The wind is getting up.
Should I put
Kipling aside
For his pride
In empire?

Should I apologise
And lower my eyes
For seeing empire
In all it’s complexity?

The Romans to Britain came.
Should Italians apologise
And lower their eyes
With shame?

You may say
“The Roman Empire
Was not all bad”.
But you would be mad
To put your head above the parapit
And admit
The same
Of Britain’s imperial past.

A certain class
Would look aghast
And cry “shame”
And label you
With a name

Mud sticks
And many men
Seal their lips.
Whilst a brave few
Say what they
Believe to be true.

4 thoughts on “Empire

  1. Tony Payne

    Well said. When will this political correctness end? Will all our history be about to be destroyed?
    The Spanish claimed Sir Francis Drake was the greatest pirate of all time, he killed thousands of Spaniards. Should he now be consigned to the basement? Slavery and colonisation was a way of life for thousands of years. Every empire had slaves, some still do! It’s about time we just apologised for the past and moved on. You can’t blacklist every figure who had something to do with slavery.

    1. K Morris Poet Post author

      Many thanks for your comments, Tony.

      I agree with you, that every empire/ssociety had slaves at some point in it’s history.

      Britain’s participation in the transatlantic slave trade is, obviously not something of which we should be proud. However, the fact that Britain was one of the first countries to abolish slavery in 1807 (although it continued in the empire until the 1830’s), is something of which we can be proud.

      Slavery was (and remains) wrong in principle and wrong in practice. However, although it undoubtedly makes some people feel better about themselves (perhaps morally superior), apologising for the actions of past generations achieves little (if anything).

      Also, to apply modern standards of morality to previous generations is questionable. There where, throughout the British involvement in slavery, opponents of the trade. However, it was not until the latter part of the 18th-century that such opposition developed in a significant way. Prior to the latter half of the 18th century, many Britons either didn’t think about the issue. Or they felt that the trade was acceptable.

      Of course slavery is never acceptable, but to condemn the men of the past is futile.

      As I say in the poem, the legacy of the British Empire is a complex one.

      Best wishes, Kevin

    2. V.M.Sang

      I quite agree. I’m not in favour of apologizing for things that happened before we were all born. Nor do I think we should whitewash our history. Bad things happened. Bad things will continue to happen. Most of the people who created the Empire were taught it was a good thing, or at the very least, neutral. We are taught other things now. We realize going and taking over someone else’s country is wrong. Treating them as inferior and second-class citizens in their own country is a terrible thing to do. But we should judge people by the standards and belief of their times. This includes Kipling.

      1. K Morris Poet Post author

        Many thanks for your comments, Vivienne. I agree with you. In particular it is, as you say wrong to treat others as inferior. We all bleed in the same way. We all laugh when tickled (as Shakespeare says in “Shylock”). Best wishes, Kevin

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