face is far from this our war,
Our call and counter-cry;
I shall not find thee quick and kind,
Nor know thee till I die;
Enough for me in dreams to see
And touch thy garments' hem:
Thy feet have trod so near to God
I may not follow them."
the latter there are two stanzas that particularly drive
home this sentiment to our every-day recognition.
the Season-tickets mourn,
'He never ran to catch his train,
But passed with coach and guard and horn-
And left the local-late again!
Confound Romance!'.And all unseen
Romance brought up the nine-fifteen.
His hand was on the lever laid,
His oil-can soothed the worrying
His whistle waked the snowbound grade,
His fog-horn cut the reeking
eye to see romance everywhere in this world we are wont
to call so prosaic, and the skill to reveal it to the
very best advantage to his readers, give him his unique
place among Victorian writers. Who else save Browning
had such an eye for subjects caught and selected by
every roadside and seashore? Arnold, despite his matchless
narrative poems, all too few, was chiefly absorbed in
the intellectual life, the musings of the soul. Tennyson,
for his magnum opus, must revert to the buried romance
of the past. Emerson was the priest of nature, who "went
to the god of the wood, to bring his word to men."
Longfellow was a graceful balladist and a finished artist.
They maintained for us and carried on the traditions
of earlier poetry, consoling us in grief, stimulating
us in dejection, easing for us little by little the
Gordian knot of existence. But for sheer force, which
of them ever overmatched the "Ballad of East and
West" or "The Song of The Banjo" or "Fulta
Fisher's Boarding-House"? These poems are comparable
only to "The Revenge" or "Harvey Rill."
While for this power of endowing common objects with
their true poetic significance, Mr. Kipling certainly
fulfils Emerson's requirement of the poet-that he should
"give to pots and pans, grace and glimmer of romance."
In his lyric on "The Bell Buoy," published
only yesterday, how resonantly, how magnificently he
voices the iron heart of that guardian of the coast,
with its tolling refrain!
christened my brother of old-
And a saintly name he bears-
They gave him his place to hold
At the head of the belfry stairs,
Where the minster-towers stand
And the breeding kestrels cry.
Would I change with my brother a league inland?
(Shoal! 'ware shoal!) Not I!
There was never a priest to pray,
There was never a hand to toll,
When they made me guard o' the bay,
And moored me over the shoal.
I rock and I reel and I roll-
My four great hammers ply-
Could I speak or be still at
the Church's will?
(Shoal! 'ware shoal!) Not I!"
the laureate of the English on land, by virtue of his
Barrack-Room Ballads, we must now acknowledge him English
laureate of the sea. For that fine, patriotic poem on
the English Flag is now re-enforced by such things as
"A Song of the English," "The Last Chantey"
and "McAndrew's Hymn." And one sees with painful
clearness how right in judgment those critics were (many
of them in this country) who advocated Mr. Kipling's
claims to the distinction of Tennyson's successorship.
He is by every instinct and characteristic a laureate
such as the men of English speech have never had. Their
hardihood, their enterprise, their belief in their own
destiny; yes, and their trust in muscularity, too-are
all here. Do you know of any other lyric which so well
embodies the English faith in the God who is on the
side of heavy battalions, as this "Hymn Before
earth is full of anger,
The seas are dark with wrath;
The nations in their harness
Go up against our path!"
is a grave and solid dignity about that opening, worthy
of the Thirty-Nine Articles and the Authorized Version.
Were it not for the unorthodox fifth stanza (the best
of all, by the way):
Mary, pierced with sorrow,
Remember, reach and save
The soul that comes tomorrow
Before the God that gave!
Since each was born of woman,
For each at utter need-
True comrade and true foeman,
might imagine the embattled cohorts of British Philistia,
with the archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Wolseley
at their head, marching in triumphal procession around
the globe. The proud look and high stomach would not
be absent, not that somewhat haughty bearing which may
have been inherited along with the Mosaic theology from
an elder stiff-necked generation. Extending empire and
spreading a convenient Christianity (not so uncompromising
as to forbid the use of the sword) this mighty host
would follow the trail of the setting sun over the high
shoulders of the world, encouraged by this martial strain:
now their vanguard gathers,
E'en now they face the fray-
As Thou didst help our fathers,
Help Thou our host today!
Fulfilled of signs and wonders,
In life, in death, made clear-
Jehovah of the Thunders,
Lord God of Battles, hear!"
quite consistent with our profession of Christianity,
perhaps, yet very genuinely expressive of the Saxon
fighting humor. For there are unconscious worshippers
of Thor at the high altars still, as well as on the
football field; and after all to what better use could
one put that ancient Jewish war-god, with his sounding
name and his blood-thirsty propensities, that to embody
him in the forefront of a splendid British battle-cry.
if Mr. Kipling's theology is somewhat moth-eaten, his
spirit is always fresh and sincere. Like every good
poet, he is better than he knows; and we may safely
trust ourselves to his deep fidelity. One surmises that
he is not of those who wear the heart upon the sleeve,
and that there are stores of righteous conviction and
sound sentiment underlying his most roistering songs,
and still to be revealed. For he is not without a wayward,
whimsical demon at his heels to unsteady his aim at
times; as for instance, where "An American,"
a poem of great insight and nobility, is marred by a
flippant opening quite unjust to itself. For the most
part, however-indeed, almost always-he is remarkably
even and finished in execution, each piece of work well
sustained at its own level.
for the New Barrack-Room Ballads, they have all the
humor and "go" that made their predecessors
so memorable. They share with his greater work that
exhilaration of health, that rush of energy, which give
his pages the intoxication of perpetual youth. As a
clever woman said of him (it was at Smith College, by
the way, where, Mr. Barrie seems to have lost his heart-so
excusably): "Where a man would get drunk, I read
Kipling." There is a good deal of subtle interpretation
in the remark. Certainly we shall not suffer from any
moping sobriety in the company of this lusty young viking.
his immediate contemporaries, hardly one of who could
measures shoulders against him, his achievement should
act as a rare tonic. His painstaking, his restraint,
his labor, his unflinching artistic devotion, should
lend a new stimulus to his fellow craftsmen, however
tentative and timorous their efforts may show beside
his. For there is always something discouraging to an
artist in contemplating the masterly work of his neighbor-so
hopelessly good as in the Seven Seas-unless he can solace
himself himself with renewed industry and a joyful emulation.
One could wish, too, that the book might even have some
effect in stopping the mouths of those gusty imbeciles
who never tire of harping on the decay of poetry in
an age of science-as if the two were not wedded together
skin to skin, more closely than brothers.
however, is not a thought should detain us in thinking
of a new poet and his beautiful tasks. We should rather
be remembering the earlier ballads, "Dannie Deever"
and the rest, and those incomparable Mowgli tales, which
raised their author at one step from the rank of a clever
short-story writer to an assured place among the first
imaginative creators of his time; for they are the work
of a poet, with their insight, their tenderness, their
Homeric simplicity and nobleness, their wonderful symbolism,
their mordant satire; and we shall only be filled with
quiet gratitude that anything so fine and satisfactory
as The Seven Seas has come to bear them company in our
as Babette says:
to you, Master Kipling, a-marching in the van!
You're a poor benighted Briton, but a first-class writing