The Sons of Martha
The Sons of Mary seldom bother, for they have inherited that good part;
But the Sons of Martha favour their Mother of the careful soul and the troubled heart.
And because she lost her temper once, and because she was rude to the Lord her Guest,
Her Sons must wait upon Mary’s Sons, world without end, reprieve, or rest.
It is their care in all the ages to take the buffet and cushion the shock.
It is their care that the gear engages; it is their care that the switches lock.
It is their care that the wheels run truly; it is their care to embark and entrain,
Tally, transport, and deliver duly the Sons of Mary by land and main.
They say to mountains, “Be ye removed.” They say to the lesser floods, “Be dry.”
Under their rods are the rocks reproved — they are not afraid of that which is high.
Then do the hill-tops shake to the summit — then is the bed of the deep laid bare,
That the Sons of Mary may overcome it, pleasantly sleeping and unaware.
They finger death at their gloves’ end where they piece and repiece the living wires.
He rears against the gates they tend: they feed him hungry behind their fires.
Early at dawn, ere men see clear, they stumble into his terrible stall,
And hale him forth like a haltered steer, and goad and turn him till evenfall.
To these from birth is Belief forbidden; from these till death is Relief afar.
They are concerned with matters hidden — under the earthline their altars are —
The secret fountains to follow up, waters withdrawn to restore to the mouth,
And gather the floods as in a cup, and pour them again at a city’s drouth.
They do not preach that their God will rouse them a little before the nuts work loose.
They do not teach that His Pity allows them to drop their job when they dam’-well choose.
As in the thronged and the lighted ways, so in the dark and the desert they stand,
Wary and watchful all their days that their brethren’s days may be long in the land.
Raise ye the stone or cleave the wood to make a path more fair or flat —
Lo, it is black already with blood some Son of Martha spilled for that!
Not as a ladder from earth to Heaven, not as a witness to any creed,
But simple service simply given to his own kind in their common need.
And the Sons of Mary smile and are blessed — they know the Angels are on their side.
They know in them is the Grace confessed, and for them are the Mercies multiplied.
They sit at the Feet — they hear the World — they see how truly the Promise runs.
They have cast their burden upon the Lord, and — the Lord He lays it on Martha’s Sons!
– Rudyard Kipling
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Kipling inverts the story of Mary and Martha; there is a nobility and honor in the labor to which Christ’s curse condemned the sons of Martha; there is a vapidity in the thoughtless acceptance of the sons of Mary.
I admire Kipling’s consideration of service and creation. At times he has been the poet of engineers. Engineers and Soldiers. Those who get their hands dirty. In Canada the engineers commissioned Kipling to write a poem used in an initiation ceremony. I don’t have the actual poem but it is recited and the initiated are given rings of cold-worked iron. Somewhat classy.
Kipling was considered, in my youth, one of the great poets of the English language. During my adolescence in one of the periodic purges of the left the PL police decided he was ‘the poet of Empire’ and consigned Kipling to the outer darkness. This to the man who wrote, ‘there is neither East nor West, border, breed nor birth, when two strong men stand face to face though they come from the ends of the Earth.’ This often happens on the Left. Sinatra, Kipling, Teller, Hughes, Reagan, Hayakawa, Heinlein, Mamet, and Card were all democrats who found themselves excommunicated. Orson Scott Card is the most recent. He thought he was a proud Democrat as late as Spring 2013.
I don’t believe in ignoring truth and beauty because of what I read into the authors’ opinions.