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Recessional by Rudyard Kipling (1897)

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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  • Gordon Scott April 20, 2022, 8:54 PM

    Kipling had more irony in his littlest fingernail than . . . .

  • ThisIsNotNutella April 21, 2022, 2:45 AM

    … Than Sir Rufus Isaacs?


    Whence comest thou, Gehazi,
    So reverend to behold,
    In scarlet and in ermines
    And chain of England’s gold?”

    “From following after Naaman
    To tell him all is well,
    Whereby my zeal hath made me
    A Judge in Israel.”

    Well done; well done, Gehazi!
    Stretch forth thy ready hand,
    Thou barely ‘scaped from judgment,
    Take oath to judge the land
    Unswayed by gift of money
    Or privy bribe, more base,
    Of knowledge which is profit
    In any market-place.

    Search out and probe, Gehazi,
    As thou of all carist try,
    The truthful, well-weighed answer
    That tells the blacker lie —
    The loud, uneasy virtue
    The anger feigned at will,
    To overbear a witness
    And make the Court keep still.

    Take order now, Gehazi,
    That no man talk aside
    In secret with his judges
    The while his case is tried.
    Lest he should show them — reason
    To keep a matter hid,
    And subtly lead the questions
    Away from what he did.

    Thou mirror of uprightness,
    What ails thee at thy vows?
    What means the risen whiteness
    Of the skin between thy brows?

    The boils that shine and burrow,
    The sores that slough and bleed —
    The leprosy of Naaman
    On thee and all thy seed?
    Stand up, stand up, Gehazi,
    Draw close thy robe and go,
    Gehazi, Judge in Israel,
    A leper white as snow!

  • ThisIsNotNutella April 21, 2022, 2:50 AM

    The thing about Kipling’s Recessional is that he wrote it it at the very apogee of Empire, Queen V’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. Before the Dreadnought Arms Race, before the Moroccan Crisis… Before the Second Boer War for that matter.


    Now who said what at the Bicentennial… or in 1989/90/91?

    As for recent Presidential Inaugurations and accompanying Ooga Booga, I’d best keep silent.

  • gwbnyc April 21, 2022, 3:52 AM
  • Gordon Scott April 21, 2022, 8:11 AM

    I like to think of myself as well-read.
    One needed to be far and above my level to get the implications of either of these poems. To write them, well. let’s just say above that level.

    The UK National Trust lets you rent out everything from castles to a fisherman’s cottage in Scotland. You can also pay money to go work on one of those properties for a couple of weeks. But you might learn how to build a dry stone wall or a proper hedge.

    • Mike Austin April 22, 2022, 1:02 PM

      I read 4 – 6 books a month. My IQ is 141. And still those poems are beyond me. I reckon that they are beyond my pay grade. I have come to realize that the ability to write and understand poetry is a gift, a gift I do not have.

      • Mike Seyle April 22, 2022, 4:09 PM

        Funny about IQ. About 20 years ago my wife had to measure IQ for some course she was taking. After she tested our kids and their friends, she needed one more. Me. I had been drinking most of the day and consented. She scored me, never told me the results, and has spoken to me slowly, with small words, since then. Now and then, I mumble just to keep her in proper form. But not surprised to hear you’re so intelligent, Mike.