The Latymer School History Magazine - page 33

Cecil Rhodes memorial,
Cape Town
Despite living through the
slow death of imperialism,
Rudyard Kipling created an
impressive myth of the
British Empire which nobody
could deny
In Cape Town in 1912, an
extensive neoclassical
memorial was built in the
honour of Cecil Rhodes, the
British diamond tycoon and
arch-imperialist of late 19th
century South Africa. Made
out of stone from Rhodesia,
the steps are flanked by
eight bronze lions, and at the
top, behind a row of doric
columns, is a bust of Rhodes
himself. Underneath him is
his elegy by Rudyard Kipling,
The Burial:
When that great Kings return
to clay,
Or Emperors in their pride,
Grief of a day shall fill a day,
Because its creature died.
But we - we reckon not with
Whom the mere Fates ordain,
This Power that wrought on
us and goes
Back to the Power again.
The verse is so powerful
because it sums up both the
building and Rhodes entirely.
Like the bricks used to create
the monument, the words
mostly take up one syllable,
and are all neatly placed to
form a rigid symmetry. The
great king Rhodes in death
guides the British people -
‘we’ - who, despite the Fates,
have triumphed over the
entire world, and brought
the entire Anglo-Saxon race
with us. The stern break in
the fifth line reminds us all
that we must never forget the
power and responsibility we
hold. One can imagine
Kipling reading the entire
verse out himself, in a deep
and stirring voice, whilst
remaining utterly serious
Today these ideas are
chilling; luckily they are also
laughable. The same was not
the case in 1898, when
Rhodes, believing Kipling to
be an excellent potential
propagandist for his ruthless
domination of the South
African political system, gave
him his former residence, the
Woolsack, to encourage his
By Joe Mathieson
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