To me, certain movies are “Saturday night movies” (like Waking Ned Devine
-- I suppose because it opens on a Saturday night in an Irish coastal village). Others are “Sunday night movies” (like any of the Titanic
movies; the ship sank on a Sunday night). For some reason, Driving Miss Daisy
is a weeknight movie; Gone With the Wind
is a Sunday afternoon movie; the old “Sherlock Holmes” serials are Thursday night flicks.
It’s the same with my favorite reading matter. This is Saturday afternoon, so on my break from work I'm indulging in a few minutes of “Saturday afternoon reading.” Saturday afternoon reading, to me, includes stories and poetry by classic 19th- and early 20th-Century authors. Robert Service (“The Cremation of Sam McGee,” “The Men That Don’t Fit In”) is a good Saturday afternoon author. Today it’s Rudyard Kipling. My familiarity with the writings of Kipling (1865-1936), a Nobel laureate, perhaps like yours derives from grade school studies in literature. You may have been required to read Captains Courageous
or The Jungle Books
, and to memorize passages from such time-honored poems as “If” (“If you can keep your head when all about you/Are losing theirs and blaming it on you. . . .”).
I’m especially captivated by Kipling’s poems set against late-Victorian British army life. This is the span of history which most interests me, for it’s the span during which I’ve set my own mystery short story series (“The Harper Chronicles
”). Kipling penned gripping verse, each line concise, each completed piece near perfect. The morbid “Danny Deever” probably is the best-known of this particular genre from Kipling’s mixed bag. (“For they’re hangin’ Danny Deever, you can hear the Dead March play/The Regiment’s in ’ollow square – they’re hangin’ ’im to-day. . . .”) Other of his poetic images are even more soberingly gruesome. From “The Young British Soldier”:When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier.
Many are challenging and exciting. From “The Explorer”:Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges --
Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go.
Kipling's subjects range from jungle life to economics. From “Big Steamers”:“Oh, where are you going to, all you Big Steamers,
With England’s own coal, up and down the salt seas?”
“We are going to fetch you your bread and your butter,
Your beef, pork, and mutton, eggs, apples, and cheese.”
Cheese. Hmmm. Not a healthy thought for a man simultaneously on a diet and on a break. Better get back to work.