Beloved for his fanciful and engrossing children’s literature, controversial for his enthusiasm for British imperialism, Rudyard Kipling remains one of the most widely read writers of Victorian and modern English literature. In addition to writing more than two dozen works of fiction, including Kim and The Jungle Book, Kipling was a prolific poet, composing verse in every classical form from the epigram to the ode. Kipling’s most distinctive gift was for ballads and narrative poems in which he drew vivid characters in universal situations, articulating profound truths in plain language. Yet he was also a subtle, affecting anatomist of the human heart, and his deep feeling for the natural world was exquisitely expressed in his verse.
He was shattered by World War I, in which he lost his only son, and his work darkened in later years but never lost its extraordinary vitality. All of these aspects of Kipling’s poetry are represented in this selection, which ranges from such well-known compositions as “Mandalay” and “If” to the less-familiar, emotionally powerful, and personal epigrams he wrote in response to the war.