Kipling’s Explanation and a Navajo Liturgy

Yes, I have indeed been at the poetry this month … another two pieces of mine have just hit the catalogue.

Rudyard Kipling’s The Explanation was last week’s LibriVox Weekly Poetry, and saw quite a good turnout – I’m one of 16 people who recorded it. A simple little poem, it was something quick to warm up the vocal cords and test my new recording arrangement. (That still needs some work.)

[audio:] (1:08)

A very different piece can be found in the Coffee Break Collection #2 – Multi-Faith. These “Coffee Breaks” are themed collections of short recordings (up to 15 mins. Actually, the entirety of this particular collection would fit into a decent-length lunch break, but anyway.) A number of religions were represented, but it took me some hunting to find something suitable, since I don’t know any religious literature all that well. And, although the book I read from was titled Pagan Prayers – that’s pagan with a little ‘p’, being the old-fashioned definition of “any belief not Christian, Jewish or Muslim”. I’ve no idea of the provenence of the Navajo Liturgy, nor am I quite confident it fits into the collection in terms of being uplifting or thought-provoking in quite the way some might find Psalm XXIII for instance. But I think it’s a lovely piece, and I hope listeners like it.

[audio:] (4:40)


  • Kipling on pagans:

    Oh ye who tread the narrow way
    By Tophet flare to Judgment Day,
    Be gentle when the heathen pray
    To Buddha at Kamakura.

    For he who will, from pride released,
    Condemning neither creed nor priest,
    Will hear the soul of all the East
    About him at Kamakura.

    Yea, voice of every soul that clung
    To the wheel of life from rung to rung
    When Devadatta’s rule was young,
    The warm wind brings Kamakura.

    Fantastic, yes? (Kamakura is in Japan. Viewers of “Around the World in 80 Days” will remember the giant statue of Buddha, from which the famished Cantiflas steals an offertory apple.)

  • Isn’t it? And what about the rhythm? “The warm wind….”

    It’s from “Kim”. Each verse begins a new chapter of the book, which is perhaps why most people haven’t seen the poem in one piece. (Mark Twain said that he reread “Kim” once a year because it reminded him so accurately of India, the only country which he had any desire to revisit after his world tour.)

    Kipling gets a bad rap, I think. Most people don’t know that he spoke Hindustani almost before he spoke English. Nehru said that no Westerner understood India better.

    About your Navajo liturgy, though: I think that it’s on a much lower level than the highest pagan beliefs, for example those of Buddhism and Zoroastrianism. Notice how the liturgy posits a deity which, for no apparent reason, has given pain and which will take it away only if adequately bribed. The higher paganisms have no trouble distinguishing between what we would call gods and devils, a distinction seemingly lost on men in mankind’s childhood.

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