to “Tommy Atkins,” a generic nickname of the period for a British soldier.


I went into a public-‘ouse to get a pint o’beer,
The publican ‘e up an’ sez, “We serve no red-coats here.”
The girls be’ind the bar they laughed an’ giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an’ to myself sez I:

O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, go away”;
But it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins,” when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it’s “Thank you, Mr. Atkins,” when the band begins to play.

I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but ‘adn’t none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-‘alls,
But when it comes to fightin’, Lord! they’ll shove me in the stalls!

For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, wait outside”;
But it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide,
The troopship’s on the tide, my boys, the troopship’s on the tide,
O it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide.

Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap;
An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit.

Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy how’s yer soul?”
But it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll.

We aren’t no thin red ‘eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An’ if sometimes our conduck isn’t all your fancy paints:
Why, single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints;

While it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, fall be’ind,”
But it’s “Please to walk in front, sir,” when there’s trouble in the wind,
There’s trouble in the wind, my boys, there’s trouble in the wind,
O it’s “Please to walk in front, sir,” when there’s trouble in the wind.

You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires an’ all:
We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace.

For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”
But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country,” when the guns begin to shoot;
An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
But Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool – you bet that Tommy sees!

14 Sep 2006

Quoting Kipling in Foreign Policy


Niall Ferguson, in Foreign Policy, playing with the ever-popular Intelligentsia meme of the United States as Empire, does put his finger on the very key factor in modern wars of advanced and civilized Western nations against more primitive Third World opponents: the comparative value of lives risked in combat. Ferguson quotes aptly from Rudyard Kipling’s Departmental Ditty Arithmetic on the Frontier. (I’m posting the whole poem. His selection appears in bold.):

A GREAT and glorious thing it is
To learn, for seven years or so,
The Lord knows what of that and this,
Ere reckoned fit to face the foe—

The flying bullet down the Pass,
That whistles clear: “All flesh is grass.”
Three hundred pounds per annum spent
On making brain and body meeter
For all the murderous intent
Comprised in “villanous saltpetre!”
And after—ask the Yusufzaies
What comes of all our ’ologies.

A scrimmage in a Border Station—
A canter down some dark defile—
Two thousand pounds of education
Drops to a ten-rupee jezail—
The Crammer’s boast, the Squadron’s pride,
Shot like a rabbit in a ride!

No proposition Euclid wrote,
No formulae the text-books know,
Will turn the bullet from your coat,
Or ward the tulwar’s downward blow
Strike hard who cares—shoot straight who can—
The odds are on the cheaper man.

One sword-knot stolen from the camp
Will pay for all the school expenses
Of any Kurrum Valley scamp
Who knows no word of moods and tenses,
But, being blessed with perfect sight,
Picks off our messmates left and right.

With home-bred hordes the hillsides teem,
The troop-ships bring us one by one,
At vast expense of time and steam,
To slay Afridis where they run.
The “captives of our bow and spear”
Are cheap—alas! as we are dear.

It is a serious point. Today, Western military forces can inflict fifty times their own losses, and the much smaller Western casualty rate may still be seen by the public at home as so costly as to necessitate withdrawal.


Hat tip to Karen Myers and Charles Bork.

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