What happens in the poem "The Verdicts" by Rudyard Kipling?

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Kipling's poem "The Verdicts," written in 1916, implies that the bravery of the British soldiers of World War I will not be fully appreciated until years later. Kipling, one of the most ardent British imperialists in literature and a staunch British patriot in World War I, states that the people living in his day and age are too "close to appreciate" the heroism of the British soldier fighting in the Great War. When Kipling mentions "men returned from the seas," he could either be referring to soldiers returning home from war or dead soldiers returning home for interment. Kipling lost his only son in 1915 at the Battle of Loos; his son was probably on his mind as he wrote this poem. The last line of the poem mentions the soldiers as being the "saviors of mankind." This reflects Kipling's notion that history will see that the soldiers of World War I will be appreciated as the ones who saved civilization. While history has not judged the war to be a struggle for the future of civilization, Kipling, writing in 1916, thinks that this will be history's judgment.

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In Rudyard Kipling's short poem "The Verdicts," published in 1916, the speaker describes how the men in a particular battle between Britain and Germany are heroes who have saved the British way of life and yet aren't recognized or appreciated (due to a lack of historical perspective).

The speaker's tone is wistful, patriotic, grand, and (as I think most readers would agree) overblown.

For more information about the battle, the controversy over who won, and how it affected the outcome of the war, please refer to this discussion from The Kipling Society.

Here's a breakdown of what happens in the poem, stanza by stanza:

Stanza 1: The speaker says that the "heroes" (the members of the Royal Navy who fought in the battle) don't become famous while they're actually fighting.

Stanza 2: Instead, they become famous only after the war is over. The only thing we notice about them is that they're glad to come home from the fighting.

Stanza 3: When they're home on leave, we don't have enough perspective to see them as the heroes they are.

Stanza 4: We also don't know whether they become famous later on or if they just fight and die without recognition.

Stanza 5: We don't have the perspective to appreciate the heroes' greatness, but the next generation of people will, because they'll be able to see how the heroes affected the "fate" of the nation.

Stanza 6: Again, we don't understand just how great these heroes are, but our kids will, and all we know now is that they're saving the world.

 

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