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“Arithmetic on the Frontier”
A great and glorious thing it is
To learn, for seven years or so,
The Lord knows what of that and this,
Ere reckoned fit to face the foe —
The flying bullet down the Pass,
That whistles clear: “All flesh is grass.”
Imperialism in Europe became a glorious event that many people considered evolution derived out of war. Yet Kipling in this case purveys the idea of war, to Kipling war is predominant disposition for the upper social class, however Kipling also states that it is a crime to witness, more so fascism is taught to the young minds before being emitted to war. Also, Kipling’s beliefs about the reckoning of these educated minds are gone to waist.
Kipling says that God knows what of that and this, meaning the Lord is only aware of the truth and desire of the ultimate goal in war. Regardless, Kipling also states that “all flesh is grass” in the end this truth is bound to strip the human flesh back to its essence, back to the earth. Which is the glory learned due to war.
Three hundred pounds per annum spent
On making brain and body meeter
For all the murderous intent
Comprised in “villanous saltpetre!”
And after — ask the Yusufzaies
What comes of all our ‘ologies.
In this segment of the poem, Kipling speaks of economical mischief on education, teaching and raising mind and body so that they can be murdered while encompassing the “villainous saltpeter!” as Kipling stated. Which is the crime of using bullets. Furthermore, Kipling mentions the Yusufzaies, the Yusufzaies was a tribe from an unknown region in the world, yet people of Yusufaies were called Pashtun which were people that migrated from Pakistan and Prussia, yet they had come from Afghanistan and settled in India in the late 18th century.
A scrimmage in a Border Station —
A canter down some dark defile —
Two thousand pounds of education
Drops to a ten-rupee jezail —
The Crammer’s boast, the Squadron’s pride,
Shot like a rabbit in a ride!
Here Kipling talks about the struggle on the edge of a class, social class. Where the purity is corrupted in a flash of darkness. Kipling says that the thousand pounds that was spent on education comes down to cheap stakes of a Jezail, a Jezail is known as a gun used by the British in British India. Kipling talks about how the value of education has been brought down to a worthless crime of a gun. Moreover, Kipling resembles the cheap shot of a bullet and compares it to a joy ride of hunting during rabbit season.
No proposition Euclid wrote,
No formulae the text-books know,
Will turn the bullet from your coat,
Or ward the tulwar’s downward blow
Strike hard who cares — shoot straight who can —
The odds are on the cheaper man.
In this line I think Kipling speaks of unsettled proposals from Euclid, who was a mathematician in between 330 B.C. Kipling integrates the idea is that the formula for this waist of economic and materialistic effort is not conjured in text-books at that time, rather the greed of wealth has become biased on the battle field, even to whomever one aims to kill makes not a significant difference for they are considered to be of cheaper flesh due to their racial ethnicity and social class.
One sword-knot stolen from the camp
Will pay for all the school expenses
Of any Kurrum Valley scamp
Who knows no word of moods and tenses,
But, being blessed with perfect sight,
Picks off our messmates left and right.
Kipling again mentions the value of education in comparison to war and weapons used in war. Kipling states that the expenses wasted in war have blinded those who do not know the meaning of emotions that are filled with tension and mood swings on the battle field, rather they are just that…rich in power and wealth that even a stolen knot from a sown can pay for education for those that have a perfect image of the world, the ones who have not been exposed to the greed of wealth nor corruptions of capitalists, rather they are blessed in their sight. I think Kipling tries to convey in the last line stating the flesh (men on battle grounds) that are aimed at from either side with no remorse are being picked up by those of uncorrupted minds, ones of purity yet in lower class of social standards.
With home-bred hordes the hillsides teem,
The troopships bring us one by one,
At vast expense of time and steam,
To slay Afridis where they run.
The “captives of our bow and spear”
Are cheap, alas! as we are dear.
In this last paragraph in the poem, Kipling concludes the crowds that were of descended blood, or rather born in one region, and later were brought on troopships, which had become time consuming and waist of energy. Even more so, the Afridis were killed wherever they were found, Afraidis were a group of Pushtun tribe that lived in the west regions of Pakistan in 1972. These captives were indeed cheap to the superior dear flesh of the white man. Also, Kipling is well aware of social segregation and the impact of British imperialism had on decedents.
Try to “define” Kipling. Based on this poem
what kind of person do you think he was?
What are his politics, his views on the world?
What is each poem’s message?
Is “Arithmetic on the Frontier” as anti-war as it seems?
What is its deeper message?
Is Kipling’s imperialism philanthropic?
How might other concerns keep European imperialists from carrying out Kipling’s vision of “the civilizing mission?”
In conclusion, I think this poem “Arithmetic on the Frontier” by Kipling conveyed a lot of what Kipling’s personally was experiencing during 1870-1914; his political ideas and views on the world seemed to show the level of unjust and waist of children and the educated minds that were in compliance to war. Kipling’s concerns about humanity and the energy wasted on war is spoken throughout his poem, more so, Kipling’s philanthropic view is carried out in his writing, showing supremacy in British imperialism over the Afridis and other races that were considered to be of lower value to human life. As mentioned in class lecture, British imperialism the global political and economic power continued to expand and develop during British imperialism, this created a need for expansion and territory in order for capitalism and industrial growth to provide more products for the expansion of materialism. Furthermore, I think the deeper message Kipling provided is that the more modern and advanced humanity gets, the more sacrifice is placed on the lower class and children of the future. The racial segregation within the political and economic powers has become a glorified aspect to causing war, natural resources are manipulated in the regime of order and conduct. The tendency for political power to segregate social class in order to obtain a wealth of natural resources are known in the hierarchy of theology. Ideally Kipling’s ideas were accommodating the growth of revolutionary ideas where capitalists aim at the rise of corporations at the cost of cheap flesh, man kind that is without wealth, power or any upper social status.