Wednesday, 16 December 2015

How iffy is If?

Interesting essay here on Rudyard Kipling's If, voted the nation's favourite poem back in 1995, and no doubt still popular today.

I'm no great fan of it, for some of the reasons listed in the essay, but it set me thinking about Kipling more generally. I've enjoyed many of his short stories, from The Man Who Would Be King to the strange and rather chilling The Wish House. I liked Kim, although I haven't read it in 20 years now, and remember thinking it was rather more complex than many critics would admit. And some of his poems (although I think Kipling himself insisted they were merely 'verse') have stayed with me.

In particular, three of his Boer War poems – Chant-Pagan, Lichtenberg, and Bridge-Guard In The Karoo. The latter, especially, is an old favourite of mine (and a great poem to learn by heart).

I also came across this, on Lichtenberg. I've always supposed that the "small wet drizzling down" was a deliberate echo of Westron Wind, and I'm just disappointed it doesn't make a little more of "Ah Christ! My country again" – Kipling often sounds like he's trotting out a rather 'stage' version of different accents, but that sounds perfectly Australian.

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