- Kipling Redivivus. A review of The Years Between, by Rudyard Kipling
- The Johns Hopkins University Press and Faber & Faber Ltd
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[ 33 Kipling Redivivus A review of The Years Between, by Rudyard Kipling London: Methuen, 1919. Pp. xiii + 159. The Athenaeum, 4645 (9 May 1919) 297-98 Mr. Kipling is a laureate without laurels. He is a neglected celebrity. The arrival of a new book of his verse is not likely to stir the slightest ripple on the surface of our conversational intelligentsia. He has not been crowned by the elder generation; malevolent fate has not even allowed him to be one of the four or five or six greatest living poets. A serious contemporary has remarked of the present volume that “in all, or nearly all, our poetical coteries the poetry of Kipling has long been anathema, with field sports, Imperialism, and public schools.”1 This is wide of the mark. Mr. Kipling is not anathema; he is merely not discussed. Most of our discerning critics have no more an opinion on Mr. Kipling than they have on the poetry of Mr. John Oxenham.2 The mind is not sufficiently curious, sufficiently brave, to examine Mr. Kipling. Yet the admired creator of Bouvard and Pécuchet would not have overlooked the Kipling dossier.3 Mr. Kipling has not been analysed. There are the many to whom he is a gospel; there are the few to whom he is a shout in the street, or a whisper in the ear of death, unheard.4 Both are mistaken. Mr. Kipling is not without antecedents; he has an affinity to Swinburne, even a likeness. There are, of course, qualities peculiar to Mr. Kipling; but several of the apparent differences are misconceptions, and several can be reduced to superficial differences of environment. Both are men of a few simple ideas, both are preachers, both have marked their styles by an abuse of the English Bible. They are alike even in a likeness which would strike most people immediately as a difference; they are alike in their use of sound. It is true that Swinburne relies more exclusively upon the power of sound than does Mr. Kipling. But it is the same type of sound, and it is not the sound-value of music. Anyone who thinks so may compare Swinburne’s “songs” with verse which demands the voice and the instrument, with Shelley’s “Music when soft voices die” or Campion’s “Fairy queen Proserpina.”5 What emerges 1919 34 ] from the comparison is that Swinburne’s sound like Mr. Kipling’s, has the sound-value of oratory, not of music. When the hounds of spring are on winter’s traces6 arrives at similar effects to Mr. Kipling: What are the bugles blowin’ for? said Files on Parade;7 or in the present volume: There was no need of a steed nor [sic] a lance to pursue them; It was decreed their own deed, and not chance, should undo them8 It is, in fact, the poetry of oratory; it is music just as the words of orator or preacher are music; they persuade, not by reason, but by emphatic sound. Swinburne and Mr. Kipling have, like the public speaker, an idea to impose; andtheyimposeitinthepublicspeaker’sway,byturningtheideaintosound, and iterating the sound. And, like the public speaker’s, their business is not to express, to lay before you, to state, but to propel, to impose on you the idea. And, like the orator, they are personal: not by revelation, but by throwing themselves in and gesturing the emotion of the moment. The emotion is not “there” simply, coldly independent of the author, of the audience, there and for ever like Shakespeare’s and Aeschylus’ emotions: it is present so long only as the author is on the platform and compels you to feel it. I look down at his feet: but that’s a fable. If that thou be’st a devil, I cannot kill thee.9 is “there,” cold and indifferent. Nothing is better, I well think, Than love; the hidden well-water Is not so delicate a drink. This was well seen of me and her10 (to take from one of Swinburne’s poems which most nearly resembles a statement); or The end of it’s sitting and thinking And dreaming hell-fires to see – 11 these are not statements of emotion, but ways of stimulating a particular response in the reader. [ 35 kipling redivivus Both of the poets have a few simple ideas. If we deprecate any philosophical complications, we may be allowed to call Swinburne’s Liberty and Mr. Kipling’s Empire...