The best Kipling poems
Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) was a tireless experimenter with the short story form, a novelist, a writer who could entertain children and adults alike with such books as The Jungle Book, Plain Tales from the Hills, The Just So Stories, Puck of Pook’s Hill, and countless others. But as well as being a prolific author of fiction, Rudyard Kipling was also a hugely popular poet. But what are Kipling’s very best poems?
‘If—’. This poem was first published in Kipling’s volume of short stories and poems, Rewards and Fairies, in 1910, it has become one of Kipling’s best-known poems, and was even voted the UK’s favourite poem of all time in a poll of 1995. According to Kipling in his autobiography, Something of Myself (1937), the origins of ‘If—’ lie in the failed Jameson raid of 1895-6, when the British colonial statesman Leander Starr Jameson led a raid against the South African (Boer) Republic over the New Year weekend. Read the rest of this entry
The greatest sport poems
Poetry and sport may not seen like natural bedfellows, although it’s worth remembering that several poets, including Rudyard Kipling and G. K. Chesterton, to say nothing of Tennyson’s son, were part of the Allahakbarries, J. M. Barrie’s Edwardian cricket team (who were appallingly bad at the sport, but numbered some of the greatest writers of the age). And poets down the ages have put into words the magic and wonder of sport, whether it’s a game of cricket, a football match, or a spot of tennis. Here are five classic poems about sports of various kinds.
Francis Thompson, ‘At Lord’s’. It’s often tempting to look back, nostalgically, at a golden age of sport, or to recall a sportsperson when they were playing at their peak. Harold Pinter once sent a short poem to Len Hutton which read, ‘I saw Len Hutton in his prime, another time, another time.’ (When, upon receiving no response, Pinter wrote to Hutton asking what he thought of the poem, Hutton shot back that he hadn’t finished reading it yet.) Francis Thompson (1859-1907) remembered seeing Hornby and Barlow bat at Old Trafford in their heyday, and when he was invited to watch Lancashire play Middlesex at Lord’s, Thompson declined to go. Instead, he stayed at home and wrote At Lord’s, recalling those glory days of English cricket. Read the rest of this entry
From rainbows and glorious cerulean blue during the day to blackness and bright stars at night, the sky has provided poets with plenty of inspiration over the centuries. Here are five of the very best sky-themed poems.
William Wordsworth, ‘My heart leaps up’. This simple nine-line poem describes how the poet is filled with joy when he sees a rainbow, and that he has always felt this way, since ‘my life began’; he hopes he will always keep that sense of enchantment with the natural world. The poem contains Wordsworth’s famous declaration, ‘The Child is father of the Man’, but it’s also noteworthy for its joyous opening line about the way one’s heart skips a beat when one encounters something beautiful or sublime in nature. Read the rest of this entry