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date: 07 April 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Kipling’s ballad poetry is about attack and defence, and its anti-lyrical forms have been attacked in turn by critics who find them as domineering as Kipling’s colonial attitudes. This article examines Kipling’s performance-based poetics, describing his use of immediate forms of distribution by publishing poems in newspapers, pamphlets, and broadsides, and encouraging their oral retransmission using music hall, comic-song, and hymn-settings. It argues that the missing tension in Kipling’s poems reappears in the gap between the group solidarity suggested by the form’s intended performance situation, and the discomforting attitude of the words themselves. While Kipling’s poems attempt to unite the nation by identifying an enemy, their manner of performance also suggests that the ‘They’ being blamed exist here, now, among ‘Us’, with consequences for Kipling’s vision of Empire as moral regeneration.

Keywords: Victorian poetry, poems, moral regeneration, ballad, performance, Empire, colonial

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