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Recessional

(1897)

Kipling composed this poem prayer for the occasion of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897.

This poem is about two fates that befall even the most powerful people, armies and nations, and that threatened England at the time: passing out of existence, and lapsing from Christian faith into profanity. The prayer entreats God to spare "us" (England) from these fates "lest we forget" the sacrifice of Christ.

The poem went against the celebratory mood of the time, providing instead a reminder of the transient nature of British Imperial power. In the poem Kipling argues that boasting and jingoism, faults of which he was often accused, were inappropriate and vain in light of the permanence of God.

Kipling had previously composed his more famous poem "The White Man's Burden" for Queen Victoria's jubilee, but replaced it with "Recessional". "Burden" was published two years later, altered to fit the theme of the American imperialist expansion after the Spanish-American War.

God of our fathers, known of old—
Lord of our far-flung battle line—
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

The tumult and the shouting dies—
The Captains and the Kings depart—
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

Far-called our navies melt away—
On dune and headland sinks the fire—
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe—
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the Law—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard—
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding calls not Thee to guard.
For frantic boast and foolish word,
Thy Mercy on Thy People, Lord!
Amen.



Rudyard Kipling