March 31, 2013

Max’s Musings

By Max Molleston

Late in February, there was an article in the New York Times about “found” poetry of Rudyard Kipling. I dove into volumes on and of poetry to discover Kipling’s “Early Verse,” published in 1900, containing the known writings in prose and verse. The article claims 500 discovered verses, released the final day in March. My volume was the total works. Some of his new found poetry is attributed to Cunard Line, left, apparently by the writer, on a crossing from Australia to India. More were found, the article claims, during renovation of a townhouse in New York City. A total of 500 more poems and writings in this new collection, attributed to Rudyard Kipling. My edition, copyright by Kipling, 1899, contains verse dated to 1886. The challenge for Kipling may be as an explainer, restating the obvious, sometimes with humor and again some with negative comment. Some time ago in these columns, I moved into Kipling’s “The Ballad of Fisher’s Boarding House,” 102 lines, arranged in 17 stanzas. It is about one man’s life and love, and boarders a plenty. The setting went this way.

T’was Fultah Fisher’s boarding-house,
Where sailormen reside,
And there were men of all the ports
From Mississip to Clyde,
And regally they spat and smoked,
And fearsomely they lied.

That setting, faithfully restored by Kipling, explores life and love, as various as the boarders.

And there was Hans the blue-eyed Dane,
Bull-throated, bare of arm,
Who carried on his hairy chest
The Maid Ultruda’s charm—
The little silver crucifix
That keeps a man from harm.

On goes the verse, describing boarders and their various claims to life and its charms, returning to Hans the blue-eyed Dane. Is Anne of Austria, who, takes the boarders drinks and money, the key to Kipling’s monitoring of distress? Yes. Of course, death by knifing settles differences over Anne of Austria, differences felt by Hans the blue-eyed Dane, and Salem Hardieker, who fancied Anne his girl.

An oath from Salem Hardieker,
A shriek upon the stairs,
A dance of shadows on the wall,
A knife thrust unawares—
And Hans came down, as cattle drop,
Across the broken chairs.

And the closing stanza,

Thus slew they Hans the blue-eyed Dane,
Bull-throated, bare of arm;
But Anne of Austria looted first
The maid Ultruda’s charm—
The little silver crucifix
That keeps a man from harm.

The poem, an excellent, poetically exaggerated execution of a theme in life of by-gone-days, echoes even today. Rudyard Kipling’s work-life is catalogued from many points of view, and this new release, some 500 poems, may reveal more about the man and his thinking, actions and writing. I am glad to have the space to reveal more about Kipling, a very popular poet, when poets were the “rock stars” of literature in the 18th and 19th centuries. Lots of young poets have no time for dead poets, but we do here. Visit us again in May and we will put new life in our work.