50 unseen Rudyard Kipling poems discovered

Scholar unearths trove of unpublished work by poet voted Britain’s favourite – Published on The Guardian/Culture, by Alison Flood, Feb 25, 2013.

Kipling scholars are celebrating the publication of lost poems by the author whose exhortations in “If” to “keep your head when all about you / Are losing theirs and blaming it on you” are regularly voted the nation’s favourite poem. Discovered by the American scholar Thomas Pinney in an array of hiding places including family papers, the archive of a former head of the Cunard Line and during renovations at a Manhattan house, more than 50 previously unpublished poems by Rudyard Kipling will be released for the first time next month.  

The collection includes several poems dating from the first world war, which Kipling initially supported, helping his son John to gain a commission in the Irish Guards.

A short poem, “The Gambler”, finishes with the couplet: “Three times wounded; three times gassed / Three times wrecked – I lost at last”, while another fragment runs: “This was a Godlike soul before it was crazed / No matter. The grave makes whole.”

After his son’s death at the Battle of Loos in 1915, Kipling regretted his earlier enthusiasm for the conflict, writing in his “Epitaphs of the War”: “If any question why we died / Tell them, because our fathers lied.”

Another poem discovered by Pinney, “The Press”, prefigures contemporary worries over media intrusion: “Have you any morals? / Does your genius burn? / Was your wife a what’s its name? / How much did she earn?” wrote the poet in a fit of anger at the questions he was asked by journalists. “Why don’t you write a play – / Why don’t you cut your hair? / Do you trim your toe-nails round / Or do you trim them square?” (The complete poem is reproduced at the foot of this article) … //

… The 50 unpublished poems are being included alongside more than 1,300 of Kipling’s poems in the three-volume Cambridge Edition of The Poems of Rudyard Kipling, the first ever complete edition of his verse, out on 7 March.

“They are all very engaging, and grab you immediately. A lot are very emotional little poems about the war, about his great identification with the ordinary British soldier, and his anger with the authorities,” said Linda Bree, arts and literature editorial director at Cambridge University Press.

Bree agreed with Pinney that Kipling, who died in 1936 leaving behind books including The Jungle Book, Just So Stories and Kim, had been neglected by scholars until now. “I think, personally, it’s because his poems are very simple. They are about simple situations, and perhaps for that reason scholars have steered clear a little,” she said. “Perhaps they speak more clearly to the ordinary reader for that reason. And of course the imperial issue does make things more difficult. [But] he is one of the nation’s greatest poets … ‘If’ is one of the most popular poems in the English language, [and] this edition shows that he wrote much else to entertain, engage and challenge readers.”

The Press by Rudyard Kipling [follows a poem written on September 1899]: … //

… (full text).

Links:

Florida Everglades Restoration Stalled By Water Quality And Costly Cleanup, on Huffington Post, by Andy Reid, Feb 23, 2013;

UP Close With Ben Ephson, on The Africa Report, by Antoinette H. Condobrey, Jan 18, 2013.

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