Clowns & Jokers

Stuck in the middle.... Left, right, centre. It's a mess out there.

Friday, February 23, 2007

We all aspired to be British Once

"My secular creed is drawn from Rudyard Kipling, and is succinctly reviewed in his “If” poem, wherein the applicable text reads: “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster / And treat those two impostors just the same.” It is a creed in which, plainly, wailing and gnashing of teeth is for savages.

As likewise, hysteria at funerals, chauvinist displays, and expressions of hatred in the public square. Ladies and gentlemen don’t do that sort of thing, and don’t even need a religion to know better. Unmanly behaviour is “not British”, if I might use an expression our Canadian ancestors understood, whether French, English, or whatever. For we all aspired to be “British” once, in the sense just given: it was something deeper than ethnicity"

I loved the story the Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling, concerning two British ex-soldiers who set off from 19th century British India in search of adventure and end up as Kings of Kafiristan (Afghanistan).

The story was inspired by the travels of American adventurer Josiah Harlan who claimed the title Prince of Ghor around the year 1840 thanks to the military force he led into Afghanistan.

The story goes (thx to Wiki for sumary) : On a hot summer night, Carnehan creeps into the journalist's office a broken man, a crippled beggar clad in rags. For the rest of the evening, he tells an amazing story. Dravot and Carnehan succeeded in making themselves kings, persuading the natives that Dravot was a god (the son of Alexander the Great). Their schemes were dashed when Dravot tried to take a native girl for his wife. Terrified of marrying a god, she resisted, biting him so he bled. At this point, he was seen to be "Not a God nor a Devil, but only a man!"

Led by the priesthood, the people turned against their would-be rulers, pursuing them to a gorge. Driving their quarry to ground, they forced Dravot, wearing his crown, to walk a rope bridge and sent him to his death by cutting down the long rope bridge with the bottom far below, and then crucified Carnehan between two pine trees. Seeing that Carnehan survived a day with wooden pegs driven through his hands and feet, the people concluded it was a miracle and released him. As proof of the veracity of his tale, Carnehan shows the journalist Dravot's head, still wearing his golden crown. He had climbed down that deep bottom and got the head and crown of his friend. He hobbles away in the morning. When the journalist searches for him two days later, he finds that Carnehan has died of exposure to the blistering mid-day sun. No belongings are found with him.

The film is great and starred Michael Cane and Sean Connery.



At Saturday, 24 February, 2007, Blogger Dawn said...

I never fill in a form and describe myself as British these days, afterall we have become four separate countries by devolution. I am English.

At Saturday, 24 February, 2007, Anonymous fredinexile said...

9 times out of 10 there isn't a box for English only British. I sometimes tick "Other" then fill in English :)

At Sunday, 25 February, 2007, Blogger Alison said...

Neither do i. I think whats meant here though is the characteristics of Empire (in his poem) - Kipling was an Empire man and loved it.


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