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English Literature

Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) was born on 30 December 1865 and spent the first six years of his life in Bombay.

In 1871 he was brought home to England and placed in the unhappy care of a foster family in Southsea, where he was treated with some cruelty.  At age 12 he was removed and sent to public school, where he fared better.

Whilst at college Kipling began writing poetry, from which Schoolboy Lyrics was published in 1881.  The following year, at the age of 17, he started work as a journalist, back again in India, and while there produced a series of books that made him an instant literary celebrity, notably Plain Tales from the Hills (1888) and Soldiers Three (1888).  Kipling developed a reputation as a master of the short story form.

He married Caroline Balestier, an American, in 1892, living in Vermont until 1896 until after the death of his daughter Josephine, and a bitter quarrel with his wifeís relatives drove him home.  It was whilst living in Vermont that Kipling wrote The Jungle Book (1894).  Kim followed in 1901, and Just So Stories in 1902.  The Second Jungle Book was published in 1895.

In 1896 Kipling returned to England and in 1902 took residence in Sussex, continuing to travel widely, including South Africa during the Boer War.  He continued to produce classic stories: A Diversity of Creatures (1917), Debits and Credits (1926) and Limits and Renewals (1932).

The death of Kiplingís only son, John, serving with the Irish Guards in the First World War in September 1915, brought Kipling great sorrow.  It wasnít until the end of the war that Kipling finally acknowledged his sonís death.  He spent many years after the war in a vain attempt to locate his sonís body, who even today has no known grave.  Following the war Kipling wrote The Irish Guards in the Great War (1923).  During the war itself Kipling also wrote a number of propaganda books.

Kipling declined the Poet Laureateship and the Order of Merit (the latter on three occasions) but accepted the Nobel Prize in 1907, the first English writer to receive the prize.

Rudyard Kipling died on 18 January 1936 and is buried in Poetís Corner at Westminster Abbey.

 Here are three examples of his poetry:


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!


The Female of the Species

When the Himalayan peasant meets the he-bear in his pride,

He shouts to scare the monster, who will often turn aside.

But the she-bear thus accosted rends the peasant tooth and nail

For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.


A Song of the English

Fair is our lot -- O goodly is our heritage!
(Humble ye, my people, and be fearful in your mirth!)
 For the Lord our God Most High
 He hath made the deep as dry,
He hath smote for us a pathway to the ends of all the Earth!
Yea, though we sinned -- and our rulers went from righteousness --
Deep in all dishonour though we stained our garments' hem.
 Oh be ye not dismayed,
 Though we stumbled and we strayed,
We were led by evil counsellors -- the Lord shall deal with them!
Hold ye the Faith -- the Faith our Fathers seal]\ed us;
Whoring not with visions -- overwise and overstale.
 Except ye pay the Lord
 Single heart and single sword,
Of your children in their bondage shall He ask them treble-tale!
Keep ye the Law -- be swift in all obedience --
Clear the land of evil, drive the road and bridge the ford.
 Make ye sure to each his own
 That he reap where he hath sown;
By the peace among Our peoples let men know we serve the Lord!
     .  .  .  .  .
Hear now a song -- a song of broken interludes --
A song of little cunning; of a singer nothing worth.
 Through the naked words and mean
 May ye see the truth between
As the singer knew and touched it in the ends of all the Earth!