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THE BOOK OF THE MONTH.
MR. RUDYARD KIPLING'S “SEVEN SEAS AND OTHER POEMS.” *
EACH for the joy of the working, and each in his separate star
TN the last lines of the last verses in L'Envoi of his 1 latest verse, our latest poet defines the aspiration of
his muse. Mr. Rudyard Kipling is the inspired Bard of the God of Things as They Are. It is a somewhat curious deity. The Positivists worship Humanity apparently for ro more intelligible reason than that the huge entity is perpetually doing everything the Positivists most dislike. But no Positivist would bow down and worship the God of Things as They Are. Like all other children of men but Mr. Rudyard Kipling, the Positivists worship the God of Things as They Are Becoming-or going to be. Mr. Kipling is content with Things as They Are, and the God who made them. Children and fools, says the old adage, should never see things in the making. Mr. Kipling is neither a child nor a fool, but he rests content with “the Thing as he sees It-? with a capital I, if you please. Like Walt Whitman's cattle, which do not lie awake in the dark to weep for their sins and make him sick by discussing their duty to God, Rudyard Kipling is troubled by no visions of any far-off Divine event to which the whole Creation moves. Sufficient for him is the day and the travail thereof, the joy of it and also the sorrow. Between Bernard of Clugny and the Vates Sacer of Things as They Are yawns the abyss of the Infinito. Yot as the God of the Things that Are, and the God of the Things that are to Come, is one God, there is room in His T mple Choir for both the saintly chant of the mediæval cloister and the roystering ditty of the modern barrack-room.
Rudyard Kipling is not merely the poet of the Things That Are. He is in a special manner Poet Laureate of the Empire. How long it will be before “the Widow of Windsor" recognises the Laureateship of the Empire no one can say. But King Demos has already accorded to Mr. Kipling the wreath intertwined of all the laurels of all the countries and of all the seas over which the British flag floats supreme, and hailed him as Laureate of the Empire and its Seven Seas. It is possible that his very limitations may have gained him more speedy recognition. Had he been more of an idealist he would have soared too high above the heads of the multitude. As it is, there is in him just that note of materialistic realism charged with humour and touched with pathos that appeals directliest to the everyday sentiments of the average man. His verse does not exactly roll with the full note of the great drum, but it
-RUDYARD KIPLING. is about him some vhat of the re lundancy of growth significant of the excessive vitality characterising a tropical forest. His writings are like his own Fuzzy Wuzzy's "’ayrick 'ead of 'air," so copious are they, so free and unconfined, so altogether uncommon and unlike the smooth brushel thatch of ordinary mortals. But ro blatant ostentation of vulgarity can conceal the fact that in this “big, black boundin' beggar” who broke the British square of conventional propriety we have a genuine poet-one who sees, and who makes others see his seeings. Unlike other singers of our day, Rudyard Kipling has seen the world of which he sings. Born in India, reared in the borderland of Afghanistan, he lives in the United States and publishes his verse in London. He is a product of an age where steam and the electric cable have bridged the seas and made the continents but as wards in this planetary parish. We do not say in Lowell's phrase :
This, this is he, for whom the worll is waiting,
To sing the beatings of its mighty heart, but no one save him has yet arisen who can sing of the Empire as a whole with the knowledge of the seer who has traversed its ocean highways and actually dwelt among its peoples. He is not
A poet who was sent
Songs that prove the angels near," for he is the Poet of Things as They Are. Nevertheless, in the very insolent sauciness of his fleering verse he strikes out sparks that light up the gloom, and make whole strata of human experience comprehensible. But a truce to saying what Mr. Kipling is and what he is not; and now to our book.
1.-AS LAUREATE OF THE EMPIRE. “The Seven Seas” opens with a song of the English, "a song of broken interludes," in the introductory stanzas of which we have from Rudyard Kipling-I really must drop the Mr., it sounds as absurd as Mr. Walt Whitman or Mr. Percy Shelley-a definition of the great law which the Lord our God Most High laid upon the people of His choice. It is no inapt summary of the work of the
barbaric tom-tom. Only now and then does he make us breathe a diviner air ; but on these stray excursions bis note is true, clear and limpid as the silvery note of the flute piercing through the brazen clangour of the band.
Mr. Kipling's genius---for his is a genius distinct and unique, which sets him apart from all the poets of our time-is various indeed. No writer of the present day can compare with him for range and versatility. The e
Keep ye the law-be swift in all obedience,
Make ye sure to each bis own
That he reap where he hath sown,
the Lord ! Having thus laid down the Law, Rudyard Kipling sings of the Coastwise Lights, the Song of the Dead, the Deep Sea Cables, the Song of the Sons, and the Song of the Cities. After which we have “England's Answer," in which the poet expresses the unwritten pact that
« The Seven Seas," by Rudyard Kipling. Methuen and Co, 1896. Pp. 230. Barrack Room Hellads and other Verses," by Rudyard Kipling. Metbuen and Co., 1895. Pp. 208.
exists between the old grey mother and the “Sons of the On the sand drift-on the veldt-side-in the fern scrub we Blood ”_
lay, “ Wards of the Outer March, Lords of the Lower Seas."
That our sons might follow after by the bones on the way. “Flesh of the flesh that I bred, bone of the bone that I bare ;
The same theme is touched on, although in a very Stark as your sons shall be-stern as your fathers were, different key, in the poem called “ The Lost Legion":Deeper than speech our love, stronger than life our tether,
But we've shaken the Clubs and the Messes, But we do not fall on the neck nor kiss when we come To go and find out and be damned. together.”
(Dear Boys!) Nevertheless while dispensing with kissing, England To go and get shot and be damned. makes promise
To this wholly unSo long as The Blood
authorised horde, the endures,
Gentlemen Rovers I shall know that your
abroad who preach in good is mine: ye shall
advance of the Army feel that ixy strength
and skirmish ahead of is yours;
the Church, Rudyard In the day of Armageddon, at the last great
Kipling acts as choir fight of all,
boy :That our House shall
There's a Legion that stand together and
never was 'listed, the pillars do not fall.
That carries 10 Each of the English
colours or crest, realms beyond the sea
But, split in a thousand shall be self-govern
Is breaking the road ing:
for the rest. The Law that ye make shall be law, and I do
Of these pioneers of not press my will.
Empire he says :Because ye are Sons of
The ends of the earth The Blood and call
were our portion, me Mother still.
The ocean at large They must talk to
was our share. gether, brother to
There was never a skirbrother's face, for the
mish to windward
But the Leaderless good of their peoples
Legion was there. and the Pride of the Race, speaking
The note in the After the use of the
“ Lost Legion " recalls English, in straight
the Barrack Room flung words and few.
Ballads of the“GentleThe concluding
men Rankers," one of stanza, with the ex
those songs in which ception of the last line,
Rudyard Kipl ng which is thoroughly
touches depths of Kiplingesque, is
tragic horror rendered hardly up to the level
all the more horrible of the rest of the
by the gruesome
chorus. T'he ballad poem:
is dedicated Go to your work and be strong, halting not in
To the legion of the lost your ways, RUDYARD KIPLING AT ABOUT TWENTY YEARS OF AGE.
ones, to the cohort of Baulking the end half
the damned, (Prom a photograph by Bourne and Shepherd, Simla.) won for an instant
To my brethren in their dole of praise.
sorrow overseas. Stand to your work and be wise-certain of sword and pen, Lost they are indeed, as their poet describes them, Who are neither children nor Gods, but men in a world of with no future, drinking themselves into temporary men !
oblivion of their past:--The last line is Kipling all over. It both suggests his We have done with Hope and Honour, we are lost to Love limitation and betrays his secret. His world is a world of and Truth, men and men only. God and Woman are equally outside.
We are dropping down the ladder rung by rung, I postpone to the next section his sea-pieces, and turn
And the measure of our torment is the measure of our youth. to the powerful and pathetic “ Song of the Dead,” the
God help us, for we knew the worst too young! unknown multitude of pioneers of the Empire, emigrants
How hideous, horrible as the laughter of fiends in and others, to whom in “the man-stifled town” “ Came
hell, comes this refrain :the Whisper, came the Vision ” which drove them over
We're little black sheep who've gone astray, sea in the faith of little children :
Gentlemen-rankers out on the spree, Then the wood failed-then the food failed--then the last
Damned from here to Eternity, water dried
God ha' mercy on such as we, In the faith of little children we lay down and died.
Baa! Yah! Bah!
Over the Empire thus founded and defended there reigns “the Widow of Windsor":'Ave you 'eard o' the Widow at Windsor
With a hairy gold crown on 'er 'earl ?
An' she pays us poor beggars in red;
(Ow, poor beggars in red !) Walk wide o' the Widow at Windsor,
For 'alf o' Creation she owns ; We 'ave bought 'er the same with the sword an' the flame, An' we've salted it down with our bones.
(Poor beggars !—it's blue with our bones!) So the ballad goes on with its odd, grotesque description of the Empire and its Sovereign, for whom Kings must come down and Emperors frown" when the Widow at Windsor says 'Stop!'"
For 'er sentries we stand by the sea an' the land ,
Wherever the bugles are blown. The next four lines as a variant upon the morning drumbeat are inimitable :
Take 'old o' the Wings o'the Mornin',
To the bloomin' old rag over’ead. There is a condensed force about that quatrain, which contrasts markedly with the more ambitious poem “ The English Flag." This is almost too well-known to need quotation ; but as it is the more distinctively Imperial of all his poems I give a stanza or two. It opens thus:Winds of the World, give answer! They are whimpering to
and froAnd what should they know of England who only England
know?-The poor little street-bred people with vapour and fume and
brag, They are lifting their heads in the stillness to yelp at the
Kipling could have glorified the banjo with its “Pillywilly-winky-winky-popp" in this fashion :
Let the organ moan her sorrow to the roof
I have told the naked stars the Grief of Man !
I have known Defeat, and mocked it as we ran !
When I stand to jeer the fatted Soul of Things;
Is it hidden in the twanging of the strings ?
I can rip your very heartstrings out with those ;
And the lying, and the lusting, and the drink,
To the thoughts that burn like irons if you think.
They change their skies above them,
But not their hearts that roam,
To call old England "home"! But the mothers pass with their tales of wrong and dearth.
Our fathers held by purchase,
But we by the right of birth ;
Our love where we spent our toil,
We pledge to our native soil ! Enough to vindicate the right of Rudyard Kipling to be Laureate of the Empire.
II.-AS LAUREATE OF THE SEVEN SEAS. The sovereignty of the sea, which is Britain's most precious heritage, has never had a poet so strenuous and sympathetic as Rudyard Kipling. The English are the masters of the Seven Seas, and he devotes many poems to their overlordship. But not in swaggering Jingo vein. Nothing is more striking in all his poems of the sea than his constant association of the sea with death :
We have fed our sea for a thousand years,
And slie calls us, still unfed,
But marks our English dead.
To the shark and the sheering gull.
Lord God, we ha' paid in full ! So it goes on until in the last stanza the line, “ If blood be the price of admiralty," is repeated three times. The same thought finds expression in the fine ballal, “ The Sea Wife” :
There dwells a wife by the Northern Gate,
And a wealthy wife is she;
And casts them over sea.
To ride the horse of tree,
from out the sea... :. . ..
That makes the white ash spin ;'
Her sons go out and in.
And some in waking dream,
That ride the rough roof-beam.
We may not speak of England; her Flag's to sell or share. What is the Flag of England ? Winds of the World, · déclare!
Thus inspired, the Four Winds which sweep the Seven Seas reply, the North leading off. Then the South Wind sighs :Never was isle so little, never was sea so lone, But over the scud and the palm-trees an English flag was
flown. The East Wind roars in similar strain :Never the lotos closes, never the wild fowl wake, But a soul goes out on the East Wind that died for England's
sakeMan or woman or suckling, mother or bride or maidBecause on the bones of the English the English Flag is
stayed. The West Wind closes the series of responses to tlie poet's inquiry, "What is the Flag of England?”:The dead dumb fog hath wrapped it-the frozen dews have
kissedThe naked stars have seen it, a fellow star in the mist. What is the Flag of England? Ye liave but my breath to dare, Ye have but my waves to conquer. Go forth, for it is there!
There is a fine thrilling note in this, but I am disposed to regard the “ Song of the Banjo” as much more distinctive of Rudyard Kipling's conception of the Empire. There is something very characteristic of the poet's genius that he should make the banjo
The war-drum of the White Man round the world! The banjo, no doubt, is a han iier musical instrument than a Broadwood grand or an organ ; but no one except
“ The Merchantmen," "The Liner she's a Lady," and “ The First” and “ the Last Chanteys" are songs of the sea without the sad undertone. “M'Andrews' Hymn" is an ambitious attempt to sing the Song of Steam, and to compel such engineering terms as cranks, tailrods, eccentrics, etc., to accommodate themselves to the uses of the poet. M'Andrews is a Calvinist-a Scotch Calvinist and he sees in his engines illustrations of predestination and the Divine decrees. He hears them
Singin' like the Mornin' Stars for joy that they are made, While, out o' touch o' vanity, the sweatin' thrust block says: “Not unto us the praise, or man-not unto us the praise !” Now, a' together, hear them lift their lesson-theirs an'
mine: Law, Orrder, Duty an' Restraint, Obedience, Discipline! Mill, forge an' try-pit taught them that when roarin' they
arose, Au' whiles I wonder if a soul was gied them wi' the blows.
Mulholland's Contract” is the lay of one Mulholland, a cattle-boat man, who, in an hour of imminent peril, made a contract with God which he loyally observed. He recovered and went to preach the gospel on the boats which "are more like Hell than anything else I know." He did not want to“ preach Religion, handsome an' out of the wet," so he preached it faithfully with results:
I have been smit an' bruised, as warned would be the case, Au' turned my cheek to the smiter, exactly as Scripture
says; But following that, I knocked him down an' led him up to
Grace. An'we have preaching on Sundays whenever the sea is calm, An' I use no knife or pistol, an' I never take no harm, For the Lord abideth back of me to guide my tighting arm.
The most typical of all his sea pieces is that in which he sings how seven men took the Bolivar, a coffin screwsteamer laden with a shifting cargo of rails, from Sunderland to Bilbao. It has the genuine ring in it, the grim, soulless ring natural and proper to a ballad that sings of heroic exertions inspired by no heroic faith, but merely prompted by the instinct of the bull-dog. These
Seven men from all the world, back to town again,
Seven men from out of Hell are characteristic heroes of Kipling, and he tells with gusto how
Leaking like a lobster-pot, steering like a dray
Out we took the “ Bolivar," out across the Bay! It was an achievement worthy the muse of the Laureate of the Sea:
Just a pack orotten plates puttied up with tar,
Everything in the sea or below the sea or at the side of the sea has charms for him. His eye pierces the ocean depths to the Great grey level plains of ooze where the shell-blurred cables
creep. Down in the dark, in the utter dark, where the blind white sea snakes are, he listens and he hears. Down in the womb of the worldWords and the words of men, flicker and flutter and beat.
The Coastwise Lights are saluted by him in splendid verse :--Our brows are bound with spindrift and the weed is on our
knees; Our loins are battered 'neath us by the swinging, s.noking
And all that float upon its waters are known to him and sung by him, whetlier they be the white wallsidel warship, the crawling cargo tanks, the Southern clippers, or the “gipsies of the Horn":Swift shuttles of an Empire's loom that weave us, main to The Coastwise Lights of England give you welcome back
agam. Of the Seven Seas themselves he says but little. They are referred to in two of his poems, but are not named in any. In the Neolithic Age, we read :Still the world is wondrous large,-seven seas from marge to
marge,And it holds a vast of various kinds of man; And the wildest dreams of Kew are the facts of Khatmandou, And the crimes of Clapham ehaste in Martaban. In “ The Flowers” the last verse :Far and far our homes are set round the Seven Seas;
Woe for us if we forget, we that hold by these! Unto each his mother-beach, bloom and bird and land,
Master of the Seven Seas, ob, love and understand. His verse is wooden sometimes and limping, but his phrases are superb. It would be difficult to match in its own style this rollicking line :In a ram-you-damu-you liner with a brace of bucking-screws.
But whether it is in telling the tragic story of the fight of the sealers in the fog, or chanting an anchor song, or whatever it may be, so long as he is among the waves listening to the wind, Rudyard Kipling is at home. It is right fitting that the Laureate of the Empire should also be the Laureate of the Seven Seas. III.—THE TYRTÆUS OF THE BARRACK ROOM
Rudyard Kipling's “Barrack Room Ballads” are an honest and a singularly successful attempt to explain, as he tells Tommy Atkins, “ both your pleasure and your pain.” In the new volume there are some more ballads, but none which come up to or excel “ Tommy," and “FuzzyWuzzy." These have often been quoted, but no attempt to describe Rudyard Kipling's verse would be complete without at least a sample from each of these famous ditties. “Tommy” is devoted to contrasting the way in which the wearer of Her Majesty's uniform is often discriminated against by publicans, theatre managers, etc., to the compliments showered upon Mr. Atkins when the drums begin to roll. Tommy's protest in the following verses is as just as it is emphatic :We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards
too, But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you; An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints, Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;
While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' Tommy,
fall be'ind, And it's “ Please to walk in front, sir," when there's
trouble in the wind, There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in
the wind; O it's “ Please to walk in front, sir,” when there's trouble
in the wind. For it's Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an' “ Chuck him
out, the brute!” But it's “Saviour of 'is country ” when the guns begin
to shoot ;