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This article is taken from PN Review 54, Volume 13 Number 4, March - April 1987.

Kipling and Popular Poetry Marghanita Laski

To discard from the corpus of Kipling's short stories the dross, which is easy, and the mediocre, which is hardly more difficult, is to be left with a substantial core of material that can properly be assessed in the context of the internationally best of short stories. To try to do the same by his verse, that is, to discard the obvious dross and, more uncertainly, the merely commonplace, is again to be left with a substantial corpus, but this time with no obvious context for assessment; or rather with several contexts into which some of it fits, but none for all or even for most of it.

Since Kipling's death in 1936 critical attention has been focused on his prose. Of significant critics, only T. S. Eliot has had a go at the verse, in the essay that accompanies his A Choice of Kipling's Verse of 1941. As a preliminary to further work this could have been valuable, but there has been no important follow-up, and Eliot's essay was never more than an imperfectly satisfactory beginning.

This essay's purpose is limited to an intent to establish, from Kipling's verse, criteria for a category inside which it and other people's work of similar kind can be evaluated; and to urge a social use for what emerges as the best of such work. Evaluation is not the present purpose, and any evaluations made are empirical and/or personal.

Thus, the common distinction between verse - ...


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