March 14, 2018
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[the White Man’s burden]
Another well-known expression we can point to and say, with some discomfort in the present instance, “Here’s where it started.” When we hear the expression today, we tend to think of unapologetic ethno- and Euro-centrism, and the effort to ennoble and dignify colonial oppression. That sort of rhetoric was indeed pervasive in England in the 19th century. But in the present poem there is a bitterness about the whole concept of colonial expansion that suggests Kipling is at best ambivalent about the enterprise. The bitterness seems grounded not so much in the wrongness of the activity as in Kipling’s sense of its futility–that the nation was investing so much of its manpower (“Go bind your sons to exile”) in a thankless and unrealistic task. Within his attitude we can see an erosion of the themes of struggle and fortitutude, and of the doctrine of the imperfect. In earlier writers those qualities and attitudes were represented as redemptive, but in Kipling’s assessment of colonial expansion perseverence in adversity has a kind of absurdity associated with it.
Catt: Stanza 4 mostly:
Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)
Danny Deever shooting someone sleeping reminds me of Bobby Gentry’s song, Ode to Billy Joe. Looking from various perspectives, we have Files on Parade as one, Colour Sargeant as two, Danny as three, the one shot as four, 900 other soldiers in the regiment as five, his family back home as six, and there is nothing mentioned of a girl. Since this is a regiment, it is a, “permanent unit of an army typically commanded by a colonel and divided into several companies, squadrons, or batteries and often into two battalions” (google dictionary).
The 900 are not necessarily watching him hang, but only those in his own company. Since these men live together, close enough to kill each other in their sleep, the chances of the others, such as Files on Parade, knowing why Danny Deever killed his fellow soldier in his sleep are very high.
It is odd that Files on Parade is asking about what is happening, as if the soldiers in the company aren’t aware of what is going on, and it shows a lack of control on the part of the soldier. The Files on Parade has no control over what is happening to Danny Deever and the Colour-Sergeant seems to have no control either. There are people hanging Danny, someone or a group of men had to have had the decision to make about him, about what would happen to him. He was not arrested and sent to prison in his home country, but the Army is taking care of this themselves.
Reading this without taking into consideration the author, I’m looking at the wording and wondering about the regional method used. It seems to be an attempt at southern black slang speech, but a failed attempt. Is it possible that Kipling was attempting to make a poem about Danny being hung in America, in the North, during the civil war? 1861 Lincoln became president and the civil war began, four years before Kipling was born. He’s in India, so this is most likely about India. I suspect the soldier killed another soldier for bullying, possibly raping him. But, Kipling doesn’t tell us that. Also, how do we know he really did kill the soldier in his sleep and isn’t being framed for it? We don’t know much, except that Danny Deever is being hung and his fellow soldiers know nothing about it, the Sargeant speaking might not be Danny’s Sargeant. I’ll look some things up and see what I find about regiments, etc. Googling, “Danny Deever,” not much comes up, so far as analysis.
I don’t usually use Wikipedia for this type of thing, but they are the only one that touched on the subject of which war Kipling was referring to in this poem. So, the poem is about a british soldier in India and the colour sergeant is an India Indian. Wikipedia also says that Files-on-Parade suggests a group, but then goes on to call Files-on-Parade a young soldier. It says that the region for voice is vernacular English. The nine hundred was not just the number of men in the army, but was indeed how many men were typically in a “Battalion,” in India, so 900 men did watch Danny Deever’s die. The Wikipedia is saying that Kipling did use an actual regional voice for his poem. In American writing, during this time period, Twain, Chestnutt and Chopin were using this regional method to give their characters more depth.
Wikipedia points to Barrack-Room Ballads too. Files-on-Parade, it is suggested, is many men and that each line is a different young male soldier asking the sergeant about what is going on.
These are interesting techniques that Kipling is using and he doesn’t explain it in his poem and it’s not obvious.
Widow at Windsor is of course, Queen Victoria, which Kipling obviously sees as a tyrant that he has no way protecting himself from, except to stay away from her, her sons, the whole lot of her people in her service. He talks about her lack of care with her own soldiers, that they will never see home and he shows, without telling, that she doesn’t care about anybody, not them, not her sons, nobody. She‘s evil in this poem. He depicts her like a piece of machinery that is crushing men without concern for them, just using them. Like a wood chopper, something to steer clear of when in use, only she’s a wood chopper that sucks soldiers in and has them killed without anyone controlling her.
Now to look it up and find out what’s really going on.
The Kipling society believes this poem has masonic references and that Kipling was part of the masonic order.
After reading what they say, the poem continues to resonate with a feeling of lack of control and now I’ll add a lack of privacy, that he and others must have felt at this time in history. He seems to drink in his surroundings and everything happening in his world, around him, deeply and then writes about it, the whole time keeping in mind that those in power might not like what he has to say, so he says it in a way that wouldn’t get him killed, I suppose. Either that or he doesn’t think they will see what he wrote. I’m not sure. The masonic information is way over my head.
I can clearly see that Kipling puts a lot of stress and passion into being a man. I wouldn’t exactly call this a bad thing always, he is promoting a loving sense of self-confidence. I might also consider this a type of toxic masculinity that leads to anxiety in men. But I’m trying to see the lighter side of where Kipling is trying to encourage keeping your sense of self while being surrounded by masses of people who seem content to follow the crowd.
As I was reading through this poem, I kept wondering who widowed this woman/what the circumstances were, and on that line of inquiry I remembered the line “With a hairy gold crown on ‘er ‘ead?” and it made me think that she’s a queen, having inherited a ruling of some kind from this widow-husband. Perhaps the crown is hairy because it wasn’t meant to be worn by a woman. Until modern times, being widowed put you in a very unfavorable position, unable to provide for yourself and your family. However, a royal widow could be a different circumstance, and this hairy gold crown, and the widow being at Windsor, which is the name of the English royal house allude to her being just that.
During the Imperial Colonial English period, there were many people, both among the commons and the genteel classes, that were in the military, quite unlike the U.S. today. The barracks vernacular would be common parlance for the many who took the Queens Shilling (signing up), plus those that read the popular literature of the time. In 1880, according to the wonders of Wikipedia, the English Army was 248,000 men, from a population of 24 million, so roughly one man out of every 50 men were in the Army (if my maths skills didn’t fail me) at any one time, plus retirees and such. As for the death penalty, it could be given for such things as striking an officer, but often just reserved for the usual capital crimes.
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March 20, 2018 at 2:08 pm
See in context
March 20, 2018 at 11:07 am
March 19, 2018 at 5:04 pm
March 14, 2018 at 7:38 pm
March 14, 2018 at 7:18 pm
March 14, 2018 at 6:37 pm
April 27, 2018 at 2:08 pm
This poem emphasizes the cyclical qualities of life. This stanza acknowledges the transition from the innocence of youth into a complicated older society. It demonstrates how happiness and youth are fleeting. In the previous stanza we are told about a carefree old man. He demonstrates how in our old age we might return to the same wonderous joy of youth. Although the elderly might posess this same happy disposition, the still carry wisdom and pain with the memories of a complicated life. Many reminisce about the simplicity of being a young girl or boy where everything is exciting and new. It takes a realist perspective where, “The sun does descend,/And our sports have an end.” This poem demonstrates how neither happiness nor sorrow are permanent afflictions. The cycle continues with no true end in sight.
April 27, 2018 at 1:58 pm
In the final stanza we see that, while the narrator doesn’t truly move to the Lake Isle of Innisfree, he takes the isle with him in his thoughts, memory, and temperament. He is expressing how he will take refuge in his memory of the isle in order to live amongst society while embracing a feeling of peace and connection with nature. Even, “While [he stands] on the roadway, or on the pavements grey”, he is able to connect with the Isle in his , “deep heart’s core” and in his soul. This is a form of escapism, while he still allows himself to be somewhat entrapped by a materialistic society. He gives in to most social conventions while holding on to romantic ideals.
April 27, 2018 at 1:48 pm
This poem reminds me of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. The narrator desires to escape from society by living alone in nature. This is likely in response to an increasingly industrialized society. He glorifies nature and it’s peaceful qualities by describing the Lake of Innisfree with a natural supernaturalist perspective. This sort of ideal is expressed often throughout the arts and can be described as a romantic perspective.
April 26, 2018 at 1:51 pm
The final stanza in Dover beach is provoking in that Arnold speaks to lover about a dark and unhappy world. His is a realists perspective, likely in light of a declining faith in humanity and religion. This is a time, “Where ignorant armies clash by night”. In the dawn of industrialization conflict seems prevalent as society becomes materialistic. At this time society was fighting unaware over materialistic, and capitalistic reasons. Arnold has lost faith in humanity and struggles to move past, “The eternal note of sadness”. His is a romantic perspective where he looks at war, materialism, industrialization, and capitalism, as a true decline in humanity with no end in sight.
April 24, 2018 at 11:45 am
This poem exemplifies the transcendent ideals of writers in this period. “I’m happiest when most away” followed by, “I can bear my soul from its home of clay” suggests that the author finds happiness in spirit. She desires a freedom that comes with escaping the physical world before her. The, “home of clay” she speaks of is likely her physical body. In some religions a deity creates humans with clay. This poem is likely demonstrating escapism where the author would enjoy escaping reality if only in spirit. This is likely a response to industrialization which tends to strengthen attachment to the physical/material aspects of society.
April 24, 2018 at 12:13 am
Yes, definitely hearing your lover tell you they love you while meaning it is beautiful to the soul. Sometimes, though, feeling it is more important. The passionate intensity throughout the whole poem shows that she does need to hear it more than feel it. It soothes the soul to hear your lover telling you how they love you.
April 24, 2018 at 12:02 am
The forbidden fruit is indeed strong throughout the whole of the poem, I wholeheartedly agree. It seems that Laura is full of curiosity, but is that on the whole wrong? I think Lizzie’s warnings are what made Laura curious; a lot like the parent telling the teenager not to do something which in tern makes the teenager even MORE inclined to do it.
April 23, 2018 at 10:54 pm
This whole poem brings to mind an ending, as in a changing of the season; possibly a spring straight into winter. There is a loss and isolation feel to it, especially at the mention of Danae. I do love winter and I know now everyone does, which is why to me this feels like he’s writing about an ending of a beautiful spring.
April 23, 2018 at 9:52 pm
There are two phrases that stand out to me in this: train-oil breath and petitionary growl. I have no idea why, but the first thing that came to my mind is world weariness. Carlyle is excellently descriptive about this Hyperborean Bear, this Russian Smuggler. Carlyle is trying to explain to him that he is absolutely not interested and who can blame him? It’s only after he shows the Russian his pistols that the Russian backs off. An everlasting no? If the pistols hadn’t dissuaded him, Carlyle might have been involved in a Duel, which is not something he wanted.
April 23, 2018 at 8:54 pm
I, too, thought war when I read this. The hope he shows until the stanza you mentioned was palpable, but so is his despair.
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