The Remarkable Rightness of Rudyard Kipling

Kipling could get an audience for tales and ballads and jungle-books; but the moment he tried to speak nationally, he could not get an audience. Even now, they would rather read H. G. Wells.

The only point of all which is that the folk who made so merry, a few years ago over 'The Truce of the Bear' had better find another joke. One does not base the rightness of Kipling on his merely having been a little less ridiculous, in a given instance, than his contemporaries wanted to think him.

I wonder, too,—still as I turn the pages of The Five Nations,—if there is not a tonic value to-day in the poem called 'Sussex.'

God gave all men all earth to love,
        But since our hearts are small,
Ordained for each one spot should prove
        Beloved over all;
That, as He watched Creation's birth,
        So we, in godlike mood,
May of our love create our earth
        And see that it is good.

So one shall Baltic pines content,
        As one some Surrey glade,
Or one the palm-grove's droned lament
        Before Levuka's trade.
Each to his choice, and I rejoice
        The lot has fallen to me
In a fair ground—in a fair ground—
        Yea, Sussex by the sea!

So to the land our hearts we give
        Till the sure magic strike,
And Memory, Use, and Love make live
        Us and our fields alike—
That deeper than our speech and thought,
        Beyond our reason's sway,
Clay of the pit whence we were wrought
        Yearns to its fellow-clay.

The windy internationalism to which we are so often invited, nowadays, to listen, would deny it—might even call it 'chauvinisme de clocher.' The reply is that people actually do feel as Kipling says they do. He has always tended to serve (in his own phrase) the God of Things as They Are. Granted, for the sake of argument, that it would be good for you to love all men and all countries alike, the fact remains that you do not. If that is your duty, most decent people do not perform their duty; their fathers did not, and their children will not. Even the most radical internationalists wish to substitute class-consciousness for patriotism—on the whole, a less enlightened chauvinism than the other. And, judging from the present war, they have not been able to pull even that off.

As for saying that one has the same sense of personal insult in seeing a foreign land invaded as in seeing one's own, that is nonsense. France has been the home of the spirit to many of us; the thought of an invaded France is of a bitterness hardly to be borne. But though one has lived in it and loved it, one is not so angry, in the very depths of one, at Teuton occupation of France as one would be at Teuton occupation of one's own soil. I will not say what German invasion of my own New England would be to me. 'Ten generations of New England ancestors' would rise up to curse the enemy. But even an invaded Oshkosh (and Oshkosh is a mere name to me) would be to me, an American, an even deadlier insult than an invaded Paris. I should take it more personally, I know. And if that can be so for us, in our far-flung, heterogeneous republic, what must be the case with the children of homogeneous France? If I know that I should feel that way about Oshkosh, what must the Kentish man feel about Kent, the Devonshire man about Devon, the Englishman about England? Did not all sane Americans between Bangor and San Diego react in precisely similar fashion to Herr Zimmermann's plans for Texas? I have never even been in Texas, but Texas belongs to me and I belong to it.

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