Kipling began writing poetry in 1876 at the age of eleven; sixty years later he was forgotten, mistrusted, or despised for his popularity that had begun with Departmental Ditties fifty years earlier. Kipling’s early success led to the Nobel Prize and his rejection of the Order of Merit, to be followed by later obloquy; today he is honestly respected for his short stories but still reluctantly for his verse, in spite of the selection of his poetry edited by T. S. Eliot in 1941. Yet Kipling is remembered most for his poems—“Recessional,” “Gunga Din,” “Mandalay,” “The Land,” “Danny Deever,” “The Mary Gloster’”—and for such quotable lines as these from “The Ladies”:
. . . The Colonel’s Lady and JudyO’GradyAre sisters under their skins!
The inescapable fact remains that if poetry is memorable speech, Kipling had the gift, used it, and was loved for it. He was the latest and the most prolific of the popular poets and perhaps the last in this century. His popularity came from his felicitous handling of the lolloping and hence memorable meters of anapest and dactyl, his wide range of novel, picturesque material, and his clear distinction in each poem between right and wrong. The lack of depth in his perceptions is balanced by the strength of his convictions and emotions. His material gave...
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