Epitaph for a War

Rudyard Kipling was a great fool and a great poet. He was a blustery war-booster who stupidly pushed his sight-impared son off to join the Irish Guards during World War I, a move that insured the young boy’s death. Yet Kipling also wrote the best short poems about that War, his “Epitaphs of the War”. One epitaph brought together Kipling’s folly with his talent: 

‘If any question why we died,
Tell them, because our fathers lied.’

4 thoughts on “Epitaph for a War

  1. This poem brought together Kipling’s folly, Kipling’s talent and Kipling’s heartbreak over a real child lost. You need to see all three sides to appreciate his writing, and too many dismiss the lost child as irrelevant. But he accepted real sacrifice as part of his world view, and lived with and dealt with that theoretical challenge when it became utterly real and relevant and painfully actual. I don’t accept denegrating him by diminishing his actual sacrifice because his whacky politics led him towards the sacrifice. The sacrifice was still utterly and painfully real, and foreseen when he set the wheels in motion.

  2. Sab,
    What you say is fair enough, and Kipling’s sorrow at the loss of his son (hauntingly recorded in one of Kipling’s finest short stories) needs to be acknowledged. Still, we should remember the true victim here was John Kipling, killed before entering manhood.

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