More Kipling on Gun Control and Other Matters:

Dave's post reminded me of an excerpt from Kipling's The Old Issue; Kipling is warning of what may happen if The Old King (the old absolutist monarch) returns. It's a great summary, I think, of a certain libertarian-conservative constitutionalism -- think, in U.S. terms, of the First (speech), Second, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments (due process), plus concerns about the surveillance state, high taxation, and interference with judicial independence -- with a dollop of slippery slope talk thrown in:

All we have of freedom, all we use or know --
This our fathers bought for us long and long ago.

Ancient Right unnoticed as the breath we draw --
Leave to live by no man's leave, underneath the Law.

Lance and torch and tumult, steel and grey-goose wing
Wrenched it, inch and ell and all, slowly from the King.

Till our fathers 'stablished, after bloody years,
How our King is one with us, first among his peers.

So they bought us freedom -- not at little cost
Wherefore must we watch the King, lest our gain be lost,

Over all things certain, this is sure indeed,
Suffer not the old King: for we know the breed.

Give no ear to bondsmen bidding us endure.
Whining "He is weak and far"; crying "Time shall cure.",

(Time himself is witness, till the battle joins,
Deeper strikes the rottenness in the people's loins.) . . .

Here is naught unproven -- here is naught to learn.
It is written what shall fall if the King return.

He shall mark our goings, question whence we came,
Set his guards about us, as in Freedom's name.

He shall take a tribute, toll of all our ware;
He shall change our gold for arms -- arms we may not bear.

He shall break his judges if they cross his word;
He shall rule above the Law calling on the Lord.

He shall peep and mutter; and the night shall bring
Watchers 'neath our window, lest we mock the King --

Hate and all division; hosts of hurrying spies;
Money poured in secret, carrion breeding flies.

Strangers of his counsel, hirelings of his pay,
These shall deal our Justice: sell -- deny -- delay.

We shall drink dishonour, we shall eat abuse
For the Land we look to -- for the Tongue we use.

We shall take our station, dirt beneath his feet,
While his hired captains jeer us in the street.

Cruel in the shadow, crafty in the sun,
Far beyond his borders shall his teachings run.

Sloven, sullen, savage, secret, uncontrolled,
Laying on a new land evil of the old --

Long-forgotten bondage, dwarfing heart and brain --
All our fathers died to loose he shall bind again.

At the same time, whenever I quote Kipling's more libertarian words, I also have to recall his more communitarian ones, from The Law of the Jungle (special bonus for law geeks -- Chevron deference included!):
Now this is the Law of the Jungle -- as old and as true as the sky;
And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die.

As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the Law runneth forward and back --
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack. . . .

Because of his age and his cunning, because of his gripe and his paw,
In all that the Law leaveth open, the word of the Head Wolf is Law.

Now these are the Laws of the jungle, and many and mighty are they;
But the head and the hoof of the Law and the haunch and the hump is -- Obey!

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. More Kipling on Gun Control and Other Matters:
  2. Rudyard Kipling on Gun Control
mark h (mail):
The first excerpt from Kipling reminds me of 1 Samuel 8, where the people of Israel demand a king to be appointed over them and the prophet Samuel issues this warning:

"11 He said, "These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; 12 and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. 15 He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. 16 He will take your menservants and maidservants, and the best of your cattle and your asses, and put them to his work. 17 He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18 And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves...."
11.18.2005 1:24pm
LizardBreath (mail):
He shall break his judges if they cross his word;
He shall rule above the Law calling on the Lord.

Interesting to see Kipling taking this position on the judiciary as an important restraint on the power of the executive.
11.18.2005 2:33pm
D Lacey (mail):
I think the two quotes are saying the same thing, overall. Section two (the wolves) says that instinct sets things up for absolute rule by a pack leader over a fairly small group. Section one says human beings fought their way free of this at great cost and we ought to be vigilant lest the law of the jungle find its way back into our lives to our detriment.
11.18.2005 2:37pm
While we're on Kipling, one of my favorites has always been the warning against appeasement:


IT IS always a temptation to an armed and agile nation
To call upon a neighbour and to say: --
"We invaded you last night -- we are quite prepared to fight,
Unless you pay us cash to go away."

And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
And the people who ask it explain
That you've only to pay 'em the Dane-geld
And then you'll get rid of the Dane!

It is always a temptation for a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say: --
"Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
We will therefore pay you cash to go away."

And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we've proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane.
11.18.2005 2:45pm
Gary McGath (www):
And let's not forget "McDonough's Song" (quoted from memory):

Whatsoever for any cause,
Causeth to take or give
Power above and beyond the laws,
Order the guns and kill!
Holy State or Holy King
Or Holy People's Will --
Have no truck with the senseless thing;
Order the guns and kill!
11.18.2005 3:02pm
Gary McGath (www):
Sorry, third line above should be "Suffer it not to live!"
11.18.2005 3:03pm
Thief (mail) (www):
My all-time favorite is "If" Lots of advice for politicians in this one:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!
11.18.2005 3:46pm
Kipling's noble (and they are) sentiments aside, the Brits only moved sovereignty from the Throne to the State. The British people themselves were never free, they just had permission to act that way for a while.
11.18.2005 5:33pm
Anon7 (mail):
An while we are praising Kipling, let's also praise his notion that it is the "White Man's Burden" to conquer and forcibly civilize all the dark-skinned peoples of the world.

Take up the White Man's burden--
Send forth the best ye breed--
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild--
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.
11.18.2005 5:47pm
Bart Motes (mail):
I don't think Kipling quite endorsed the White Man's Burden, but it illustrates the danger of trying to find validation for one's political philosophy in poetry. Kipling, who soured on imperalism later in life, also had this to say:


'Ave you 'eard o' the Widow at Windsor
With a hairy gold crown on 'er 'ead?
She 'as ships on the foam -- she 'as millions at 'ome,
An' she pays us poor beggars in red.
(Ow, poor beggars in red!)
There's 'er nick on the cavalry 'orses,
There's 'er mark on the medical stores --
An' 'er troopers you'll find with a fair wind be'ind
That takes us to various wars.
(Poor beggars! -- barbarious wars!)
Then 'ere's to the Widow at Windsor,
An' 'ere's to the stores an' the guns,
The men an' the 'orses what makes up the forces
O' Missis Victorier's sons.
(Poor beggars! Victorier's sons!)

Walk wide o' the Widow at Windsor,
For 'alf o' Creation she owns:
We 'ave bought 'er the same with the sword an' the flame,
An' we've salted it down with our bones.
(Poor beggars! -- it's blue with our bones!)
Hands off o' the sons o' the Widow,
Hands off o' the goods in 'er shop,
For the Kings must come down an' the Emperors frown
When the Widow at Windsor says "Stop"!
(Poor beggars! -- we're sent to say "Stop"!)
Then 'ere's to the Lodge o' the Widow,
From the Pole to the Tropics it runs --
To the Lodge that we tile with the rank an' the file,
An' open in form with the guns.
(Poor beggars! -- it's always they guns!)

We 'ave 'eard o' the Widow at Windsor,
It's safest to let 'er alone:
For 'er sentries we stand by the sea an' the land
Wherever the bugles are blown.
(Poor beggars! -- an' don't we get blown!)
Take 'old o' the Wings o' the Mornin',
An' flop round the earth till you're dead;
But you won't get away from the tune that they play
To the bloomin' old rag over'ead.
(Poor beggars! -- it's 'ot over'ead!)
Then 'ere's to the sons o' the Widow,
Wherever, 'owever they roam.
'Ere's all they desire, an' if they require
A speedy return to their 'ome.
(Poor beggars! -- they'll never see 'ome!)

I suppose Kipling and Congressman Murtha were on the same page. And conversely, should we disregard the beauty of fascist Ezra Pound's poetry?:

There died a myriad,
And of the best, among them,
For an old bitch gone in the teeth,
For a botched civilization.
11.18.2005 6:09pm
Visitor Again:
And do not overlook this from the man so many of you revere, particularly since it describes so well the attitude behind recent foreign ventures with more promised:

The White Man's Burden
By Rudyard Kipling
McClure's Magazine 12 (Feb. 1899).

Take up the White Man's burden--
Send forth the best ye breed--
Go, bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait, in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild--
Your new-caught sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child.

Take up the White Man's burden--
In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
An hundred times made plain,
To seek another's profit
And work another's gain.

Take up the White Man's burden--
The savage wars of peace--
Fill full the mouth of Famine,
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
(The end for others sought)
Watch sloth and heathen folly
Bring all your hope to nought.

Take up the White Man's burden--
No iron rule of kings,
But toil of serf and sweeper--
The tale of common things.
The ports ye shall not enter,
The roads ye shall not tread,
Go, make them with your living
And mark them with your dead.

Take up the White Man's burden,
And reap his old reward--
The blame of those ye better
The hate of those ye guard--
The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah, slowly!) toward the light:--
"Why brought ye us from bondage,
Our loved Egyptian night?"

Take up the White Man's burden--
Ye dare not stoop to less--
Nor call too loud on Freedom
To cloak your weariness.
By all ye will or whisper,
By all ye leave or do,
The silent sullen peoples
Shall weigh your God and you.

Take up the White Man's burden!
Have done with childish days--
The lightly-proffered laurel,
The easy ungrudged praise:
Comes now, to search your manhood
Through all the thankless years,
Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom,
The judgment of your peers
11.18.2005 8:11pm
Gabriel (mail) (www):
The first thing that struck me about the poem is just how vociferously whiggish it is- and I should say that the theme of the "Old King" almost surely draws on the whig myths of the Jacobite zeal for absolute power.
11.18.2005 10:32pm
D.Fox (mail):
Kipling's Law of the Jungle may not be wholly "libertarian," but it does come complete with its own version of the Fourth Amendment:

The Lair of the Wolf is his refuge, and where he has made him his home,
Not even the Head Wolf may enter, not even the Council may come.

I think I hear a faint echo of William Pitt there. . .
11.18.2005 10:46pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):

At the same time, whenever I quote Kipling's more libertarian words, I also have to recall his more communitarian ones, from The Law of the Jungle

The Old King is libertarian because it discusses humans. The Law of the Jungle is communitarian because it discusses wolves who are pack beasts. Different arrangements for different species.

You remember the problems the CCCP had with mixing social arrangements meant for different species?
11.18.2005 10:52pm
markm (mail):
"The White Man's Burden", is double-edged. As I understand it, it was addressed to the USA when Congress decided to hang onto most of the island territories just wrested from Spanish imperialism, setting only Cuba free. We suddenly had a colonial empire, including Puerto Rico, the Phillipines, and a number of smaller islands in the Pacific. In just a few years we'd be involved a nasty guerrilla war in the Phillipines. Kipling rather ironically welcomed the new imperialists - and straightforwardly warned of the costs:

"Send forth the best ye breed--
Go, bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need"
"Go, make them with your living
And mark them with your dead."
11.19.2005 12:34pm
civil truth (mail):
Robert W. Service wrote The Law of the Yukon. I wonder which poem came first, or whether the two came up with very similar poems by coincidence. I'll quote the first and last lines:

This is the law of the Yukon, and ever she makes it plain:
"Send not your foolish and feeble; send me your strong and your sane -- [...]

This is the Law of the Yukon, that only the Strong shall thrive;
That surely the Weak shall perish, and only the Fit survive.
Dissolute, damned and despairful, crippled and palsied and slain,
This is the Will of the Yukon, -- Lo, how she makes it plain!
11.19.2005 8:00pm
LINO_watcher (mail) (www):

Of course you have to make sure you're not claiming that something genuinely owed is "Dane Geld" to attempt to swindle one's way out of an obligation.

Good thing that most scandinavians, germans, et. al. these days are pretty laid back and tolerant people, ancient history nonwithstanding. Other ethnicities, cultures, national origins, etc. might act like petulant children if you were to cast negative aspersions on their culture and approach to commerce using certain references from literature and history.
11.20.2005 8:02am