Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

Rudyard Kipling was born in India in an intellectual family of a designer and sculptor. When Rudyard was six years old he was sent to England, and lived there till seventeen. He was educated in a private boarding school, the owner of which was a powerful and cruel woman treated him severely, and the boy could have gone mad if his mother hadn’t come to England to take him back. Kipling returned to India to take up journalism.

He spent much of his adult life there, at a time when the power and influence of the British Empire were at their height. He was tremendously popular as a bard of the British Empire who firmly believed in the mighty of English rule in the conquered lands.

Kipling’s political reputation was no less important than his literary signifi­cance. The peculiarity of his main literary principle was in his vision of “Things as They Are”. The poems and short stones for which he is best known, deal with India itself, its wild animals and the British army and navy. Kipling writes of courage, honour and patriotism, making wide use of unliterary language of soldiers and common people. His best-known volume of poems is “Barrack-room Ballads” (1892). In “The Ballad of East and West” Kipling expresses the idea that all the people, in spite of their origin and nationality, have one common feature: they are People, and “The Law of Jungle” makes all the differences vanish:

The Ballad of East and West

Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,

Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat;

But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,

When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth!


Kipling’s famous poem “If” sounds like a lesson in patience and self-confi­dence.

Kipling’s poetry is best represented in the “Seven Seas” (1896) and “The Five Nations” (1903). His short stories: “Jungle Book” (1894), “Jungle Book” (1895) and “Just So Stories” (1902) are still popular.

The Jungle Book” (1894) describes how the boy Mowgli is brought up in the jungle by wild animals who have human personalities. Kipling knew how to talk to children. His novel “Kim” (1901) is the story of a boy who lives in India and grows up to do service to the British Empire by capturing some important secret papers.

Kipling travelled a lot, and after much travelling he settled in an ancient house in Sussex (“Sussex”).

In 1907 Kipling was the first writer to get the Nobel prize. He became popular all over the world. He influenced the works of many other writers: Ernest Hemingway, Jack London.

It’s important to realize that his novels and poems are closely connected with each other.

Kipling’s verses are frankly prosaic, while his prose is wonderfully lyrical. But he never expresses his own point of view. His stories are often a third person narration. His work reflects his preoccupation with the moral principles, and his postwar stories possess a great moral force pointed to the fundamental changes that were taking place in consciousness.

Kipling’s son was killed during World War I, and the sense of loss worried him greatly. His short story “The Gardener” deals with the events of World War I which involved a lot of young people, and brought sufferings and grief to their relatives. Kipling describes the Hagenzeele Third Military Cemetery which “counted twenty one thousand dead already… All she (Helen) saw was a merciless sea of black crosses. She could distinguish no order or arrangement in their mass; nothing but a waist-high, wilderness as of weeds stricken dead, rushing at her.”

The plot of the story centres around Helen Turrell and her nephew Michael. From the very beginning we come to know that Helen, thirty-five and independ­ent, brings up her brother’s “unfortunate child”. She is very fond of him and treats him like a son. Helen nurses him through the attacks of dysentery and measles, takes care of him during his studies and holidays:

The terms at his public school and the wonderful Christmas, Easter and Sum­mer holidays followed each other, variegated and glorious as jewels on a string; and as jewels Helen treasured them.”

Later the War “takes” Michael, and Helen is shocked “at the idea of direct enlistment”: “At the end of August he was on the edge of joining the first holocaust of public school boys who threw themselves into Line.” In spite of his writing to Helen that there is no need to worry, a shell-splinter kills him. “By this time the village was old in experience of war”. Helen’s world stands still: “Now she was standing still and the world was going forward, but it did not concern her – in no way or relation did it touch her.” The language of the story helps the reader to penetrate into the inner world of Helen. There are a lot of “military” words in the story: war, Line, holocaust, commissions, battalion, enlist, kill, aftermath etc. We come across the word “Armistice”. Armistice Day is 11 November, celebrated as the anniversary of the end of World War I in 1918.

Bitterly disappointed in his dreams of Britain’s greatness, Kipling shut him­self up in depressing and gloomy isolation. Still he never left off writing, in 1933 he wrote his poem “The Appeal”, which is considered to be his last will.

Rudyard Kipling was buried in the Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey.

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