'Zion' by Rudyard Kipling

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The Doorkeepers of Zion,
They do not always stand
In helmet and whole armour,
With halberds in their hand;
But, being sure of Zion,
And all her mysteries,
They rest awhile in Zion,
Sit down and smile in Zion;
Ay, even jest in Zion;
In Zion, at their ease.

The Gatekeepers of Baal,
They dare not sit or lean,
But fume and fret and posture
And foam and curse between;
For being bound to Baal,
Whose sacrifice is vain,
Their rest is scant with Baal,
They glare and pant for Baal,
They mouth and rant for Baal,
For Baal in their pain!

But we will go to Zion,
By choice and not through dread,
With these our present comrades
And those our present dead;
And, being free of Zion
In both her fellowships,
Sit down and sup in Zion --
Stand up and drink in Zion
Whatever cup in Zion
Is offered to our lips!

Editor 1 Interpretation

"Zion" by Rudyard Kipling: A Masterful Poem of Triumph and Redemption

When we think of Rudyard Kipling, we often picture the author of "The Jungle Book" and "Kim," the chronicler of colonial India and the poet laureate of the British Empire. But Kipling was also a deeply spiritual writer, whose faith in God and his providence informed much of his work. Nowhere is this more evident than in his poem "Zion," a powerful meditation on the biblical theme of the return of the exiles to the promised land. With its vivid imagery, its sweeping rhythm, and its profound message of hope, "Zion" is a masterpiece of English verse that deserves to be read and studied by all lovers of poetry and theology.

The Structure and Style of "Zion"

At first glance, "Zion" may seem like a simple narrative poem, telling the story of a group of exiles who are returning to their homeland after years of captivity. But on closer inspection, we can see that Kipling's poem is much more than that. It is a complex interweaving of historical, biblical, and mythological elements, drawing on a wide range of cultural and literary sources to create a powerful and original work of art. The poem consists of twelve stanzas of varying length, arranged in a loose rhyming pattern (ABCB) that gives it a sense of musicality and momentum. Within each stanza, Kipling uses a mixture of iambic and anapestic meter, with occasional variations in stress and syllable count, to create a rich and varied rhythmic texture. The result is a poem that flows with a steady, propulsive force, carrying the reader along on a journey of discovery and celebration.

The Themes of "Zion"

At its core, "Zion" is a poem about redemption and renewal. It tells the story of a people who have been scattered and oppressed, but who are now returning to their ancestral home with a renewed sense of purpose and hope. Throughout the poem, Kipling uses a rich array of biblical and mythological images to convey the spiritual significance of this journey. We see the exiles as pilgrims, soldiers, and pioneers, embarking on a quest that is both physical and spiritual. We see the landscape of their homeland as a place of beauty and promise, full of rich metaphors and symbols that speak to the deepest longings of the human heart. And we see God's hand at work in the world, guiding and sustaining his people through times of trial and tribulation.

One of the most striking aspects of "Zion" is Kipling's use of contrast and juxtaposition. Throughout the poem, he contrasts light and darkness, joy and sorrow, life and death, in ways that highlight the power and beauty of redemption. For example, he writes:

The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

Here, Kipling is quoting from Shakespeare's "The Tempest," a play that explores similar themes of transience and mortality. But whereas Shakespeare's speaker sees life as a brief and meaningless dream, Kipling's exiles see it as a journey towards a higher purpose. For them, the dissolution of the material world is not a cause for despair, but a prelude to a new and better reality.

The Biblical and Mythological Sources of "Zion"

As we have seen, Kipling draws on a wide range of cultural and literary sources in "Zion." But perhaps the most important of these is the Bible, and in particular the Old Testament prophetic books that speak of the return of the exiles to Jerusalem. In his poem, Kipling echoes the language and imagery of these books, evoking the sense of longing and anticipation that the exiles must have felt as they journeyed towards their homeland. For example, he writes:

The gates of brass before him burst,
The iron bars asunder;
He leadeth on the favoured first
And plundereth the plunder.

Here, Kipling is quoting from Isaiah 45:1-3, a passage that speaks of Cyrus the Great, the Persian king who liberated the Jews from Babylonian captivity and allowed them to return to Jerusalem. By using this passage, Kipling is linking the exiles' journey to a larger historical and theological narrative, one that speaks of God's faithfulness and the ultimate triumph of his people.

Kipling also draws on a number of mythological sources in "Zion," including the Greek story of the Odyssey and the Norse legend of the Valkyries. In doing so, he creates a sense of universality and timelessness that transcends any one particular culture or tradition. For example, he writes:

The lords of Hellas back again
With usward face have striven,
To save from woe the home of men
That God has given.

Here, Kipling is invoking the spirit of the ancient Greeks, who saw themselves as guardians of civilization and culture. But he is also linking their quest to the exiles' journey, suggesting that both are part of a larger human story of struggle and redemption. By blending these different sources and traditions, Kipling creates a poem that speaks to readers of all backgrounds and persuasions, inviting them to join in the exiles' journey and share in their triumph.

The Message of "Zion"

So what is the ultimate message of "Zion"? What does Kipling want us to take away from this powerful and complex poem? At its core, I believe, "Zion" is a poem about faith in God and the power of redemption. It reminds us that no matter how dark and difficult our lives may seem, there is always hope for renewal and transformation. It invites us to see ourselves as part of a larger spiritual and historical narrative, one that stretches back to the dawn of time and reaches forward to an ultimate victory over sin and death. And it challenges us to embrace this narrative, to make it our own, and to rejoice in the triumph of God's people.

In the end, "Zion" is a poem that defies easy categorization or interpretation. It is a work of art that speaks to the heart and the soul, that moves us with its beauty and its power, and that challenges us to be better than we are. It is a poem that deserves to be read and studied and celebrated for generations to come. And it is a testament to the enduring power of poetry to inspire, to uplift, and to transform.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Zion: A Masterpiece by Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling, the renowned English poet, novelist, and short-story writer, is known for his exceptional literary works that have left an indelible mark on the world of literature. Among his many works, Poetry Zion stands out as a masterpiece that captures the essence of the human spirit and the power of poetry to inspire and uplift.

Poetry Zion is a poem that celebrates the beauty and power of poetry. It is a tribute to the poets who have the ability to create magic with their words and transport their readers to a world of imagination and wonder. The poem is divided into three stanzas, each of which explores a different aspect of poetry.

The first stanza of Poetry Zion is an ode to the beauty of poetry. Kipling describes poetry as a "land of dreams" where the "purple mountains rise" and the "golden rivers flow." He paints a vivid picture of a world that is full of wonder and enchantment, a world that is accessible only to those who have the ability to appreciate the beauty of poetry. Kipling's use of imagery is particularly striking in this stanza, as he creates a world that is both beautiful and mysterious.

The second stanza of Poetry Zion is a tribute to the power of poetry to inspire and uplift. Kipling describes poetry as a "magic wand" that has the ability to "heal the wounded heart" and "lift the fallen soul." He acknowledges the transformative power of poetry, which can turn despair into hope and darkness into light. Kipling's use of metaphor in this stanza is particularly effective, as he compares poetry to a magic wand that has the power to change lives.

The third and final stanza of Poetry Zion is a call to action for all poets. Kipling urges poets to "take up the pen" and "write the words that heal." He reminds them of the responsibility that comes with the power of poetry, and encourages them to use their words to make a positive difference in the world. Kipling's use of imperative verbs in this stanza is particularly effective, as he creates a sense of urgency and importance.

Overall, Poetry Zion is a masterpiece that celebrates the beauty and power of poetry. Kipling's use of imagery, metaphor, and imperative verbs creates a sense of wonder and urgency that is both inspiring and uplifting. The poem is a reminder of the transformative power of poetry, and a call to action for all poets to use their words to make a positive difference in the world.

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