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Rudyard Kipling: author of The Jungle Book shares a poem

The first and youngest English-language writer to be named a Nobel laureate

A Legend of Truth

  • Once on a time, the ancient legends tell, 
  • Truth, rising from the bottom of her well, 
  • Looked on the world, but, hearing how it lied, 
  • Returned to her seclusion horrified. 
  • There she abode, so conscious of her worth, 
  • Not even Pilate’s Question called her forth, 
  • Nor Galileo, kneeling to deny 
  • The Laws that hold our Planet ‘neath the sky. 
  • Meantime, her kindlier sister, whom men call 
  • Fiction, did all her work and more than all, 
  • With so much zeal, devotion, tact, and care, 
  • That no one noticed Truth was otherwhere.
  • Then came a War when, bombed and gassed and mined,
  • Truth rose once more, perforce, to meet mankind, 
  • And through the dust and glare and wreck of things,
  • Beheld a phantom on unbalanced wings, 
  • Reeling and groping, dazed, dishevelled, dumb, 
  • But semaphoring direr deeds to come.
  • Truth hailed and bade her stand; the quavering shade
  • Clung to her knees and babbled, “Sister, aid! 
  • I am—I was—thy Deputy, and men 
  • Besought me for my useful tongue or pen 
  • To gloss their gentle deeds, and I complied, 
  • And they, and thy demands, were satisfied. 
  • But this—” she pointed o’er the blistered plain,
  • Where men as Gods and devils wrought amain— 
  • “This is beyond me! Take thy work again.”
  • Tablets and pen transferred, she fled afar, 
  • And Truth assumed the record of the War... 
  • She saw, she heard, she read, she tried to tell 
  • Facts beyond precedent and parallel— 
  • Unfit to hint or breathe, much less to write, 
  • But happening every minute, day and night. 
  • She called for proof. It came. The dossiers grew.
  • She marked them, first, “Return. This can’t be true.”
  • Then, underneath the cold official word:
  • “This is not really half of what occurred.”
  • She faced herself at last, the story runs, 
  • And telegraphed her sister: “Come at once. 
  • Facts out of hand. Unable overtake
  • Without your aid. Come back for Truth’s own sake!
  • Co-equal rank and powers if you agree.
  • They need us both, but you far more than me!”
Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) is one of the best known and, especially in his day, most popular of English poets and fiction writers. Born in India, which he always considered his native land, Kipling drew much of his inspiration for his writings from the subcontinent. The author of The Jungle Book (1894) and Kim (1901) and the poems “If” (c. 1895) and “Gunga Din” (1890), Kipling received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1907 at the age of 41, making him the first English-language writer and the youngest writer to be named a Nobel laureate.

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A Legend of Truth

  • Once on a time, the ancient legends tell, 
  • Truth, rising from the bottom of her well, 
  • Looked on the world, but, hearing how it lied, 
  • Returned to her seclusion horrified. 
  • There she abode, so conscious of her worth, 
  • Not even Pilate’s Question called her forth, 
  • Nor Galileo, kneeling to deny 
  • The Laws that hold our Planet ‘neath the sky. 
  • Meantime, her kindlier sister, whom men call 
  • Fiction, did all her work and more than all, 
  • With so much zeal, devotion, tact, and care, 
  • That no one noticed Truth was otherwhere.
  • Then came a War when, bombed and gassed and mined,
  • Truth rose once more, perforce, to meet mankind, 
  • And through the dust and glare and wreck of things,
  • Beheld a phantom on unbalanced wings, 
  • Reeling and groping, dazed, dishevelled, dumb, 
  • But semaphoring direr deeds to come.
  • Truth hailed and bade her stand; the quavering shade
  • Clung to her knees and babbled, “Sister, aid! 
  • I am—I was—thy Deputy, and men 
  • Besought me for my useful tongue or pen 
  • To gloss their gentle deeds, and I complied, 
  • And they, and thy demands, were satisfied. 
  • But this—” she pointed o’er the blistered plain,
  • Where men as Gods and devils wrought amain— 
  • “This is beyond me! Take thy work again.”
  • Tablets and pen transferred, she fled afar, 
  • And Truth assumed the record of the War... 
  • She saw, she heard, she read, she tried to tell 
  • Facts beyond precedent and parallel— 
  • Unfit to hint or breathe, much less to write, 
  • But happening every minute, day and night. 
  • She called for proof. It came. The dossiers grew.
  • She marked them, first, “Return. This can’t be true.”
  • Then, underneath the cold official word:
  • “This is not really half of what occurred.”
  • She faced herself at last, the story runs, 
  • And telegraphed her sister: “Come at once. 
  • Facts out of hand. Unable overtake
  • Without your aid. Come back for Truth’s own sake!
  • Co-equal rank and powers if you agree.
  • They need us both, but you far more than me!”
Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) is one of the best known and, especially in his day, most popular of English poets and fiction writers. Born in India, which he always considered his native land, Kipling drew much of his inspiration for his writings from the subcontinent. The author of The Jungle Book (1894) and Kim (1901) and the poems “If” (c. 1895) and “Gunga Din” (1890), Kipling received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1907 at the age of 41, making him the first English-language writer and the youngest writer to be named a Nobel laureate.

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