Sunday, 11 November 2012

My Boy Jack

Rudyard Kipling has been one of my favourite authors for a very long time, and on this Armistice Day I would like to share his poem MY BOY JACK with my regular blog readers.
Have you news of my boy Jack?
Not this tide.
When d’you think that he’ll come back?
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

Has any one else had word of him?
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind —
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.

Then hold your head up all the more,
This tide,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide!
With his father's enthusiastic encouragement, John Kipling (who was usually called Jack by his family) joined the 2nd Battalion, Irish Guards despite having such poor eyesight that he could have been exempted from military service. He was killed at the Battle of Loos in September 1915, and Rudyard Kipling was grief-stricken for the rest of his life.

Rudyard Kipling subsequently acted as literary adviser to the Imperial War Graves Commission (now the Commonwealth War Graves Commission), and devised the inscription 'Their Name Liveth For Evermore' on cemetery memorial stones and 'Known unto God' on the gravestones of those soldiers who bodies could not be identified.

This last must have been particularly poignant for Kipling as his own son's body was never identified.

10 comments:

  1. Always think of the sadness of this story. A country caught up in the tide of war, ignorant of the reality that modern warfare now was. A son reluctant to go - and who need not have gone but didn't want to let himself down in his fathers' eyes.

    And who died.


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  2. Phil Broeders,

    It is a very sad story ... and it is not untypical of the many stories one reads from both sides of the conflict.

    It seemed worth retelling today of all days.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  3. Its a sad story repeated so many times across so many families. No wonder the 'Great War' had such an impact on society after the war...its just a pity the seeds of another great war were sown at the close of the first.

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  4. Lee Hadley,

    There are some historians who argue that the Second World War was merely a continuation of the First, and that there was far too much 'unfinished business' that the Treaties that ended the First World War failed to deal with. This failure ensured that the conflict would erupt again at some time in the future.

    As George Santayana wrote 'Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.'

    This is as true today as it was when he wrote it back in 1905.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  5. Poor old Rudyard Kipling. How this loss must have turned everything to ashes.

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  6. Prufrock,

    The loss of his son affected everything that he wrote from 1915 onwards, including his history of the Irish Guards and some of his lesser-known - but very powerful - short stories and poetry.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  7. Angry Lurker,

    It is a very sad story for a very sad day.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  8. Thank you Bob. It's a very sad story. The loss, unbearable. And just one loss among so many. Thank you for sharing it.

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  9. Sidney Roundwood,

    To say it was a pleasure somehow sounds wrong ... but it did get the sort of response I had hoped for.

    A very sad story, that was repeated too many times in too many homes for comfort.

    All the best,

    Bob

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