Source of a quote from Rudyard Kipling. The gist is: "When they ask why the young men died, tell them that the old men lied."

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The quote you reference reflects some of Kipling's most powerful work.  The actual quote reads: "If any question why we died, Tell them, because our fathers lied."  The quotation comes from a collection of writings Kipling produced regarding World War I, called "Epitaphs of the War."  The quotation comes from a couplet entitled, "Common Form."  Kipling, himself, had personal connection to the World War I conflict that gave rise to the work.  His son, John, had failed the medical physical, deeming him unable to fight for Britain in the war.  Kipling, at that time, was perched at a summit of popularity.  He used his influence to have his son enlisted.  Some time later, Kipling finds out that his son had been killed and felt tremendous pain at having brought death to his son.  The lines speak to this as his father's lie about the nobility of war led to his son's death.  It is a unique couplet because it seems like Kipling, in these two lines, moves away from his Victorian reputation and moves into the realm of the Modernist disenchantment that resulted from the First World War.

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Rudyard Kipling: A Life

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