Andrew HamiltonEssays

Rudyard Kipling’s “The Burden of Jerusalem”

by Andrew Hamilton

RUDYARD KIPLING is out of favor, in large part because his work was so politically and racially incorrect. One of his suppressed poems is “The Burden of Jerusalem,” which is considered “anti-Semitic.” Indeed, several of his poems have social or racial themes that render them verboten. His books even had swastikas — Aryan Indian symbols — in both right- and left-facing orientations on their covers or title pages.

In “Mr. Eliot’s Kipling,” a review of T. S. Eliot’s edition of A Choice of Kipling’s Verse in the Left-wing Nation magazine in 1943, Jewish chauvinist Lionel Trilling expressed disdain for Eliot’s admiration for Kipling, and drew analogies between the two poets. He also accused Eliot of anti-Semitism.

In a letter written from Jerusalem to his only surviving child, Elsie, Kipling reportedly observed that “many races are vile but the Jew in bulk on his native heath is the Vilest of them all.”

“The Burden of Jerusalem” exhibits the same non-sycophantic attitude. Consequently, it was suppressed for many years. Kipling’s widow made the decision to withhold the poem from publication. (The fact that it disparages Muslims did not bother anyone.)

English poet, novelist, and short story writer Rudyard Kipling was born to English parents in Bombay (due to the demographic and psychological implosion of the White race, it is now called “Mumbai”) in 1865. (His mother was of Scottish descent.) In addition to his high literary reputation during his lifetime, he was one of the most popular writers in England in both prose and verse. Buried in the Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey next to Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy, Kipling’s cousin, Conservative Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, was a pallbearer at his funeral. Over the course of his life, Kipling lived in India, England, and, for four years, Brattleboro, Vermont. (His wife was American.)

Kipling used swastikas in the published versions of his books

He won the Nobel Prize in 1907 at 42, and remains the youngest recipient of the Literature Prize. He was sounded out for the British Poet Laureateship, the Order of Merit, and a knighthood, but declined all those honors.

In the early 1940s copies of “The Burden of Jerusalem” were circulated among Anglo-American elites through the auspices of Sir Alfred Webb-Johnson, a physician who attended Kipling during his final illness. Kipling’s widow entrusted copies of two unpublished poems to Webb-Johnson, “Burden” and “A Chapter of Proverbs” (which contains no discernible censor-worthy material).

Webb-Johnson deposited copies of the poems in the British Museum and gave others to Prime Minister Winston Churchill (which was placed in the Churchill Library, Cambridge), President Franklin Roosevelt (placed in the Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York), and Queen Mary (placed in the Library at WindsorCastle). (Source.)

Churchill also sent a copy of “Burden” to President Roosevelt, bound between blue-and-gold covers. In his October 17, 1943 cover letter, Churchill wrote, “I understand that Mrs. Kipling decided not to publish them in case they should lead to controversy and it is therefore important that their existence should not become known and there should be no public reference to the gift.”

Again, a reading of the two poems proves that “Burden,” not “Proverbs,” was what frightened everyone.

The late Christopher Hitchens published the two poems in an anti-White book he wrote, Blood, Class, and Nostalgia: Anglo-American Ironies (1990), pp. 86–93, which is where I first read them. He reissued the book with a new preface in 2004 as Blood, Class and Empire: The Enduring Anglo-American Relationship.

Hitchens said he unearthed the poems and correspondence at the Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park in 1988. About Churchill’s October 17, 1943 letter to FDR Hitchens wrote, “This is practically the only communication from Churchill, in an entire file of correspondence which extends in print over three volumes, to which Roosevelt made no reply or acknowledgement of any sort.” (p. 93)

This is untrue. FDR wrote letters to both Churchill and Dr. Alfred Webb-Johnson dated October 25, 1943.

In the letter to Webb-Johnson FDR said, “I had read ‘The Burden of Jerusalem’ before and I could understand why Mrs. Kipling thought it would be best not to publish it. Nevertheless, it is a gem.”

To Churchill he wrote, “Dear Winston: Those two little books are gems — and I can well understand why they should not be made public at this time. Perhaps ‘The Burden of Jerusalem’ should wait until you and I are strong enough to carry Ibn Saud to Jerusalem and Dr. Weizman [sic] to Meca [sic].”

Again, this was 1943. How ultra-sensitive the “leaders of the Western world” were! Compare Kipling’s mild, inoffensive poem to the inexpressibly vile anti-White messages that pour daily into the impressionable minds of hundreds of millions of people the world over — including elites, alien and native — through television, motion pictures, songs, and video games — not to mention books and poems!

Be honest. Who really rules?

Swastika on Kipling book cover, 1929–1930

It should be noted that despite the frequent invocation of Biblical motifs (primarily Old Testament?) in Kipling’s work, he apparently was not a Christian. The Bible and its cadences were a literary, not a sacred resource for him. Moreover, he was a Freemason, and Freemasonry is incompatible with orthodox Christian belief, Protestant or Catholic.

Since most of us are no longer versed in our Christian heritage, it is necessary to explain the Old Testament background of the narrative, which traces Jewish and Muslim myth/history from the Hebrew patriarch Abraham to the present day.

Abraham or Abram is mythically regarded as the founder of Judaism, the progenitor of the Hebrew race through his son Isaac, and of Arabs through his son Ishmael, Isaac’s half-brother.

As recounted in Genesis, Isaac (later the father of Jacob and Esau) was the only son of Abraham and Sarah. He was born after Sarah was too old to conceive. Following Isaac’s birth, Sarah grew jealous of her servant Hagar, Abraham’s concubine, and cruelly drove Hagar and Ishmael (Hagar’s son by Abraham), into the desert to die.

However, through God’s grace they survived. Today, Ishmael is honored as the forefather of the Arabs by Muslims who esteem him as Jews do Isaac. Consequently, the use of the name “Ishmael” to mark a social outcast, common in Judaism and Christianity (e.g., the famous opening line of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick: “Call me Ishmael”), is unknown in Islam.

In the final stanza of the poem, the narrator blames Abraham for the age-old strife between Arabs and Jews:

Yet he who bred the unending strife,
And was not brave enough to save
The Bondsmaid from the furious wife,
He wrought thy woe, Jerusalem.

Immediately following the poem I’ve provided brief, conventional definitions of terms within it, in the order of their appearance, which might be unfamiliar. With such background, the meaning of Kipling’s text is self-explanatory. To be clear, I don’t take most Old Testament “history” of this kind literally. I lean heavily toward Old Testament minimalism. (More detailed summary here.)


But Abram said unto Sarai, “Behold thy maid is in thy hand. Do to
her as it pleaseth thee.” And when Sarai dealt hardly with her
she fled from her face.
Genesis 16:6

In ancient days and deserts wild
There rose a feud — still unsubdued —
Twixt Sarah’s son and Hagar’s child
That centred round Jerusalem

(While underneath the timeless boughs
Of Mamre’s oak ‘mid stranger-folk
The Patriarch slumbered and his spouse
Nor dreamed about Jerusalem.)

But Ishmael lived where he was born,
And pastured there in tents of hair
Among the Camel and the Thorn —
Beersheba, South Jerusalem

But Israel sought employ and food
At Pharaoh’s knees, till Rameses
Dismissed his plaguey multitude,
With curses, toward Jerusalem.

Across the wilderness they came
And launched their horde o’er Jordan’s ford,
And blazed the road by sack and flame
To Jebusite Jerusalem.

Then Kings and Judges ruled the land,
And did not well by Israel,
Till Babylonia took a hand
And drove them from Jerusalem.

And Cyrus sent them back anew,
To carry on as they had done,
Till angry Titus overthrew
The fabric of Jerusalem.

Then they were scattered North and West,
While each Crusade more certain made
That Hagar’s vengeful son possessed
Mohammedan Jerusalem.

Where Ishmael held his desert state
And framed a creed to serve his need —
“Allah-hu-Akbar! God is Great!”
He preached it in Jerusalem.

And every realm they wandered through
Rose, far or near, in hate and fear,
And robbed and tortured, chased and slew,
The outcasts of Jerusalem.

So ran their doom — half seer, half slave —
And ages passed, and at the last
They stood beside each tyrant’s grave,
And whispered of Jerusalem.

We do not know what God attends
The Unloved Race in every place
Where they amass their dividends
From Riga to Jerusalem.

But all the course of Time makes clear
To everyone (except the Hun)
It does not pay to interfere
With Cohen from Jerusalem.

For ‘neath the Rabbi’s curls and fur
(Or scents and rings of movie-kings)
The aloof, unleavened blood of Ur,
Broods steadfast on Jerusalem.

Where Ishmael bides in his own place —
A robber bold, as was foretold,
To stand before his brother’s face —
The wolf without Jerusalem.

And burdened Gentile o’er the main,
Must bear the weight of Israel’s hate
Because he is not brought again
In triumph to Jerusalem.

Yet he who bred the unending strife,
And was not brave enough to save
The Bondsmaid from the furious wife,
He wrought thy woe, Jerusalem.

Mamre’s oak: An oak tree on the West Bank regarded as “Abraham’s tree” since the 16th century. It was situated in a grove where Abraham several times resided.

The Patriarch: Abraham

Beersheba: Spot where Abraham resided for many years, and from which he sent Hagar and Ishmael into the desert to die. It was the southern limit of Palestine in Biblical times. Thus: “South [of] Jerusalem.”

Rameses: Egyptian pharaoh, a reference to the Jews’ expulsion from Egypt as described in Exodus.

Jordan‘s ford: The crossing of the Jordan River by the Hebrews, leading to the subjugation of Canaan (Palestine).

Jebusite Jerusalem: The Jebusites were a Canaanite tribe dwelling at Jebus (Jerusalem) before its conquest by the Hebrews.

Kings and Judges: The period of Jewish hegemony described in the Old Testament books of Judges, Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles. The kingdom split into Israel and Judah during this period.

Babylonia took a hand: The northern Kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians in 722 BC, the southern Kingdom of Judah to the Babylonians in 586 BC.

Cyrus sent them back: Following the fall of Babylon to the Aryan-Persian Cyrus the Great in 539 BC, Persia financed the return of Judean exiles to Jerusalem, where a Jewish province was again established.

Titus overthrew: Future Roman emperor who destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD. (In real life, the pagan Titus had a politically powerful Jewish mistress, Berenice!)

Scattered North and West: The Jewish diaspora after the fall of Jerusalem to Rome.

Each Crusade: The medieval Christian crusades in the Middle East.

“Hagar’s vengeful son,” Ishmael, etc.: At this point in the poem, Arabs and Muslims collectively, not the original man.

Hun: Germans

The aloof, unleavened blood of Ur: Beneath their modern-seeming exterior, Jews’ ancient, vengeful hatred still burns.

This year “The Burden of Jerusalem” was finally published with more than 1,300 other poems in a new book: Thomas Pinney, ed., The Cambridge Edition of The Poems of Rudyard Kipling, 3 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013). “Burden” can be found in Volume III: Uncollected Poems.

Cambridge University Press states that this three-volume set is the first complete edition of Kipling’s poems, many of which had never been published before.

Every authorized text of the collected poems, from original periodical publication to the final edition in the author’s lifetime, has been collated to produce a full record of the author’s additions, deletions, and alterations. A note to each poem provides a record of publication and, where possible, information about its occasion and context. Through its completeness, its record of changes, and its notes, the edition provides a new basis for the study and appreciation of Kipling’s poetry.

Poetic Structure

Readers uninterested in the technical aspects of poetry can skip this section. But whenever I particularly like a poem or, as here, examine it in detail, I like to know something about its formal properties. What is the poet doing?

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an analysis of “The Burden of Jerusalem” online, and so had to do it myself.

The first complication is the form of the poem. I’ve used the format presented by Christopher Hitchens. In addition, an American Kipling collector who owns a typescript copy of the poem, and has published a bibliography of Kipling, describes the typescript copy in the British Library as consisting of “seventeen 4-line stanzas,” which is consistent with the pattern I’ve followed.

But the structure shown in a Web version of the poem looks very different. Most but not all stanzas are 7 lines long, and are markedly dissimilar, graphically, to the 17-4 version. It would be nice to know which format was used in the new Cambridge Edition, but I have not seen it.

Anyway, “Burden” is a 17-stanza narrative poem consisting of 4 lines each. So each stanza is a quatrain. I would classify “The Burden of Jerusalem” as a variation of the long ballad (hymnal, Horatio) measure.

Like most English-language verse that isn’t free verse, it is “accentual-syllabic” in nature. In scansion, an unstressed word or syllable is marked with a small “u” above it, a stressed one with “/”. Each line of a poem is divided also into an appropriate number of “feet.”

Here, each line has 4 feet (so, tetrameter), each of which is an iamb — a 2-syllable foot in which an unstressed syllable precedes a stressed syllable. Thus, the poem is written in rhymed iambic tetrameter.

Due to the vagaries of Word and WordPress formatting, it is convenient to illustrate this form by using a scanned line from another poem, Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.”

Iambic tetrameter: the 4th line in the final stanza of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”

If you examine the fourth line in the final stanza (ignore the other lines) — ”I took the one less traveled by” — you will see the metric pattern employed by Kipling in “The Burden of Jerusalem.” The small vertical lines divide the phrase into four feet, the stress marks above the syllables mark the accentual pattern. It is an iambic tetrameter line.

Kipling’s rhyme scheme (I hope this formats properly on the blog) is:

b b

The first and third lines of each stanza rhyme.

The second line of every stanza contains an internal or midline rhyme:

“There rose a feud — still unsubdued —”

“Of Mamre’s oak ‘mid stranger-folk

Finally, I arbitrarily use “é” to symbolize the repeated word Jerusalem. “Jerusalem” is the last word in the fourth line of every stanza of the poem. These lines aren’t refrains, nor does Jerusalem rhyme with other words. It is simply repeated.

* * *

Source: Author and Counter-Currents

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