by George Engle)
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“You say your body is so foul — then here I stand apart,There is also a powerful poem on the love of a man for a leprous woman entitled “The Leper”, in the first series of Swinburne’s Poems and Ballads (1866).
Who yearn to lay my loving head upon your leprous breast.
The leper plague may scale my skin but never taint my heart;
Your body is not foul to me, and body is foul at best.”
‘With the new century…Kipling normally prefaced or followed (sometimes both) his stories when they were collected, with poems, often written quite separately and often themselves in Kipling’s later years more or less painfully obscure. Sometimes this is a happy conjunction, giving extra meaning or clarity to story and poem, sometimes it makes for a crossword-puzzle obscurity…sometimes it produces difficulty…which is surely due to lack of any worthwhile relationship. Occasionally the juxtaposition throws light upon the author as much as upon his work. This is so, I think, with the poem “Rahere” that follows The Wish House.’ Seeing a leper and his woman “each delighting in the other”, Rahere groans again — for, says Wilson, “he sees that passion can endure”—meaning, I think, that he realises that depression, like love, may last indefinitely.In his Rudyard Kipling Andrew Lycett sees “Rahere”, “where love transforms the ‘faceless, fingerless, obscene’ leper into something without ‘blemish’” — read with "The Wish House" — as coming closer than ever to explaining Kipling’s ideas on the complicated relationship between suffering and love.