Recessional by Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling is quite correctly perceived as a poet who celebrated and actively supported the British Empire. This is undoubtedly the case, however as can be seen in his “Recessional” the picture of a jingoist is not a wholly accurate one.
In “Recessional” Kipling forsees the collapse of the British Empire. Great empires come and go and the imperial might of Britain will fade away in the same manner,
“Far-called, our navies melt away; on dune and headland sinks the fire: lo, all our pomp of yesterday is one with Nineveh and Tyre! …”.
The poem is, to modern ears somewhat jarring in it’s references to “lesser breeds without the law”, however the overall tone of the poem is one of reflection rather than unthinking jingoism.
Kipling was remarkably precient. The poem appeared on 22 June 1897 and by the middle of the twentieth century the UK was well on the way to divesting itself of it’s empire.

RECESSIONAL

God of our fathers, known of old,
Lord of our far-flung battle-line,
Beneath whose awful Hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
The tumult and the shouting dies;
The Captains and the Kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
Far-called, our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the Law—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard,
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding, calls not Thee to guard,
For frantic boast and foolish word—
Thy mercy on Thy People, Lord!

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About kevinmorris101

I live and work in London and blog as a hobby. If you would like to contact me please send an email to animalia at shiftmail.com (the address is rendered in this manner in order to try and defeat spammers)!
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