Saturday, January 06, 2024

Rudyard Kipling Visits Mandate Palestine 1929


and an interrupted repaste:


A copy of the unpublished private edition was given to Franklin Delano Roosevelt in October 1943, with instructions not to make the gift public. ‘The Burden of Jerusalem’ is reproduced here with the same punctuation and in the same format as it appeared in the privately bound volume.

I was working through files from the Roosevelt library (, which has a large amount of letters online, when I noticed a note by Churchill.

I was immediately intrigued and wondered what it was that Churchill didn’t want to be made public. I looked around the net and the only reference I could find was in usenet where some silly people had mentioned the Poems and they seem to have appeared in a Christopher Hitchens book about 1990. I emailed some Kipling people and one was kind enough to post me photocopies from one of the copies of them, talked about in the Churchill-Roosevelt correspondence, that he possessed. I think this is the first time the poems [with ‘A Chapter of Proverbs’] have appeared in full online. The majority of Kipling fans seem to be in ignorance of their existence and I am not sure if they have appeared elsewhere in print since 1990. I think their historical importance is clear.
David Noone


But Abram said unto Sarai, “Behold
thy maid is in thy hand. Do to
her as it pleaseth thee.” And
when Sarai dealt hardly with her
she fled from her face.
                 Genesis XVI.6.

In ancient days
     and deserts wild
There rose a feud –
     still unsubdued –
’Twixt Sarah’s son
     and Hagar’s child
That centred round Jerusalem.

(While underneath
     the timeless bough
Of Mamre’s oak,
     mid stranger-folk
The Patriarch slumbered
     and his spouse
Nor dreamed about Jerusalem).

For Ashmael lived
     where he was born,
And pastured there
     in tents of hair
Among the Camel
     and the Thorn –
Beersheba, south Jerusalem.

But Israel sought
     employ and food
At Pharoah’s knees,
     till Rameses
Dismissed his plaguey multitude,
     with curses,
Toward Jerusalem.

Across the wilderness
     they came,
And launched their horde
     o’er Jordan’s ford,
And blazed the road
     by sack and flame
To Jebusite Jerusalem.

Then Kings and Judges
     ruled the land,
And did not well by Israel,
     Till Babylonia took a hand,
And drove them from Jerusalem.

And Cyrus sent them back anew,
     To carry on as they had done,
Till angry Titus overthrew
     The fabric of Jerusalem.

Then they were scattered
     north and west,
While each Crusade
     more certain made
That Hagar’s vengeful
     son possessed
Mohamedan Jerusalem.

Where Ishmael held
     his desert state,
And framed a creed
     to serve his need. –
     God is Great!”
He preached it in Jerusalem.

And every realm
     they wandered through
Rose, far or near,
     in hate or fear,
And robbed and tortured,
     chased and slew,
The outcasts of Jerusalem.

So ran their doom –
     half seer, half slave –
And ages passed,
     and at the last
They stood beside
     each tyrant’s grave,
And whispered of Jerusalem.

We do not know
     what God attends
The Unloved Race
     in every place
Where they amass
     their dividends
From Riga to Jerusalem;

But all the course
     of Time makes clear
To everyone
     (except the Hun)
It does not pay to interfere
With Cohen from Jerusalem.

For, ‘neath the Rabbi’s
     curls and fur
(Or scents and rings
     of movie-Kings)
The aloof,
     unleavened blood of Ur,
Broods steadfast on Jerusalem.

Where Ishmael bides
     in his own place –
A robber bold,
     as was foretold,
To stand before
     his brother’s face –
The wolf without Jerusalem:

And burthened Gentiles
     o’er the main
Must bear the weight
     of Israel’s hate
Because he is not
     brought again
In triumph to Jerusalem.

Yet he who bred the
     unending strife
And was not brave
     enough to save
The Bondsmaid from
     the furious wife,
He wrought thy woe, Jerusalem!

...The following is by David Richards, an American Kipling collector and the author of a new bibliography of Rudyard Kipling, to be published by Oak Knoll Press in 2006.

I have a little privately bound typescript book, supposedly (and I believe) printed by Alfred Webb-Johnson, who operated on Kipling in October 1931, and is said to have “edited” ‘Something of Myself’ (a claim doubted by Professor Pinney, as I remember). This book, a small 8vo titled in gilt only on the spine and bound in dark blue half-calf with marble endpapers, is comprised of 16 leaves. ‘The Burden of Jerusalem’ is leaves 4-8, and ‘A Chapter of Proverbs’ is leaves 9-13, with 32 numbered proverbs, ending with the note “An unpublished item by Rudyard Kipling, and given to me by Mrs. Kipling. Copy in the British Museum.” This is followed by Webb-Johnson’s signature. ‘The Burden of Jerusalem’ is present in the British Library (BL Add MS 45680 f. 155-56, typescript, two leaves, rectos only, seventeen 4-line stanzas, annotated “to follow ‘The Peace of Dives’”) in a typescript copy with a letter from Webb-Johnson dated 12 August 1940 saying that the poem was meant for publication but withheld by Mrs. Kipling. There is another copy at the Royal College of Surgeons, with ‘A Chapter of Proverbs’ and bound with correspondence regarding these items (Webb-Johnson to Winston Churchill, 28 July 1943; Churchill to Webb-Johnson, 1 August 1943 and 12 October 1943, and a copy of a letter from Webb-Johnson to Franklin Roosevelt, 14 October 1943).

The first letter to Churchill states that Webb-Johnson had given copies of ‘The Burden of Jerusalem’ to Queen Mary and the British Library, and there are copies in the Churchill College Cambridge and Roosevelt (Hyde Park NY) Libraries. ‘A Chapter of Proverbs’ is also among the Kipling Papers at Sussex University (25/4). The Royal Library, Windsor, contains a calligraphic MS of ‘Burden,’ including an epigraph from Genesis, made for Webb-Johnson as a birthday present for Queen Mary, transcribed in 1914 from a copy sent to Webb-Johnson by Carrie Kipling. Stanzas 1 and 14 were first published in Carrington’s biography of Kipling in 1955, at p. 498, and are reprinted in Harbord, Verse No. 1163, as ‘Jews or Jews and Arabs.’ ‘Burden’ was first formally published in Lord Birkenhead’s biography of Kipling in 1978. Hitchens is the first to publish ‘A Chapter of Proverbs’ in a trade edition.
Another copy of what I have, bound in red morocco, was included as item (iv) in item 1 in Maggs 1994 Rudyard Kipling catalogue, with Webb-Johnson’s papers, including a letter from Churchill to Webb-Johnson suggesting that another Kipling poem contained in this little book, entitled ‘President Wilson,’ be destroyed as “derogatory” and unworthy of Kipling’s reputation. (On the Wilson piece, see the Kipling Journal 3/82, p. 46, and KJ 6/82, p. 38.)
David Alan Richards
New York

‘The Burden of Jerusalem’ appears in slightly edited form in Christopher Hitchens, Blood, Class, and Nostalgia: Anglo-American Ironies, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York), 1990, pp. 86-88. Here it is reproduced exactly as it appears in the original, privately published volume held by David Richards. (An instance of “Ashmael” instead of “Ishmael” and apparent punctuation errors appear in the original.)
We have been informed, in full detail, of Kipling’s piece of verse “The Burden of Jerusalem”, and I am aware that a number of our members find it distasteful.  Nonetheless, the verses exist:  The genie – no, we’re talking Kipling so it should be djinn - has been let out of the bottle, and it is difficult, if not impossible, to stuff him back again (and why is the genie in ‘Aladdin’ always male?).  So let us consider the piece, as John Walker has said, in an open way.  In doing so, I draw no conclusions, but offer these observations – which are not intended to be an apologia for the verse or for Kipling’s alleged views but, I hope, a dispassionate dissection..
Kipling always spoke of “the two sides of his head”.  I do not think that one can say exactly what those two sides were, because their exact nature varied, depending on his age and what he was writing.  One thing is, I think, undoubted, and that is that Kipling was capable of expressing views, in the mouths of his characters, which were not necessarily a reflection of his own.  Furthermore, one should remember that he was a superlative journalist, and master of English.  He reviewed and revised his texts over and over again (he told us so in Something of Myself ).  Therefore it behoves us to examine his words carefully, and not put any careless interpretation on them which is not in strict accordance with the accepted definition of those words. 
(There is an excellent example of the dangers of this in Stanza 12, where he talks of “the unloved race”.  Mark the exact word “unloved”.  He does not say “unlovable”.  He is making a statement of fact, as will be shown later on.)
It may also be observed that Kipling was, at various times of his life, capable of expressing contrary views on the same subject.  He may have held racialist views, but he was perfectly capable of admiring other races and expressing that admiration.   (N.B. the word ‘racist’ is first cited in the OED in 1927: “racialist” and “racialism” date from 1901/2, but we should not apply our late 20th century views to those of our 19th century forebears without remembering autre temps, autre moeurs).  He may have been contemptuous of the Bengali babu type, but he admired the Punjabi Mussulman.
So, for what they are worth, here are my observations, which are not in any particular order, except for the first ones which consider the 17 stanzas.
1.         The first eleven stanzas of the poem can be considered a clever, and not inaccurate, history of Israel.  My knowledge of that history is distinctly shaky, and I cannot say if the reference to Israel in stanza 4 is to one tribe or to all.  I think it is likely that it supposed to be to all, using ‘Israel’ as an all-encompassing word for the Jewish race.
2          The next stanza (12) can certainly be taken as distinctly anti-Semitic – “the Unloved race”:  “amass their dividends”.  Having said that, it is also a statement of fact:  the Jews have been, throughout history, an “unloved race” (NOT, as remarked above, an “unlovable race”) suffering persecution at the hands of just about every nation amongst whom they have settled.  (In that context, so far as I know, the only place where there has not, in recent history, been any systematic persecution of the race is in the United States of America.)  And one of the reasons why they have been unloved is because of their skill with money.  No one likes those who make money (as it is perceived) by usury from those amongst whom they live (cf, in 2009, “bankers”).
3.         Stanza 13 I find interesting.  As I say, my history of this is shaky to minuscule, and I do not know of any specific incident in which the biter has been substantially bitten after a tussle with “the Jews” – though it may have been so in economic terms – when the Jews were thrown out of England in 1290 by Edward I, after a century and a quarter of intermittent and sometimes bloody persecution, I suspect the King probably found it difficult to raise the wind for his wars against the Scots.
            But the verse is entirely apposite today.  As the world has observed since the state of Israel came into being in 1948, its motto may be said to be “An Eye for an Eye and a Tooth for a Tooth”.  So Kipling’s words are extremely prescient.  I do not understand RK’s reference to “the Hun” not knowing better than to “interfere with Cohen from Jerusalem”.  (Remember, the verse seems to have been written before the Nazi state began to persecute Jews.) 
4.         Stanza 14 may also be said to be prescient.  As is well-known the ancient city of Jerusalem has great significance for Jewry, as it has for Palestinians of all faiths, for differing reasons.  But the unification of the city is, in my understanding, a central plank of right-wing politics in Israel, and I suspect that, although other political parties may be less insistent, they would still say that they have, in effect, a prior claim to the city, and when RK wrote the verse, the toast of “Next Year in Jerusalem” at the Feast of Passover, had a very real meaning among the followers of Judaism.  Very many references speak of Jerusalem being central to Judaism, and although there is a sneering tone to the stanza, it is nonetheless an accurate reflection of the feeling amongst Jewry.
5.         To provide at least a partial balance, Stanza 15 is not exactly complimentary to the Arab, without mentioning the Muslim faith of the majority.  Nor does it suggest that Muslims world-wide are united in a desire to possess Jerusalem.  Muslims would be more concerned with the fate of Mecca and the Holy Places of Medina than with the fate of Jerusalem.  (I wonder what would be the view of the average Muslim man-in-the street in Djakarta, capital of the largest Muslim state?)  The reference is to the sons of Ishmael, who, I take it, are the modern day Palestinians.
6.         Stanza 16 implies the difficulties experienced by those who ‘held the ring’ between, on the one side, the established Jewish settlers who had been in Palestine since the 1890s or so, and those in central Europe who saw in the aftermath of the Balfour Declaration their hope of a Jewish state, and on the other, the former subjects of the Ottoman Empire who had lived on and tilled their land since the expulsion of the Jews in AD70. 
7.         The final stanza, taken literally, suggests that if Abraham had been firmer with his wife, and taken charge of his household, the whole difference between the tribes might never have occurred.  John Walker has noted that the verse was originally prefaced with a verse from Genesis, which confirms that reference.  John went on to suggest that RK was implicitly criticising the British mandate.  For what it is worth, his correspondence with Elsie at the time, recording that he had dined with the Acting High Commissioner, and was about to dine with Sir John Chancellor, the High Commissioner himself,  contain no hint of criticism -  he speaks of Palestine in three separate letters, to Elsie, to Lady Sykes (daughter of Bonar Law) and to Sir Henry Newbolt as being “a most marvellous land”, although he notes that there were “three religions at each others’ throats and the Bolshie dancing in the background to see where he can get in a stab”.
            In one of his letters to Elsie from Jerusalem at this time, he remarks that “many races are vile but the Jew in bulk on his native heath is the Vilest of them all.” Of all the remarks which I have read in the last few days, that is undoubtedly the most damning to Kipling’s reputation.
8.         So why?  The view he took was undoubtedly common in British society (and other European societies – cf the Dreyfus case in France) at the time.  What was it about the Jews collectively which made them so disliked?  Did that attitude pervade all classes?  Probably not.  The Jewish pawnbroker, if he were honest, was a necessary part of life to many of the labouring classes, and certainly wasn’t hated.  The Jewish financier was equally necessary to the upper classes, for whom he frequently provided similar, if more recherch√©, facilities (cf.  King Edward VII).  My suggestion is that the attitude stemmed from a complex series of causes.  One was that the Jews were Different, a tribe apart, and whatever one may say, tribalism, whether it be Millwall fans v: West Ham fans, is still an immensely strong force.  Secondly, in an era when Land (“ther Land” as Midmore contemptuously expressed it in the early pages of ‘My Son’s Wife’) formed the basis of wealth, the Jews, who Understood Money in a way that too many landed proprietors did not, provided the essential capital which could not easily be unlocked from land, and as has been said above, no-one likes those who make money out of one’s own lack of it.  Thirdly, in Understanding Money, Jews were quite happy to talk about it, and in Polite Society that just was Not Done (and Polite Society did not merely mean the upper and monied classes, it went pretty far down the social scale).  Fourthly, they kept themselves to themselves, and didn’t take part in the same activities as the great bulk of the British public – though in Regency days, the Jewish prize-fighter Mendoza was a great favourite with the public.  (I haven’t got the least idea, but wonder how many professional footballers in the Premiership and upper divisions of the Football League are Jews?)
10.       If Kipling was anti-semitic, then he reflected the view of the majority of his generation (consider that paragon, George Cottar, who, on hearing that a girl named Miriam is to visit, wonders, in a disparaging way, if she is of Jewish extraction).  But in his Lodge in India, he had met, on an equal footing, a Jew along with others of all the faiths.  However, if there were conflict between Muslim and Jew, perhaps he would have supported the Muslims, whom he admired (because he knew them) rather than the Jews (whom he knew much less well).
It was not until I had written all the above that I read the text of Professor Craig Raine’s lecture at the Kim conference in 2002 (KJ 303, Sept 2002, as noted by John Walker).  He makes many of the same points that I have, if more elegantly.  And he cites some of Kipling’s more positive (if, perhaps, not totally approving) remarks about the Jews, as well as other negative remarks.  And he identifies where the piece is to be found, in the Roosevelt Library at the Roosevelt home, Hyde Park:  it would be interesting to know precisely when it was written.
There are many more points to be made, e.g.: Jews in South Africa – did RK comment on them? – if not, why not?  He must have met them on the boats going out to the Cape and coming home again.  In the verse (stanza 14), one might suggest that he has chosen as his exemplars only the caricature Jew.
Some may consider it significant that the metre is undoubtedly that of the bawdy song “The Harlot of Jerusalem” – observations to this effect have appeared in the KJ in the not too distant past.  The words of that song vary, and the date is uncertain, but it almost certainly dates from World War I, and possibly originated with the troops of Allenby’s army which drove the Turks out of Sinai, Palestine and Syria.  (Certainly some versions date from that period, since there is a reference in one to the Lewis Gun.)  I have not seen the connection made elsewhere (but haven’t particularly looked for it) but it may be suggested that there is a parallel with the “Whore of Rome” – a 17th century (I think) and later reference to the Roman Catholic Church, much used by the more extreme Protestants.
If that is accepted, then it might be suggested that the Harlot of Jerusalem is, indeed, Judaism.
And if that, in turn is accepted, then the whole poem can be interpreted as a rant (or is that too strong?) against Judaism.
Kipling was a man of his time: he held most of the prejudices of a British member of the middle class of that time.  He did so, perhaps with better reason, because he had had so wide an experience of life, both personally and vicariously because of his own “’satiable curtiosity”.  We, with our post holocaust knowledge, should be wary of ascribing views to him which represent only one side of his head.
Oh, and finally, just consider what he said about Americans from time to time.
Alastair Wilson


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