Saturday Snippet: Recessional


Rudyard Kipling composed a poem in 1897 for the Diamond Jubilee (60th year) of Queen Victoria’s reign.  It was a sobering, come-back-down-to-earth call in the midst of widespread rejoicing, and as such was not very popular at the time.  Nevertheless, it has become one of his best-known poems, and is sung as a hymn to this day on the annual commemoration of Anzac Day, remembering the fallen soldiers of Gallipoli, in Australia and New Zealand.

In our day, when politicians and other idiots talk so blithely about the possibility of nuclear war with Russia, and our own society seethes with internal conflict and disruption, I thought it was worth reminding ourselves of the fundamentals.

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!

Mercy, indeed . . . for surely we all need it.



  1. Yes.

    I first encountered Kipling's verse in an anthology gifted from my grandmother's library. "Barrack-Room Ballads" was discovered at the Base Library when I was a Lance Corporal, and much still rings true today. I owe him much for his Hymn of Breaking Strain, for that poem helped me through a very difficult personal crisis – indeed, that work may have helped save my life…

    I never quite warmed to Kipling's "Recessional", though. I suspect that it's because he speaks of the loss of faith, and I'm uncomfortable with how closely it hits to home (that personal crisis I mentioned). Having said that, though… we deserve justice, but what we need is mercy.

    And I thank the Lord for the mercy He has granted us thus far, and pray He grant us the mercy we do not deserve in this future…

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