Saturday, July 12, 2008

Kipling's Vermont

Dear Everybody:

Okay, you all remember Ogden Nash, right? A generation ago, that would've been a stupid question, like asking "You all know who Michael Jackson is, don't you?" Everybody read Nash, and most could quote him (here, off the top of my head: "A wonderful bird is the pelican/His beak can hold more than his belly can"). And where is now? Sipping beer with Ozymandias in the Land of Lethe.

But did you know that Rudyard Kipling, who wrote many wonderful stories, and some hideously jingoistic poems ("The White Man's Burden" is particularly ripe), and who by law may not be published in India, once lived in Vermont? Yes, he did. In fact, today you can rent his house and stay in it for a week or a summer.

Kipling in Vermont. It boggles the mind. Not only my mind but Ogden Nash's:

Kipling's Vermont
by Ogden Nash

The summer like a rajah dies,
And every widowed tree
[The rest of the poem has been removed because it’s almost certainly still in copyright. But I doubt you’ll have any trouble finding it on the Web.]

You guys knows what a rajah is and what suttee (mostly) was, right? If not, how hard would it be to look 'em up in a dictionary?

In apology for the other day's very long Rowley post, I shall make only two observations:
The first is that Nash wrote a lovely poem here. Just because somebody's being funny doesn't preclude him or her from being simultaneously serious as well. Asked to contribute a motto for her picture in her high school yearbook, my big sister Patty wrote: Many a True Word is Oft Said in Jest. "They thought I was kidding because I smiled when I said it," she told me. "No, I meant every word I told them."

The second is that if a terrific movie was made of Kipling's The Man Who Would Be King, a great big and fun adventure with appearances by Kipling himself at beginning and end. I recommend the DVD. Be sure to make popcorn.

All best,


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