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Colonialism and Kipling's poetry

I HAVE ONE minor complaint about H.D.S. Greenway's column "Delusions of empire in America" (op ed, Oct. 15). The otherwise splendid articleperpetuated one trivial but common error. Greenway wrote that "Europeans used to have a strong belief in empire, of the civilizing effects of what Europeans could teach `those lesser breeds without the law,' as Rudyard Kipling put it."

The quotation comes from "The Recessional," and the gist of the poem is not at all what Greenway seems to think. Kipling's message is that sooner or later every great power recedes and crumbles -- "the tumult and the shouting dies . . . [and] all the pomp of yesterday is one with Nineveh and Tyre."

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe --

Such boasting as the Gentiles use

Or lesser breeds without the Law --

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget, lest we forget."

The whole poem would be a good message to send to contemporary extremists.

JOHN CAIRNS
Charlbury, England
 

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