The Treason Of Kipling


June 22, 1897

Rudyard Kipling

GOD of our fathers, known of old,
Lord of our far-flung battle-line,
Beneath whose awful Hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine
Lord God of Hosts be with us yet,
Lest we forget – lest we forget!

The tumult and the shouting dies;
The Captains and the Kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget – lest we forget!

Far-called, our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget – lest we forget!

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the Law
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget – lest we forget!

For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard,
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding, calls not Thee to guard,
For frantic boast and foolish word
Thy mercy on Thy People, Lord!

In 1897 Britain was the largest, wealthiest, healthiest, most just empire the world had seen. People, armies, and navies from across the world gathered to celebrate the glorious Queen Victoria on her throne. Her name was accurate. Gloriana was eclipsed by Victoria. There was no sign of rot in the empire.

One of her greatest – and most loyal – poets was disturbed by the hubris. Perhaps Kipling’s colonial background informed him. Maybe it was history. Perhaps the vapidly inane people of the upper classes warned him.

Kipling did not sell this poem to the great magazines of his day. He paid to publish it in the Times. Almost an ad. Many thought it was disloyal. Lèse-majesté

A generation later the empire of three centuries was a broken husk. Victoria was long dead. The fruit of the empire lay dead on the poisoned battlefields of a pointless war.

This poem is now seen a a great statement of a great poet….


A wise man would have posted this poem in America fifteen years ago.

Our rot is visible now. Fifteen years of pouring our wealth into the sand of Iraq and the hills of Afghanistan in the form of money extracted from our sweat and blood extracted from our best. We have not succeeded on creating Iowa in either land. It was hubris to expect we could.

We see what has happened to peaceful rule by consent of the govern in the streets of Missouri.

Civil comity and accord, indeed.

Yet the future is not written. We have recovered from worse. What Man has built Man may surpass.

Judge of Nations, spare us yet.


For those who want the cheat sheet:

One comment on “The Treason Of Kipling

  1. Dan says:

    Loved your thoughts, and I agree with them all, most especially, “Yet the future is not written. We have recovered from worse. What Man has built Man may surpass.” Call me the eternal optimist, but I refuse to give into the defeatism and negativity that is such a popular response to the challenge we continually face in this world.

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