Second Anglo Boer War propaganda poetry – the British side of things

South African War | Definition, Causes, History, & Facts | Britannica
British troops fighting in trenches during the Second Anglo Boer War

In my post entitled Second Anglo Boer War propaganda Poetry – the Boer side of things, I gave a brief overview of the circumstances that led to the Boers declaring war on the British Empire for the second time.

The late 19th century saw a significant increase in imperialism in Britain, spurred on by the theories of social Darwinism which argued that the biological concepts of natural selection and survival of the fittest should be applied to sociology and politics. This imperialism provided an ideological foundation for warfare and colonisation in the name of the British Empire.

Journalism was used to disseminate these ideas to the British public and, in the years leading up to the Second Anglo Boer War, newspapers were characterised by extreme pro-war propaganda, which was strictly controlled by the British High Commission in South Africa, Sir Alfred Milner.

After a holiday to South Africa in early 1898, Rudyard Kipling became friendly with Cecil John Rhodes, a British mining magnate and politician in southern Africa, Leander Starr Jameson, the leader of the botched Jameson Raid which aimed to overthrow the Transvaal government in December 1895, and Sir Alfred Milner. Kipling cultivated these friendships and came to admire these men and their politics. Before and during the Second Anglo Boer War, Kipling wrote poetry in support of the British cause in the Boer War.

Rudyard Kipling - Wikipedia
Rudyard Kipling as a young man

One of Kipling’s early propaganda poems was The Old Issue which is published in his The Five Nations book of poetry.

The Old Issue

OCTOBER 9, 1899
(Outbreak of Boer War)

By Rudyard Kipling

“HERE is nothing new nor aught unproven,” say the Trumpets,
    “Many feet have worn it and the road is old indeed.
“It is the King—the King we schooled aforetime !”
    (Trumpets in the marshes—in the eyot at Runnymede!)

“Here is neither haste, nor hate, nor anger,” peal the Trumpets,
    “Pardon for his penitence or pity for his fall.
“It is the King!”—inexorable Trumpets—
    (Trumpets round the scaffold at the dawning by Whitehall!)

.     .     .     .     .

“He hath veiled the Crown and hid the Sceptre,” warn the Trumpets,
    “He hath changed the fashion of the lies that cloak his will.
“Hard die the Kings—ah hard—dooms hard!” declare the Trumpets,
    Trumpets at the gang-plank where the brawling troop-decks fill!

Ancient and Unteachable, abide—abide the Trumpets!
    Once again the Trumpets, for the shuddering ground-swell brings
Clamour over ocean of the harsh, pursuing Trumpets—
    Trumpets of the Vanguard that have sworn no truce with Kings!

All we have of freedom, all we use or know—
This our fathers bought for us long and long ago.

Ancient Right unnoticed as the breath we draw—
Leave to live by no man’s leave, underneath the Law.

Lance and torch and tumult, steel and grey-goose wing
Wrenched it, inch and ell and all, slowly from the King.

Till our fathers ’stablished, after bloody years,
How our King is one with us, first among his peers.

So they bought us freedom—not at little cost
Wherefore must we watch the King, lest our gain be lost,

Over all things certain, this is sure indeed,
Suffer not the old King: for we know the breed.

Give no ear to bondsmen bidding us endure.
Whining “He is weak and far”; crying “Time shall cure.”,

(Time himself is witness, till the battle joins,
Deeper strikes the rottenness in the people’s loins.)

Give no heed to bondsmen masking war with peace.
Suffer not the old King here or overseas.

They that beg us barter—wait his yielding mood—
Pledge the years we hold in trust—pawn our brother’s blood—

Howso’ great their clamour, whatsoe’er their claim,
Suffer not the old King under any name!

Here is naught unproven—here is naught to learn.
It is written what shall fall if the King return.

He shall mark our goings, question whence we came,
Set his guards about us, as in Freedom’s name.

He shall take a tribute, toll of all our ware;
He shall change our gold for arms—arms we may not bear.

He shall break his judges if they cross his word;
He shall rule above the Law calling on the Lord.

He shall peep and mutter; and the night shall bring
Watchers ’neath our window, lest we mock the King—

Hate and all division; hosts of hurrying spies;
Money poured in secret, carrion breeding flies.

Strangers of his counsel, hirelings of his pay,
These shall deal our Justice: sell—deny—delay.

We shall drink dishonour, we shall eat abuse
For the Land we look to—for the Tongue we use.

We shall take our station, dirt beneath his feet,
While his hired captains jeer us in the street.

Cruel in the shadow, crafty in the sun,
Far beyond his borders shall his teachings run.

Sloven, sullen, savage, secret, uncontrolled,
Laying on a new land evil of the old—

Long-forgotten bondage, dwarfing heart and brain—
All our fathers died to loose he shall bind again.

Here is naught at venture, random nor untrue—
Swings the wheel full-circle, brims the cup anew.

Here is naught unproven, here is nothing hid:
Step for step and word for word—so the old Kings did!

Step by step, and word by word: who is ruled may read.
Suffer not the old Kings: for we know the breed—

All the right they promise—all the wrong they bring.
Stewards of the Judgment, suffer not this King!

Commentary

Kipling’s description of the Boers as “sloven”, “savage” and “evil” was insulting and most definitely part of the British government’s pre-war campaign to dehumanise the enemy in the eyes of the public. The lines “He shall take tribute, toll of all our ware, he shall change our gold for arms – arms we may not bear” are arrogant and indicated that Kipling believed the British had a legitimate claim to the gold of the Transvaal.

A Ghost and His Gold by Roberta Eaton Cheadle – Cover reveal

About Roberta Eaton Cheadle

IMG_9902

I am an author who has recently branched into adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential my children’s books from my young adult and adult writing, these will be published under the name Roberta Eaton Cheadle. My first young adult supernatural novel, Through the Nethergate, has recently been published.

I also have two short paranormal stories in Whispers of the Past, a paranormal anthology edited by Kaye Lynne Booth.


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