First published in The Times on 24th October 1918 and on 26th October in the New York Times and in various other newspapers in the United Kingdom and United States. Collected in:
- The Years Between (1919)
- Inclusive Verse (1919)
- Definitive Verse (1940)
- The Sussex Edition vol, 33 p. 383
- The Burwash Edition vol 26
- The Cambridge Edition (2013) Ed. Pinney
The poem was written during the final days of the Great War when it was clear that Germany would soon be finally defeated. It expresses Kipling’s deeply felt conviction that justice should be done on Germany for launching and waging the appalling conflict, which had cost so many lives and inflicted so much suffering.
A critical comment
Peter Keating writes:
In the following year, Kipling would use “Justice” as the concluding poem of The Years Between. In it, Kipling assumes that the war is all but over, Germany’s “hour is past”, “Evil Incarnate” has finally been restrained and must now “answer to mankind”. But he is reluctant to welcome the final act that will “loose the word/ that bids new worlds to birth”.
Justice is more important than peace, justice for the sons who have died, and for those who will have to live with the peace terms. Before there can be a just peace, the Germans must “relearn the Law”, and conditions in Germany must be such that never again can its “schools” or “priests” or “Kings” build “a people with the hearts of beasts”. For Kipling, that point had not yet been reached: Germany, he believed, was essentially unchanged by the war.
©John Radcliffe 2021 All Rights Reserved.