I can’t say I’ve read a lot of Kipling, but as a raging Anglophile I like his stuff. “Recessional” is particularly good, I think - high-toned British imperialism, but with a tragic awareness that this, too, shall pass: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recessional_(poem)
Honestly, I have small use for poetry, though Kipling is more tolerable than most, probably because I ADORE his prose.
I am fond of The White Man’s Burden, but I probably don’t read and interpret quite the way Kipling intended when he wrote it, which is part of my admiration of the poem. Seen through a revised lens, it can work with a more sarcastic tone.
Baker will probably be unsurprised to learn that I have read a great deal of Kipling’s prose and poetry alike. MacAndrew’s Hymn is glorious even if I can’t seem to memorise much more than the opening line, “Lord, Thou hast made this world below the shadow of a dream”. The Ballad of East and West, naturally, and I’ll always sing the praises of Gunga Din to anyone who doesn’t get away fast enough - and that’s one that I have got down pat.
The best riposte to that was The Brown Man’s Burden, by Henry Labouchere, which he composed in 1899 but still reads like it was written last week:
Pile on the brown man’s burden;
And, if ye rouse his hate,
Meet his old-fashioned reasons
With Maxims up to date.
With shells and dumdum bullets
A hundred times made plain
The brown man’s loss must ever
Imply the white man’s gain.
Pile on the brown man’s burden,
compel him to be free;
Let all your manifestoes
Reek with philanthropy.
And if with heathen folly
He dares your will dispute,
Then, in the name of freedom,
Don’t hesitate to shoot.
That’s not how I interpreted the poem. The meaning I took is that the female of the species, (especially our own), is harder and more practical than the male, because she has the important mission of ensuring the safety of her offspring. She’ll do anything to protect them. Our men know this but by culture don’t want to admit to the fact they’re just a little scared of us. Thus they try to push us into the background, but still can’t conceal our power.
Isn’t poetry great? Better than prose, IMNSHO, for expressing certain ideas, but it can be, I admit, more open to different interpretations.
Leslie Fish has put a bunch of his poems to music. She’s got no kind of voice, but it all works. I have Cold Iron on tape, and I’m considering getting it on CD, along with Our Fathers of Old (which I see has a setting of Recessional).