Monday, April 21, 2008


I wish I had known about last night's Masterpiece on PBS ahead of time to suggest it to you. The program was called "My Boy Jack" and it's about Rudyard Kipling's son who was killed in World War I. Here is the first paragraph of the synopsis:

It's 1915, and Great Britain is at war. Aged only 17, writer Rudyard Kipling's son John "Jack," like most of his generation, is swept up in the enthusiasm to fight the Germans; a sentiment stoked vigorously by his father. However, Jack is cripplingly short sighted and the Army has rejected him twice, rendering him too myopic even for an Army suffering thousands of casualties a week and desperate for recruits. Yet Rudyard is determined that his son should go to the frontlines, like countless other sons, and fight for the values that he, Rudyard, espouses so publicly.

Jack is accepted by the Irish Guards, goes to the front lines and is killed the day after his eighteenth birthday.

Here's the poem Rudyard Kipling wrote in his grief:

"Have you news of my boy Jack?"
Not this tide.
"When d'you think that he'll come back?"
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.
"Has any one else had word of him?"
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing and this tide.
"Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?"
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he didn't shame his kind
Not even with that wind blowing and that tide.
Then hold your head up all the more,
This tide,
And every tide,
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide!

Let us not forget that for every casualty of war there is a family that will never be the same again.

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