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Humanities Libertexts

9.3: Recessional

Rudyard Kipling

God of our fathers, known of old,

Lord of our far-flung battle-line,

Beneath whose awful Hand we hold

Dominion[1] over palm and pine—

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest[2] we forget—lest we forget[3]!

 

The tumult and the shouting dies;

The Captains and the Kings depart:

Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,

An humble and a contrite heart.

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget—lest we forget!

 

Far-called, our navies melt away;

On dune and headland sinks the fire[4]:

Lo, all our pomp of yesterday

Is one with Nineveh and Tyre[5]!

Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,

Lest we forget—lest we forget!

 

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose

Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,

Such boastings as the Gentiles use,

Or lesser breeds without the Law[6]

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget—lest we forget!

 

For heathen heart that puts her trust

In reeking tube and iron shard,

All valiant dust that builds on dust,

And guarding, calls not Thee to guard,

For frantic boast and foolish word—

Thy mercy on Thy People, Lord!

 

—1897

Contributors 


  1. Supreme power or sovereignty. See Genesis 1:26, “And God said, Let us make man in our image...and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea...and over all the earth....” 
  2. For fear that. 
  3. See Deuteronomy 4:9, “[T]ake heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen....” 
  4. The poem was written to mark the diamond jubilee celebrations commemorating the 60th year of Queen Victoria’s reign. Bonfires or “beacons” were kindled on high ground all over Britain on the night of the jubilee, just as they had also marked the occasion of Queen Victoria’s 50th, or golden jubilee, in 1887. See the first poem in Housman’s “A Shropshire Lad.” 
  5. Both cities were once capitals of great empires. Ninevah had once been the largest city in the world. In 1847, Sir Austen Henry Layard (1817-1894) there rediscovered the lost palaces of Sennacherib and Ashurbanipal. 
  6. See Romans 2:14. “...The Gentiles, which have not the law...are a law unto themselves.” 
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