Kipling d. 18.1.36

Today marks the 80th anniversary of Rudyard Kipling’s death. I know his work more by reputation than by reading but nevertheless was still touched by an article on the BBC website (here) regarding the finding of his son’s grave.

John Kipling went missing in action at the Battle of Loos. His body was never found. In a sense, it still hasn’t, but a researcher believe that a body buried in an unnamed location matches the account of John’s last movements and so is likely to be his.

Reading the article inspired me to look up some of Kipling’s poems on the web. I found the following at the Poetry Foundation.

For All We Have And Are is full of patriotic fervour.

For all we have and are,
For all our children’s fate,
Stand up and take the war.
The Hun is at the gate!
There is but one task for all—
One life for each to give.
What stands if Freedom fall?
Who dies if England live?
When I read these lines I can just see the light of the Edwardian age beyond them – men twirling their sticks, women in their frocks, riding in their carriages or chatting in their garden; the empire at its ease, Britain enjoying her worldly supremacy. But unbeknownst to anyone, the sun is setting, not rising.
Fast forward to 1918 and we have Kipling writing A Death-Bed. His patriotic fervour lies dead in Loos with his son. Only bitterness and anguish remain. And it has a very particular focus:
“This is the State above the Law.
    The State exists for the State alone.”
“There is neither Evil nor Good in life.
    Except as the needs of the State ordain.”
This is a really profound poem, for the words have many applications. As for Kipling, I would not wish his grief on anyone. For a father to mourn his child is a mockery of the natural order of things, and therefore of all that is good and right.
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