Sunday, 25 March 2012

Rudyard Kipling

RUDYARD KIPLING was born in Bombay on December 30th 1865, son of John Lockwood Kipling, an artist and teacher of architectural sculpture, and his wife Alice. His mother was one of the talented and beautiful Macdonald sisters, four of whom married remarkable men, Sir Edward Burne-Jones, Sir Edward Poynter, Alfred Baldwin, and John Lockwood Kipling himself.

He travelled extensively, but eventually settled at Batemans, near Burwash in Sussex. And I think this is why his poems speak to me so much. Although many of his books are based upon his early life in India, a lot of his poems speak of life as it was in Southern England, and, as such, I can identify with them. From his 'A Smuggler's Song', which I used to sing a setting of with the school choir:

If you wake at midnight, and hear a horse's feet,
Don't go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street.
Them that ask no questions isn't told a lie.
Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!
Five and twenty ponies,
Trotting through the dark --
Brandy for the Parson,
'Baccy for the Clerk;
Laces for a lady, letters for a spy,
And watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!

Running round the woodlump if you chance to find
Little barrels, roped and tarred, all full of brandy-wine,
Don't you shout to come and look, nor use 'em for your play.
Put the brishwood back again -- and they'll be gone next day!

If you see the stable-door setting open wide;
If you see a tired horse lying down inside;
If your mother mends a coat cut about and tore;
If the lining's wet and warm -- don't you ask no more!

If you meet King George's men, dressed in blue and red,
You be carefull what you say, and mindful what is said.
If they call you "pretty maid," and chuck you 'neath the chin,
Don't you tell where no one is, nor yet where no one's been!

Knocks and footsteps round the house -- whistles after dark --
You've no call for running out till the house-dogs bark.
Trusty's here, and Pincher's here, and see how dumb they lie --
They don't fret to follow when the Gentlemen go by!

If you do as you've been told, 'likely there's a chance,
You'll be given a dainty doll, all the way from France,
With a cap of Valenciennes, and a velvet hood --
A present from the Gentlemen, along o' being good!
Five and twenty ponies,
Trotting through the dark --
Brandy for the Parson,
'Baccy for the Clerk;
Them that asks no questions isn't told a lie --
Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!

Reminds me that I live in a part of Kent notorious for smuggling, and, indeed, had an ancester who was transported for smuggling, and another executed for murder during a smuggling adventure.

To the one I probably like best, 'The Way Through The Woods':

They shut the road through the woods
Seventy years ago.
Weather and rain have undone it again,
And now you would never know
There was once a road through the woods
Before they planted the trees.
It is underneath the coppice and heath,
And the thin anemones.
Only the keeper sees
That, where the ring-dove broods,
And the badgers roll at ease,
There was once a road through the woods.

Yet, if you enter the woods
Of a summer evening late,
When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools
Where the otter whistles his mate.
(They fear not men in the woods,
Because they see so few)
You will hear the beat of a horse's feet,
And the swish of a skirt in the dew,
Steadily cantering through
The misty solitudes,
As though they perfectly knew
The old lost road through the woods. . . .
But there is no road through the woods.

When I was young, there was an old road leading to Lympne Castle and church, disused and unloved, except by the odd tractor from the Castle Farm, it was gradually returning to nature.
It has since been cleaned up and partially re-opened. I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing, as I used to love the peace and tranquility of it.

Which reminds me, my son and the lovely Brooke are to be married in 3 weeks' time. Rene promised Brooke a fairytale wedding in an English castle - just what every American girl dreams of.
Well, they went off looking at castle venues, and eventually settling on Lympne (which actually isn't a castle, but a castellated palace, but that's another tale), not realising that it was where I grew up, and where I met my husband.

Small world, ain't it?

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