Rudyard Kipling: Poems

Death and legacy

Kipling kept writing until the early 1930s, but at a slower pace and with much less success than before. On the night of 12 January 1936, Kipling suffered a haemorrhage in his small intestine. He underwent surgery, but died less than a week later on 18 January 1936 at the age of 70 of a perforated duodenal ulcer.[89][90] Kipling's death had in fact previously been incorrectly announced in a magazine, to which he wrote, "I've just read that I am dead. Don't forget to delete me from your list of subscribers."[91]

The pallbearers at the funeral included Kipling's cousin, the UK Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, and the marble casket was covered by a Union flag.[92] Kipling was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium, northwest London, and his ashes were buried in Poets' Corner, part of the South Transept of Westminster Abbey, next to the graves of Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy.[92]

In 2010 the International Astronomical Union approved that a crater on the planet Mercury would be named after Kipling—one of ten newly discovered impact craters observed by the MESSENGER spacecraft in 2008–9.[93] In 2012, an extinct species of crocodile, Goniopholis kiplingi, was named in his honour, "in recognition for his enthusiasm for natural sciences".[94] More than 50 unpublished poems by Kipling were released for the first time in March 2013.[95]

Posthumous reputation

Various writers, such as Edmund Candler, were strongly influenced by Kipling's writing. Kipling's stories for adults remain in print and have garnered high praise from writers as different as Poul Anderson, Jorge Luis Borges, and Randall Jarrell who wrote that, "After you have read Kipling's fifty or seventy-five best stories you realize that few men have written this many stories of this much merit, and that very few have written more and better stories."[96]

His children's stories remain popular; and his Jungle Books have been made into several movies. The first was made by producer Alexander Korda, and other films have been produced by the Walt Disney Company. A number of his poems were set to music by Percy Grainger. A series of short films based on some of his stories was broadcast by the BBC in 1964.[97] Kipling's work is still popular today.

The poet T. S. Eliot edited A Choice of Kipling's Verse (1941) with an introductory essay.[98] Eliot was aware of the complaints that had been levelled against Kipling and he dismissed them one by one: that Kipling is 'a Tory' using his verse to transmit right wing political views, or 'a journalist' pandering to popular taste; while Eliot writes "I cannot find any justification for the charge that he held a doctrine of race superiority."[99] Eliot finds instead,

An immense gift for using words, an amazing curiosity and power of observation with his mind and with all his senses, the mask of the entertainer, and beyond that a queer gift of second sight, of transmitting messages from elsewhere, a gift so disconcerting when we are made aware of it that thenceforth we are never sure when it is not present: all this makes Kipling a writer impossible wholly to understand and quite impossible to belittle.

—T.S. Eliot[100]

Of Kipling's verse, such as his Barrack-Room Ballads, Eliot writes "of a number of poets who have written great poetry, only... a very few whom I should call great verse writers. And unless I am mistaken, Kipling's position in this class is not only high, but unique."[101]

In response to Eliot, George Orwell wrote a long consideration of Kipling's work for Horizon in 1942, noting that although as a "jingo imperialist" Kipling was "morally insensitive and aesthetically disgusting", his work had many qualities which ensured that while "every enlightened person has despised him ... nine-tenths of those enlightened persons are forgotten and Kipling is in some sense still there". Orwell summarized that

One reason for Kipling's power [was] his sense of responsibility, which made it possible for him to have a world-view, even though it happened to be a false one. Although he had no direct connexion with any political party, Kipling was a Conservative, a thing that does not exist nowadays. Those who now call themselves Conservatives are either Liberals, Fascists or the accomplices of Fascists. He identified himself with the ruling power and not with the opposition. In a gifted writer this seems to us strange and even disgusting, but it did have the advantage of giving Kipling a certain grip on reality. The ruling power is always faced with the question, 'In such and such circumstances, what would you do?', whereas the opposition is not obliged to take responsibility or make any real decisions. Where it is a permanent and pensioned opposition, as in England, the quality of its thought deteriorates accordingly. Moreover, anyone who starts out with a pessimistic, reactionary view of life tends to be justified by events, for Utopia never arrives and 'the gods of the copybook headings', as Kipling himself put it, always return. Kipling sold out to the British governing class, not financially but emotionally. This warped his political judgement, for the British ruling class were not what he imagined, and it led him into abysses of folly and snobbery, but he gained a corresponding advantage from having at least tried to imagine what action and responsibility are like. It is a great thing in his favour that he is not witty, not 'daring', has no wish to épater les bourgeois. He dealt largely in platitudes, and since we live in a world of platitudes, much of what he said sticks. Even his worst follies seem less shallow and less irritating than the 'enlightened' utterances of the same period, such as Wilde's epigrams or the collection of cracker-mottoes at the end of Man and Superman.

—George Orwell[102]

The poet Alison Brackenbury writes that "Kipling is poetry’s Dickens, an outsider and journalist with an unrivalled ear for sound and speech."[103]

The English folksinger Peter Bellamy was a great lover of Kipling's poetry, much of which he believed to have been influenced by English traditional folk forms. He recorded several albums of Kipling's verse set to traditional airs, or to tunes of his own composition written in traditional style.[104]

Kipling is often quoted in discussions of contemporary political and social issues. Political singer-songwriter Billy Bragg, who attempts to reclaim English nationalism from the right-wing, has reclaimed Kipling for an inclusive sense of Englishness.[105] Kipling's enduring relevance has been noted in the United States, as it has become involved in Afghanistan and other areas about which he wrote.[106][107][108]

Links with camping and Scouting

In 1903, Kipling gave permission to Elizabeth Ford Holt to borrow themes from the Jungle Books to establish Camp Mowglis, a summer camp for boys on the shores of Newfound Lake in New Hampshire. Throughout their lives, Kipling and his wife Carrie maintained an active interest in Camp Mowglis, which is still in operation and continues the traditions that Kipling inspired. Buildings at Mowglis have names such as Akela, Toomai, Baloo, and Panther. The campers are referred to as "the Pack," from the youngest "Cubs" to the oldest campers living in "Den."[109]

Kipling's links with the Scouting movements were also strong. Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting, used many themes from The Jungle Book stories and Kim in setting up his junior movement, the Wolf Cubs. These connections still exist today, such as the continued popularity of "Kim's Game" in the Scouting movement. The movement is named after Mowgli's adopted wolf family, and the adult helpers of Wolf Cub Packs adopt names taken from The Jungle Book, especially the adult leader who is called Akela after the leader of the Seeonee wolf pack.[110]

Kipling's home at Burwash

After the death of Kipling's wife in 1939, his house, "Bateman's" in Burwash, East Sussex, South East England, where he had lived from 1902 until 1936, was bequeathed to the National Trust and is now a public museum dedicated to the author. Elsie Bambridge, his only child who lived to maturity, died childless in 1976, and also bequeathed her copyrights to the National Trust, which in turn donated them to the University of Sussex in Brighton (near Kipling's former home of Burwash) to ensure better public access.[111]

Novelist and poet Sir Kingsley Amis wrote a poem, 'Kipling at Bateman's', after visiting Kipling's Burwash home (Amis' father had lived in Burwash briefly in the 1960s) as part of a BBC television series on writers and their houses.[112]

In 2003, actor Ralph Fiennes read excerpts from Kipling's works from the study in Bateman's, including, The Jungle Book, Something Of Myself, Kim, and The Just So Stories, and poems, including "If... " and "My Boy Jack", for a CD published by the National Trust.[113][114]

Reputation in India

In modern-day India, whence he drew much of his material, Kipling's reputation remains controversial, especially amongst modern nationalists and some post-colonial critics. Other contemporary Indian intellectuals such as Ashis Nandy have taken a more nuanced view of his work. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India, always described Kipling's novel Kim as his favourite book.[115][116]

G V Desani, an Indian writer of fiction, had a condescending opinion of Kipling. He alludes to Kipling in his novel, All About H. Hatterr:

I happen to pick up R. Kipling's autobiographical "Kim".

Therein, this self-appointed whiteman's burden-bearing sherpa feller's stated how, in the Orient, blokes hit the road and think nothing of walking a thousand miles in search of something.

Indian historian and writer Khushwant Singh wrote in 2001 that he considers Kipling's "If—" "the essence of the message of The Gita in English",[117] referring to the Bhagavad Gita, an ancient Indian scripture.

Indian writer R. K. Narayan said, "Kipling, the supposed expert writer on India, showed a better understanding of the mind of the animals in the jungle than of the men in an Indian home or the marketplace."[118]

In November 2007 it was announced that Kipling's birth home in the campus of the J J School of Art in Bombay would be turned into a museum celebrating the author and his works.[119]

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