Sunday, November 8, 2015

Poetry Analysis: The Choice by Rudyard Kipling

by M. J. Joachim


  To the Judge of Right and Wrong
 With Whom fulfillment lies
Our purpose and our power belong, 
 Our faith and sacrifice. 

  Let Freedom’s land rejoice! 
 Our ancient bonds are riven;
Once more to us the eternal choice
 Of good or ill is given. 

   Not at a little cost, 
 Hardly by prayer or tears,
Shall we recover the road we lost
 In the drugged and doubting years. 

  But after the fires and the wrath, 
 But after searching and pain,
His Mercy opens us a path
 To live with ourselves again.

  In the Gates of Death rejoice! 
 We see and hold the good—
Bear witness, Earth, we have made our choice
 For Freedom’s brotherhood. 

  Then praise the Lord Most High
 Whose Strength hath saved us whole,
Who bade us choose that the Flesh should die
 And not the living Soul!


Published in 1917 in the midst of World War I, Kipling’s poem, The Choice, speaks volumes about his convictions and gratitude that America entered the war, painstakingly detailing the responsibility and duty of such a great nation. The Great War started in 1914. In 1915, Kipling lost his only son in battle.

Freedom and Britain’s way of life were at stake during World War I. Kipling calls on America to do the right thing, standing with the British and defending what they hold dear, recollecting their ancient bonds, a heritage that should withstand the test of time, particularly during this epic trial of the Great War. He clearly illustrates the cost, suffering and death, not so much for America, but for all the lives lost in battle already, prior to America entering the war.

Kipling speaks of the evils of this war, challenging America to give rise to its voice once again, standing on the side of good, instead of evil. There’s an unspoken word in this poem, that to be silent or remain neutral is a choice for evil. There is confident gratitude expressed, that God is merciful by allowing America to enter the war, as he acknowledged that She has fought for freedom before.

According to the Kipling Society, the final two verses in the poem were added between 1919, after the war had ended. These verses are indeed poignant, indicating the price of death for so many lives, to save the soul of countries cherishing freedom and praising God for his greatness. World War I started over several political power struggles, the most noted being the “shot that was heard around the world,” when Franz Ferdinand, the arch-duke of Hungary was assassinated. It was a brutal war, where men gruesomely died on battlefields, froze to death and died in the influenza pandemic of 1918.

Kipling notably honors God for His Strength and saving all people, when victory triumphed and life as they knew it remained preserved. Clearly, the trials of war and its incessant suffering demanded nothing less of him, as Kipling praised God for an end to all the suffering endured during World War I.

God speed and protect us always,

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: Soldiers Monument, New York, CCO Public Domain