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Kim's Occasional Journal - November 12th, 2006

Nov. 12th, 2006 07:13 pm In honour of Armistice Day

The Children
by Rudyard Kipling*, 1917

These were our children who died for our lands; they were dear in our sight.
We have only the memory left of their home-treasured sayings and laughter.
The price of our loss shall be paid to our hands, not another's hereafter.
Neither the Alien** nor Priest shall decide on it. That is our right.
But who shall return us the children?

At the hour the Barbarian chose to disclose his pretences,
And raged against Man, they engaged, on the breasts that they bared for us,
The first felon-stroke of the sword he had long-time prepared for us -
Their bodies were all our defence while we wrought our defences.

They bought us anew with their blood, forbearing to blame us,
Those hours which we had not made good when the Judgment o'ercame us.
They believed us and perished for it. Our statecraft, our learning
Delivered them bound to the Pit and alive to the burning
Whither they mirthfully hastened as jostling for honour -
Not since her birth has the Earth seen such worth loosed upon her.

Nor was their agony brief, or once only imposed on them.
The wounded, the war-spent, the sick received no exemption
Being cured they returned and endured and achieved our redemption,
Hopeless themselves of relief, till Death, marvelling, closed on them.

That flesh we had nursed from the first in all cleanness was given
To corruption unveiled and assailed by the malice of Heaven -
By the heart-shaking jests of Decay where it lolled on the wires -
To be blanched or gay-painted by fumes - to be cindered by fires -
To be senselessly tossed and retossed in stale mutilation
From crater to crater. For this we shall take expiation.
But who shall return us the children?

And the hell with Ekklesia - I'll wear my poppy blood-red, as they grew and still grow on the battlefields of France and elsewhere where unnamed and unnumbered bodies lie. I have worn the Peace Pledge Union's white poppy and will again, but not this year.

* Kipling lost his only son in the Great War.
** I think this is a reference to 'Alienist', which is what psychoanalysts were called in the 1920s.

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