Rudyard Kipling: Poems

After the war (1918–1936)

Partly in response to John's death, Kipling joined Sir Fabian Ware's Imperial War Graves Commission (now the Commonwealth War Graves Commission), the group responsible for the garden-like British war graves that can be found to this day dotted along the former Western Front and all the other locations around the world where troops of the British Empire lie buried.

His most significant contributions to the project were his selection of the biblical phrase, "Their Name Liveth For Evermore" (Ecclesiasticus 44.14, KJV), found on the Stones of Remembrance in larger war cemeteries, and his suggestion of the phrase "Known unto God" for the gravestones of unidentified servicemen. He also chose the inscription "The Glorious Dead" on the Cenotaph, Whitehall, London. Additionally, he wrote a two-volume history of the Irish Guards, his son's regiment: it was published in 1923 and is considered to be one of the finest examples of regimental history.[88]

Kipling's moving short story, "The Gardener", depicts visits to the war cemeteries, and the poem "The King's Pilgrimage" (1922) depicts a journey which King George V made, touring the cemeteries and memorials under construction by the Imperial War Graves Commission. With the increasing popularity of the automobile, Kipling became a motoring correspondent for the British press, and wrote enthusiastically of his trips around England and abroad, even though he was usually driven by a chauffeur.

After the war, Kipling was sceptical about the Fourteen Points and the League of Nations, but he had great hopes that the United States would abandon isolationism and that the post-war world would be dominated by an Anglo-French-American alliance.[89] Kipling hoped that the United States would take on a League of Nations mandate for Armenia as the best way of preventing isolationism, and hoped that Theodore Roosevelt, whom Kipling admired, would once again become president.[89] Kipling was saddened by Roosevelt's death in 1919, believing that his friend was the only American politician capable of keeping the United States in the "game" of world politics.[90]

Kipling was very hostile towards Communism, writing about the Bolshevik take-over in 1917 that one sixth of the world had "passed bodily out of civilization".[91] In a 1918 poem, Kipling wrote about Soviet Russia that everything good in Russia had now been destroyed by the Bolsheviks and all that was left was "the sound of weeping and the sight of burning fire, and the shadow of a people trampled into the mire".[91]

In 1920, Kipling co-founded the Liberty League[92] with Haggard and Lord Sydenham. This short-lived enterprise focused on promoting classic liberal ideals as a response to the rising power of Communist tendencies within Great Britain, or, as Kipling put it, "to combat the advance of Bolshevism".[93][94]

In 1922, Kipling, who had made reference to the work of engineers in some of his poems, such as "The Sons of Martha", "Sappers", and "McAndrew's Hymn",[95] and in other writings, including short story anthologies such as The Day's Work,[96] was asked by University of Toronto civil engineering professor Herbert E. T. Haultain for his assistance in developing a dignified obligation and ceremony for graduating engineering students. Kipling was enthusiastic in his response and shortly produced both, formally entitled "The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer". Today, engineering graduates all across Canada are presented with an iron ring at the ceremony as a reminder of their obligation to society.[97][98] In 1922 Kipling also became Lord Rector of St Andrews University in Scotland, a three-year position.

Kipling, who was a francophile, argued strongly for an Anglo-French alliance to uphold the peace, calling Britain and France in 1920 the "twin fortresses of European civilization".[99] Along the same lines, Kipling repeatedly warned against revising the Treaty of Versailles in Germany's favour, which he predicted would lead to a new world war.[99] An admirer of Raymond Poincaré, Kipling was one of the few British intellectuals who supported the French Occupation of the Ruhr in 1923 at a time when the British government and most public opinion was against the French position.[100] In contrast to the popular British view of Poincaré as a cruel bully intent on impoverishing Germany by seeking unreasonable reparations, Kipling argued that Poincaré was only rightfully trying to preserve France as a great power in the face of an unfavourable situation.[100] Kipling argued that even before 1914, Germany's larger economy and higher birth rate had made that country stronger than France; with much of France devastated by the war, and the French suffering heavy losses that the low French birth rate would have trouble replacing while Germany was mostly undamaged and still with a higher birth rate, he reasoned that the future would advantage German domination if Versailles were revised in Germany's favour. He wrote that it was madness for Britain to seek to pressure France to revise Versailles in Germany's favour.[100]

In 1924, Kipling was opposed to the Labour government of Ramsay MacDonald as "Bolshevism without bullets", but believing that Labour was a Communist front organisation, he took the view that "excited orders and instructions from Moscow" would expose Labour as such an organisation to the British people.[101] Kipling's views were on the right and though he admired Benito Mussolini to a certain extent for a time in the 1920s, Kipling was against fascism, writing that Oswald Mosley was "a bounder and an arriviste". By 1935, he called Mussolini a deranged and dangerous egomaniac and in 1933 wrote, "The Hitlerites are out for blood".[102]

Despite his anti-communism, the first major translations of Kipling into Russian took place during Lenin's rule in the early 1920s, and during the interwar period, Kipling was very popular with Russian readers. Many of the younger Russian poets and writers such as Konstantin Simonov were influenced by Kipling.[103] Kipling's clarity of style, his use of colloquial language and the way in which he used rhythm and rhyme were considered to be major innovations in poetry that appealed to many of the younger Russian poets.[104] Though it was obligatory for Soviet journals to begin translations of Kipling with an introduction attacking him as a "fascist" and an "imperialist", such was Kipling's popularity with Russian readers that his works were not banned in the Soviet Union until 1939 with the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.[103] Kipling's work was unbanned in the Soviet Union in 1941 after Operation Barbarossa, when Britain become a Soviet ally, but his work was banned again, this time for good, with the Cold War in 1946.[105]

Many older editions of Rudyard Kipling's books have a swastika printed on their covers associated with a picture of an elephant carrying a lotus flower, reflecting the influence of Indian culture. Kipling's use of the swastika was based on the Indian sun symbol conferring good luck and the Sanskrit word meaning "fortunate" or "well-being".[106] He used the swastika symbol in both right- and left-facing orientations, and it was in general use by others at the time.[107][108]

In a note to Edward Bok written after the death of Lockwood Kipling in 1911, Rudyard said: "I am sending with this for your acceptance, as some little memory of my father to whom you were so kind, the original of one of the plaques that he used to make for me. I thought it being the Swastika would be appropriate for your Swastika. May it bring you even more good fortune."[106] Once the Nazis came to power and usurped the swastika, Kipling ordered that it should no longer adorn his books.[106] Less than a year before his death, Kipling gave a speech (titled "An Undefended Island") to The Royal Society of St George on 6 May 1935, warning of the danger which Nazi Germany posed to the British Empire.[109]

Kipling scripted the first Royal Christmas Message, delivered via the BBC's Empire Service by George V in 1932.[110][111] In 1934, he published a short story in Strand Magazine, "Proofs of Holy Writ", which postulated that William Shakespeare had helped to polish the prose of the King James Bible.[112]


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