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.

No: say what you please, geography is the great human science; it is more intimate than biology. And Kipling has had the sense to see it because he really knows something about the genus homo. It was a delightful phrase of the Frenchman's that charmed our youth—'the passion for the planet'; but are we not a little undeceived now? Do we not at last realize that the only real 'man without a country' is the cosmopolite? If there be such a person.

I can almost hear someone quoting ironically,—

But there is neither East nor West, border nor breed nor birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth.

That is very taking; and in a sense it is true, thank Heaven. But I fancy Kipling would want to modify it now. At least he would like to write a footnote containing a careful definition of the word 'strong.' It would not apply to the average German.

Kipling was called, for many years, by the pacifist-Liberals, a jingo. All imperialists were, ex officio, jingoes. Some of these people have got into their heads, by this time, the conception of a 'preparedness' that makes for peace, and realize the difference between a real jingo and a man who wants to avert war in the only way possible when a considerable portion of the world remains militaristic. We all know by this time that, if England had been prepared in 1914, there would have been no war in 1914; that, very probably, if Sir Edward Grey had been empowered to say, at the proper instant, that England would fight, there would have been no war in 1914. Had 'The Army of a Dream' been there, the mailed fist would not have been shaken at the world. But that is ancient history. It is to be hoped that everyone who preached preparedness in the old days is not now stigmatized as a jingo. If anyone still thinks of Kipling vaguely as a war-mad imperialist, let him read 'The Settler':—

Earth where we rode to slay or be slain,
        Our love shall redeem unto life;
We will gather and lead to her lips again
        The waters of ancient strife,
From the far and fiercely guarded streams
        And the pools where we lay in wait,
Till the corn cover our evil dreams
        And the young corn our hate.

That is not the accent of the dyed-in-the-wool jingo.

And here again,—still out of The Five Nations,—the 'Half-Ballad of Waterval':—

They'll never know the shame that brands—
        Black shame no livin' down makes white,
The mockin' from the sentry-stands,
        The women's laugh, the gaoler's spite.
        We are too bloomin' much polite,
        But that is 'ow I'd 'ave us be ...
        Since I 'ave learned at Waterval
        The meanin' of captivity.

Written at least fifteen years ago—and still, I fancy, the core of the matter. Certainly very different from imperialistic-militaristic conceptions of the rights of prisoners as exemplified by—Wittenberg, let us say.

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