April shepherds in my best-loved literary celebration; Poetry Month! Despite its recent birth in 1996 as an official American month-long observance, poetry has been around from the dawn of time. For as long as there was love, the poets dreamed. Poetry has seen its favoritism ebb and flow with the last golden era was at the turn of the previous century. Since then there have a been a smattering of famous poets to arise. So this month begins a new series of some of my favorite poems from the Victorian and Edwardian era. Though given my love for the format, I could easily transcribe these works for the entire month, but I think poetry is best served in small doses to really savor the conveyance, the craft, and the flow of beautifully paired words.
Rudyard Kipling surpasses Edgar Allen Poe with the smallest of margins as my most adored poet and author. He was born into British or Colonial India in mid 1800s. He presents a more exotic perspective of Victorian history away from the typical London or English rural scenes. Rudyard Kipling may best be remembered for The Jungle Book or Gunga Din, but I prefer his lesser known prose. Below is one of the best examples of this. Kipling took inspiration from the biblical reference Ecclesiastes 7:28 “one man in a thousand I have found.” It speaks of friendship and its unwavering loyalty.
The Thousandth Man by Rudyard Kipling, 1910
One man in a thousand, Solomon says,
Will stick more close than a brother.
And it’s worth while seeking him half your days
If you find him before the other.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine depend
On what the world see in you.
But the Thousandth Man will stand your friend
With the whole round world agin you.
Tis neither promise nor prayer no show
Will settle the finding for ‘ee.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine of ‘em go
By your looks, or your acts, or your glory,
But if he finds you and you find him,
The rest of the world don’t matter;
For the Thousandth Man will sink or swim
With you in any water.
You can use his purse with no more talk
Than he uses yours for his spendings,
And laugh and meet in your daily walk
As though there had been no lendings.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine of ‘em call
For silver and gold in their dealings;
But the Thousandth Man he’s worth ‘em all,
Because you can show him your feelings.
His wrong’s your wrong, and his right’s your right,
In season or out of season.
Stand up and back it in all men’s sight—
With that for your only reason!
Nine hundred and ninety-nine can’t bide
The shame or mocking or laughter,
But the Thousandth Man will stand by your side
To the gallows-foot—and after!