Political Advice From Rudyard Kipling

Monday, September 13, 2010 \AM\.\Mon\.

I have always been a great fan of the poetry of Kipling.  It is fun to recite and often has a fair amount of wisdom.  Too often Kipling is simply written off as a pro-imperialist poet and relegated to the past along with the British Empire.  He was certainly a loyal Brit and an advocate of the Empire, but there was much more to him than that.  Refusing honor after honor, including being poet laureate of Great Britain, he always retained his independence to give loving criticism to his country.  For example, in 1897 at the time of the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria, he wrote the poem Recessional which envisioned a time when Great Britain would have lost its Empire and its power:

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!

Kipling realized that power was never an end itself and that Great Britain would be judged by God and History not by how much power it amassed, but by what the British did with their power. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Great Darkness

Monday, August 2, 2010 \AM\.\Mon\.

May 19, 1780 was a memorable one in the history of New England.  Darkness descended for several hours in New England and parts of New York.  The cause of the darkness has been blamed on everything from volcanoes to dust storms.  The most commonly accepted explanation today is that the darkness was caused by forest fires.  An excellent overview of the Dark Day and its possible causes is presented by John Horrigan here.

Darkness in the middle of the day of course caused quite a bit of alarm, with more than a few people thinking that the Day of Judgment had arrived.  In the Connecticut legislature a motion to adjourn was proposed and passed.  Members of the Council of Safety of the legislature wanted to go to their homes.  Senator Abraham Davenport would have none of it.  “The day of judgment is either approaching, or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause of an adjournment: if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish therefore that candles may be brought.”  John Greenleaf Whittier immortalized this archetypal stubborn Yankee with this poem: Read the rest of this entry »


Hath Melted Like Snow In The Glance Of The Lord

Friday, August 14, 2009 \AM\.\Fri\.

Assyrian Empire

 

I have never cared for Lord Byron, his poetry or the way he misled his life, with one massive exception.  From the first time I read this poem in grammar school it has had immense significance for me.

The Destruction of Sennacherib

The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

  Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.

  For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!

  And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.

  And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail:
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.

  And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord! Read the rest of this entry »


Joyce Kilmer And The Fighting 69th

Tuesday, May 5, 2009 \AM\.\Tue\.

joyce-kilmer

I THINK that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

That poem written by Alfred Joyce Kilmer, better known as Joyce Kilmer, in 1914 is, unfortunately, all most American Catholics remember today about that remarkable man.  That is regrettable, because he was a devout Catholic and an American patriot and he deserves better than relative historical oblivion.

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Christ in Flanders

Thursday, April 9, 2009 \AM\.\Thu\.

QG001618

I have always found this war poem from World War I very moving.  The author is “L.W.”, and I have been unable to discover his identity.  The poem powerfully reminds us of how easy it is to forget Christ, He who is most important in our brief lives here on Earth.

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The Ballad of the Goodly Fere

Monday, April 6, 2009 \AM\.\Mon\.

ezra-pound

Ezra Pound, fascist, anti-Semite, traitor and loon, was still a great poet.  I have always admired this poem, not because of the way Christ is portrayed, but the imagination behind it.  Christ and the apostles transformed into quasi Viking heroes of a medieval chronicle!   All very odd.  I am interested in opinions from our readers on the poem and on Pound as a poet.  Here is T.S. Eliot on Pound as a poet.

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Melancholy and Faith

Sunday, February 1, 2009 \AM\.\Sun\.

charles-1

BY THE STATUE OF KING CHARLES AT CHARING CROSS

by: Lionel Johnson (1867-1902)

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