First published in Debits and Credits as an introduction to the story “The Janeites” .
Like “To the Companions”, this is another of Kipling’s poems in imitation of the Roman poet Horace. In the accompanying story, an ex-soldier tells how important Jane Austen’s works were to a group of men serving on the Western front in World War I. It illustrates the fact that her lasting reputation is due to her lifelike portraits of everyday characters, their lives, and their relationships. This poem is full of allusions (with interesting variations) to Horace: see below.
A critical opinion
Desmond McCarthy, writing as “Affable Hawk” in the New Statesman, 6th October 1926, p. 15, quoted the poem in full:
“because it is the expression of an imaginative sense of proportion which is characteristic of the author, though critics who consider him first and foremost as a bard of Empire overlook that fact.”
Notes on the Text
[Stanza 1] Kings mourn … foretold: This might be compared with Horace, Odes Book IV, 9, lines 25ff:
“Vixere fortes ante Agamemnona
multi; sed omnes illacrimabiles
urgentur ignotique longa
nocte, carent quia vate sacro.”
(“There lived many brave men before Agamenon,
but they are all buried unwept and unknown in long night,
because they lack a holy poet.”)
[Syanza 3] Yet furthest …seaweed on the shore: Carrington in Kipling’s Horace (page 107) compares these lines to Odes Book III, 17, “Aeli vetusta”: e.g.:
“alga litus inutili
demissa tempestas ab Euro
(“the storm sent down by the East wind
shall strew the beach with useless seaweed.”)
[[Stanza 4] A rage ’gainst love or death: This would suit many of Horace’s odes.
[Stanza 5] Glazed snow … But these: Carrington (p. 107) compares this verse to Odes I, 9, “Vides ut alta.” But cf. also Odes III, 10, lines 7-8:
“positas ut glaciet nives
puro numine Iuppiter …”
(“how Jupiter ices the fallen snows
with his unclouded divinity.”)
Kipling parodied this ode in the margin of his copy of Horace [Carrington, p. 19].
[Stanza 5] -The surge of storm-bound trees: Cf. Odes I, 9:
nec veteres agitantur orni”.
(“neither the cypresses
nor the ancient ash trees are tossed.”)
[Stanza 6] Endure while Empires fall Kipling is thinking of Horace’s claim in Odes 3.30 that his poems will last as long as Rome.
usque ego postera
crescam laude recens, dum Capitolium
scandet cum tacita virgine pontifex.
I shall still grow, renewed in the praise of later ages,
as long as the priest shall climb the Capitoline Hill with the silent virgin.
Of course, Horace has in fact outlasted the pagan Rome he describes here. [D.H.[
©Lisa Lewis, Susan Treggiari 2005 All rights reserved