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Kipling as a parent
送交者: jingchen 2019年11月17日15:54:07 于 [海 二 代] 发送悄悄话

Kipling as a parent 


Kipling’s first child was born in 1892 in Vermont, where his wife was from. The Jungle Book, his most famous children’s book, was written in 1894. The children’s stories he wrote in this period are mostly lighthearted, a reflection of the mood of a father of young kids.

The poem “if” was written for his son. It was  published in 1910, when Kipling’s son was thirteen years old. If has been voted as the most favorite British poem of all time.  Here is the poem.


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 on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

    And never breathe 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!


Several years later, World War One broke out. Kipling’s son, being near sighted, wasn’t qualified for army. But Kipling, as a renowned writer, used his influence to get his son enlisted. In 1915, his son was killed in battle. My Boy Jackwas his 1916 poem. It was not about his son, whose name was John. But we might find him in the background.


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!

In one of the epitaphs of the war, he wrote, “If you question why we died, because our fathers lied.” Did he include himself among “our fathers”?


After several years, all settled down. In 1925, Kipling wrote a short story, The Gardener. It was about a well-off single woman with her nephew, or illegitimate son. The boy went to war and died.   In the story, Kipling wrote,


At the end of another year she had overcome her physical loathing of the living and returned young, so that she could take them by the hand and almost sincerely wish them well. She had no interest in any aftermath, national or personal, of the war, but, moving at an immense distance, she sat on various relief committees and held strong views - she heard herself delivering them - about the site of the proposed village War Memorial.


This might reflect his own feelings about the loss of his son.


Kipling’s writings at different time reflected his own feelings at different stages of his kids’ development. 


Kipling wrote many great children’s stories. They have been entertaining children generation after generation. However, Kipling himself doesn’t have living descendants. He had three kids. Two died before adulthood. The remaining one didn’t have kids.


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