Our venerable Hodder and Stoughton hard-cover ‘inclusive edition’ of Rudyard Kipling’s verse (1885-1918) sits proudly in our poetry bookcase.
We understand that his fatherly riff, “If – ” written 4 years before a war that would devastate two generations, and lose Kipling his only son, has been scrawled-out at Manchester University (yes, Manchester – home of the Enlightenment). The Student’s Union has taken a stand. “We, as an exec team, believe that Kipling stands for the opposite of liberation, empowerment, and human rights – the things that we, as an SU, stand for,” Miss Sara Khan, the union’s liberation and access officer, said.
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!
Kipling, here and so often elsewhere, is gloriously misunderstood by the likes of the Manchester Student’s Union, which appears to be a collective of life-hating tyrants. As Orwell remarked of the seizing of Kipling’s work out of context, such sport “is always good for a snigger in pansy-left circles.”
Snowflakes are blind, and when confronting terra firma, tend to dissolve.