Saturday, 24 October 2015

IF



1865-1936. A man who served the Empire. Good man, that Kipling.

Back in 1995 Rudyard Kipling was voted Britain's favourite poet and the favourite poem was Kipling's, 'IF'. No doubt voted for by people who have not read his work, apart from 'IF'. Fast forward to 2015 and the nation's favourite poet morphs into TS Elliot. Quite a change in subjective taste- go figure. 

Kipling, in my opinion, was a poor poet prone to pomposity and moralising and yet all the same had the knack of juxtaposing platitudes in a pleasing manner. Perhaps I'm being unfair, some of his prose ascends to the sublime although much of his work is simply silly, especially to the modern mind. Read the following and tell me if I'm wrong: "I heard the knives behind me, but I durns't face my man, Nor I don't know where I went to, cause I didn't stop to see, Till I heard a beggar squealing out for quarter as he ran, And I thought I knew the voice and- it was me." Kipling had the annoying habit of dropping haitches and the ending, 'g' when portraying the working class soldiery. Tis a condescending and distracting trait which adds nothing to the composition, so in the quoted version I have erred on the side of correct English usage.

It is interesting to note that Kipling has remained 'popular' with non-literary folk and despised by those with literary pretension- quite a legacy. Those on the 'left' hate him for his jingoist imperialism irrespective of any intrinsic poetic merit. The views of Kipling are well portrayed in his verse and reflect a 'Kipling' who was very much a man of his time: A Victorian. Not only a Victorian, but also a member of the ascendant race which ruled the world; heady stuff. This was too good to last and the man's poetry changed as the world changed. But like the true Victorian he was, he failed to comprehend that change and was left adrift in a Modern World where certainty had perished on Flanders field.  Indeed, his poetry undergoes a modification after the Great War. Before that time, it is bold, sure-footed and on the side of god, king and country. Kipling's god is a good god and punishes hubris and his king never strays from his queen's bed chamber. The war changed him. Idealism was lost and he was smart enough to realise that 'right' was no longer enough to prevail, the only thing that really mattered was 'might'. This has always been the case and yet is not always appreciated, especially in times of prolonged peace. After the war, a strain of cynicism and bitterness enters his work. Gone is the certainty of the privileged middle-class man living in an Anglo-centric world. What enters is bewilderment and incomprehension. Although the British Empire had prevailed in the greatest war ever known, it had inexplicably become weakened and superseded by 'lesser breeds'. Kipling acknowledged the reality but failed to understand it. Anyway, here is the poem, 'IF', in its entirety. In my opinion, it is cloying and 'preachy' although some of the couplets are very seductive at the emotional level. Please judge and let me know what you think.

IF

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!


28 comments:

  1. http://sterculianrhetoric.blogspot.ca/2015/08/prufrock.html
    is my T.S. post

    http://sterculianrhetoric.blogspot.ca/2013/05/waiting-for-man.html
    http://sterculianrhetoric.blogspot.ca/2015/07/true-patriot-love.html
    for Kipling "Barrack Room Ballads"

    And I have a post which involves IF, but I can't find it
    And you can't blame the poor sod vis a vis the effect of WW I. He lost his only son there - played by Harry Potter in the Movie.

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    1. I was going to mention the death of his son in 1915. His body was never found and he never really recovered and started to decline into a sad bitter old man. Unfortunately, I was distracted by an episode of 'Rupauls' Drag Race'.

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    2. If ever you want to have fun with Yankee Conservative arseholes, confuse Rand Paul with Ru Paul. Those Tea Party morons get darn tootin' upset!

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    3. I will check out your posts and reply accordingly, but only if there is nowt on da tele.

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    4. You appear to be surprised at my profundity, although you are well versed with my work. M, you underestimate me. I have never underestimated you.

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    5. The fuck you haven't! Your patronizing is legend. And it's Dr. M to you. I am not so much surprised as welcoming; it's about time.

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    6. You must forgive this fault, tis not attractive but exists, nonetheless. Anyway, I can recognise quality when I see it. You can call me, Dr S.

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  2. Also, nice thesis. Yins are still an antipodean cunt, but a thoughtful and erudite one. And I do know how to code for a live link, I just can't be bothered and The Tutor touches those necessary chevron keys and he's involved with that Leslie slore and now has Yankee cooties.

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    1. White hands cling to the bridle rein,
      Slipping the spur from the booted heel;
      Tenderest voices cry 'Turn again!'
      Red lips tarnish the scabbarded steel:
      Down to Gehenna or up to the Throne,
      He travels the fastest who travels alone.

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    2. Tyger Tyger Burning bright
      On the fairways at firs' light
      I wish I may
      I wish I might
      Have his ex for sex tonight.

      The Tutor wrote that back when he(Woods) and the white chick split up.

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    3. Methinks you have outgrown/overgrown, the Tutor. Wisdom and knowledge all drained. Time to fly little bird and perch anew.....

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  3. ".......Tis a condescending and distracting trait which adds nothing to the composition, so in the quoted version I have erred on the side of correct English usage........"

    It's not distractin'. It's part of 'is art. I'm all for the Queen's - as you well know - but one does not fuck with art. His poems were also meant to be read 'aloud in one's head', the lexical choices provide the accent. Innit?

    For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
    But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;
    An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
    An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!


    There is no other way to say that. You correct that English and it's ruined.

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    1. To obtain the best effect, Kipling should be read out aloud. As for his habit of dropping the 'haitches' it ultimately comes down to taste. A judicious restoration of the 'haitches' makes the poems less blatant.

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    2. And a judicious placement of a fig leaf on Michelangelo's David makes him less blatant. Or a skirt on "Venus (or Aphrodite) of the beautiful buttocks" makes her less sexual.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_Callipyge

      No excuses, Saxon, DO NOT fuck with art
      You Philistine!.
      You Vandal!

      I can just imagine how you would change Chaucer or Milton so they 'read' better.


      For, certeyn, olde dotard, by youre leve,
      Ye shul have queynte right ynogh at eve
      (WBP III (D) 332-333)


      Saxon's rewriting:
      For certain you old git and with your permission
      You'll get plenty of cunt for sure this evening

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    3. My comment was solely aimed at Kipling's affectation and is not to be viewed as pertaining to other arse forms, in general. Nevertheless, art is what I say it is and to be changed on the matter of a whim or a qwim. If I had been Mick I'd have given Davie boy a bigger cock, no fig leaf in site. Venus de Milo would be more effective with tentacles- at least eight and none ere to be truncated. As for the library of Alexandria- I would still let it burn but only after I had plundered it for my library.

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    4. I was wrong. You're not a Vandal, you're a fucking Visigoth.

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  4. ".......Perhaps I'm being unfair, some of his prose ascends to the sublime although much of his work is simply silly, especially to the modern mind......"

    You are being unfair, but you can't help it, you're a cunt.. And I am sure Mr. Kipling did not fucking care how 'the modern mind' would consider his work. How would one predict how a future mind would contemplate anything anyway? Well, I am going out on a limb and I am going to make a prediction of how the average punter in 2075 is going to consider this post of yours.
    "Utter Bollocks!"

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    1. Indeed, none of us are omniscient. And I have no wish to emulate Achilles curse. 'Sweet oblivion, kiss me once so I shall sleep. Nawt comes from life, but death and desolation. Bewilder me with charms until the final day does fade. Keep me in deep embrace and let me go, gently'. Okay Cuddles, ye of literary pretension. Name the prose and the author. Be a Devil and kill a Devil.

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    2. You've got me on that one. In my defence, it smacks of Western Teenage angst - not my cup-of-tea at all. BUT the phrase, "Be a Devil and kill a Devil" is not unknown to me, if I read it correctly. In 31 AD, on Caligula's suggestion, Tiberius orders Macro to kill Lucius Aelius Sejanus. "It takes a dog to kill a dog."

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    3. That little bit of history was gleaned from watching the BBC production of I, Claudius

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    4. Yes, I CLAVDIVS, Grave's reworking of Seutonius- and very well done. I still watch the series on DVD. Sejanus is an interesting historical character, don't you think?

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    5. George is the person you need to talk to about that. All I know is that we met Patrick Stewart in Siem Reap about 9 years ago

      http://sterculianrhetoric.blogspot.ca/2015/10/sicut-in-caelo-et-in-terra.html

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  5. From your last waste-of-pixels-post:

    "........Thus, agnosticism is often considered a valid alternative to atheism and theism, ‘a third way’......."

    Ha! A third way?
    Check out what that phrase means in "The Quiet American" Graham Greene. My second most favourite actor of all time(1) Michael Caine rocks the fuck out of the 2002 movie version, Brendan Fraser is a dolt and horrible. I fancied myself Do Thi Hai Yen for quite some time after seeing that movie. The Tutor fancied himself as Caine. It worked well, for a while. Then I saw "Zulu" and The Tutor's Caine became too old.





    (1) Paul Newman being the first.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. I can see why you select thusly. Both good actors and versatile, although Caine less so than Newman. Did they ever appear in a movie together- I can't think of one which usually means no.

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  6. If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs ....

    Perhaps you have misunderstood the situation?

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