The Latymer School History Magazine - page 35

Cecil Rhodes
also the most devastating -
American author Ernst
Crosby’s
The Real White
Man’s Burden
, written ‘with
apologies to Rudyard
Kipling’:
Then learn that if with pious
words
You ornament each phrase
In a world of canting
hypocrites
This kind of business pays
Crosby’s terse restatement of
Kipling’s work aptly exposed
the highly stylised form
Kipling had pioneered in
order to mask the ugliness of
empire, evils he was certainly
aware of. But the general
controversy surrounding
Kipling’s political ideas did
not dent his overall
reputation. He was yet to
publish his magnum opus
Kim
, and already Kipling had
made himself one of the
most important figures in
19th century British literature.
The combination of Rhodes
and Kipling was also not
without it immediate
benefits. Not one averse to
hero worship, Kipling, before
meeting Rhodes, called him
‘one of the adventurers and
captains courageous and
old’, and his confident style
worked to
the
immediate
benefit of
Rhodes,
who had
since
childhood
been
prone to
awkward
social
grace and
a tendency
to bully
and
intimidate
almost
anyone
who
annoyed
him. More
interesting,
perhaps, is
Rhodes’
legacy.
Rhodes
House, his
private
home in
Oxford,
stands as
one of the
most
incredible
buildings
of the
modern
era, and his
establishment of the (still-
existent) Rhodes scholarship
in 1902 showed his
enduring, albeit now
tempered, commitment to
seduce Americans into the
British fray. Best of all, one
wonders what Rhodes,
believing whites to be the
‘finest race in the world’,
would make of the South
African university system
today - influenced in large
part by the ‘Mandela-Rhodes
Foundation’.
Rhodes, always beset by
some sort of illness, died in
March 1902. This meant he
did not live to see the
conclusion of the Second
Boer War in May the same
year, nor its aftermath.
Unsurprisingly, out of a
personal debt, Kipling kept
hold of the Woolsack,
furthermore making it his
mission to instigate a healing
process between the two
white races following Boer
defeat. Yet once again,
Kipling’s cutting rhythm and
forceful words leave a sour
taste in the mouth. In all of
these ‘conciliatory’ poems
Kipling is once again siding
with the powerful and the
oppressive, but with even
more visceral impact.
Nowhere does this come
across more disgustingly
than in Piet, which depicts
British soldier observing the
decaying corpse of a Boer.
Ah, there, Piet! Whose time
‘as come to die.
‘Is carcass past rebellion, but
‘is eyes inquirin’ why.
Though dressed in stolen
uniform with badge o’ rank
complete,
I’ve known a lot o’ fellers go a
dam’ sight worse than Piet.
In a way this verse is more
repellent than
The Burial
and
The White Man’s Burden
put
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