The Press

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The twenty-ninth in my ongoing series examining the poetry of Rudyard Kipling. The other posts in the series may be read here, here , here , here, here , here, here, here, here, here, here, here , here, here, here , here, here, here , here, here, here , here, here , here , here, here, here and here.

 

Although he started out his career as an ink-stained member of the Fourth Estate, Kipling had little love for the press of his day, considering journalists to being gossip mongers who always focused on the trivial as they made up their inaccurate stories.  As a celebrity for most of his life, Kipling had many encounters with the press, few of them happy.  In September of 1899, Kipling put his frustrations with the Press into a poem, one of fifty that were lost to History and have recently been discovered:

 

Why don’t you write a play —
Why don’t you cut your hair?
Do you trim your toe-nails round
Or do you trim them square?
Tell it to the papers,
Tell it every day.
But, en passant, may I ask
Why don’t you write a play?

What’s your last religion?
Have you got a creed?
Do you dress in Jaeger-wool
Sackcloth, silk or tweed?
Name the books that helped you
On the path you’ve trod.
Do you use a little g
When you write of God?

Do you hope to enter
Fame’s immortal dome?
Do you put the washing out
Or have it done at home?
Have you any morals?
Does your genius burn?
Was you wife a what’s its name?
How much did she earn?

Had your friend a secret
Sorrow, shame or vice –
Have you promised not to tell
What’s your lowest price?
All the housemaid fancied
All the butler guessed
Tell it to the public press
And we will do the rest.

Why don’t you write a play?

Kipling lived at the dawn of the celebrity culture.  One  can only imagine what he would have to say about the twenty-four hour coverage that some celebrities of world wide stature receive today.

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Thanks

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3 Comments

  1. Kipling has a splendid poem on the newspapaper files, that he puts into the mouth of a sub-editor:-
    Oblige me by referring to the Files.
    Every question man can raise,
    Every phrase of every phrase
    Of that question is on record in the Files –
    (Threshed out threadbare – fought and finished in the Files…
    Where unvisited, a-cold,
    Lie the crowded years of old
    In that Kensal-Green* of greatness called the Files
    (In our newspaPère-la-Chaise the Office Files),
    Where the dead men lay them down
    Meekly sure of long renown,
    And above them, sere and swift,
    Packs the daily deepening drift
    Of the all-recording, all-effacing Files
    The obliterating, automatic Files…
    Trace each all-forgot career
    From long primer through brevier
    Unto Death, a para minion in the Files
    (Para minion-solid-bottom of the Files). . . .
    [*Kensal-Green is a London cemetery]

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