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The dead of the empire

People forget that Kipling, that great poet of the empire, lost his son in the Great War. As did almost every town and vale in New Zealand. (We did not let the Maori serve, not because they were disloyal, but they were too few). The pre war generation built a memorial to the Maori, who were dying, and they thought would end.

Post war, the new museum in Auckland became a mausoleum. For all the empire fought for their king.

The Children
“The Honours of War” – A Diversity of Creatures

These were our children who died for our land: they were dear in our sight.
We have only the memory left of their home-treasured saying and laughter.
The price of our loss shall be paid to our hands, not another’s hereafter.
Neither the Alien nor Priest shall decide on it. That is our right.
But who shall return us the children?

At the hour the Barbarian chose to disclose his pretences,
And raged against Man, they engaged, on the breasts that they bared for us,
The first felon-stroke of the sword he had long-time prepared for us –
Their bodies were all our defense while we wrought our defenses.

They bought us anew with their blood, forbearing to blame us,
Those hours which we had not made good when the Judgment o’ercame us.
They believed us and perished for it. Our statecraft, our learning
Delivered them bound to the Pit and alive to the burning
Whither they mirthfully hastened as jostling for honour –
Nor since her birth has our Earth seen such worth loosed upon her.

Nor was their agony brief, or once only imposed on them.
The wounded, the war-spent, the sick received no exemption:
Being cured they returned and endured and achieved our redemption,
Hopeless themselves of relief, till Death, marveling, closed on them.

That flesh we had nursed from the first in all cleanness was given
To corruption unveiled and assailed by the malice of Heaven –
By the heart-shaking jests of Decay where it lolled in the wires –
To be blanched or gay-painted by fumes – to be cindered by fires –
To be senselessly tossed and retossed in stale mutilation
From crater to crater. For that we shall take expiation.
But who shall return us our children?

Rudyard Kipling

One Comment

  1. Lilian

    “We did not let the Maori serve”!!!
    Given your abysmal knowledge of your own country’s history of 100 years ago why should we trust your version of events on the other side of the world 2000 years ago?

    When you have walked through St Stephen Martyr, Opotiki, looked at the colonial photos at Wanganui taken by my grandmother’s great grandfather, read of the Maori Battalion (World War II) and walked up one tree hill, then talk to me.

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