It is useful here to remember one of the greatest poems of that time, composed by Rudyard Kipling for the celebration of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897 and published in the Times under the title 'Recessional'. It contains a famously racist line about 'lesser breeds without the Law', and yet, in what can now be seen as the most triumphalist year in British history, the poem as a whole spoke for humility and caution, of the transience rather than permanence of the imperial order.
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]
The poem struck a minor - but popular - chord in the national mood. Kipling's literary agent broke down in tears when he tried to read it aloud. We had more foresight then. Little in Kipling's history suggests he could have agreed with Churchill about Indians, but, unlike the people on the right in Britain who would claim him as one of their own, he would surely have shaken Dr Carey by the hand.Reuse content