In one of my occasionally sporadic efforts to disseminate little known but interesting information to you, this week’s column is about an English short-story writer, poet, and novelist. Most of you are probably familiar with the modern adaptations of some of his works, but you may not know much about the man. Rudyard Kipling was born on Dec. 30, 1865 and lived until Jan. 18, 1936.
His most famous works include “The Jungle Book,” “The Man Who Would Be King,” the novel “Captains Courageous,” and the poem “Gunga Din,” all four of which were made into movies. In 1907, Kipling won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Following his death in 1936 at the age of 70, Kipling was buried in one of the most famous places in England – Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey, London.
One of his lesser known poems, at least in this country, is “The Young British Soldier,” written about Britain’s second war in Afghanistan between 1878 and 1880. The irony and timeliness of this poem obviously made no impression on the development of American foreign policy. Not only were the British driven out of Afghanistan, but so were Soviet forces that fought there between 1979 and 1989. Now, American troops are coming home with honor but without victory after a decade of involvement there, too. One would have thought the lessons of history would not have been ignored by the United States. Apparently not, but I digress.
Kipling, who was a staunch supporter of British imperialism, wrote “The Young British Soldier” in cockney which is a variation of English spoken, generally, by Londoners who live in the east part of the city. So, you’ll almost have to read the following parts of the poem – not all of it – out loud for it to make sense. When Kipling refers to the “East” he means Afghanistan: