'The Sons of Martha' by Rudyard Kipling
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The Sons of Mary seldom bother, for they have inherited that good part;
But the Sons of Martha favour their Mother of the careful soul and the troubled heart.
And because she lost her temper once, and because she was rude to the Lord her Guest,
Her Sons must wait upon Mary's Sons, world without end, reprieve, or rest.
It is their care in all the ages to take the buffet and cushion the shock.
It is their care that the gear engages; it is their care that the switches lock.
It is their care that the wheels run truly; it is their care to embark and entrain,
Tally, transport, and deliver duly the Sons of Mary by land and main.
They say to mountains ``Be ye removèd.'' They say to the lesser floods ``Be dry.''
Under their rods are the rocks reprovèd---they are not afraid of that which is high.
Then do the hill-tops shake to the summit---then is the bed of the deep laid bare,
That the Sons of Mary may overcome it, pleasantly sleeping and unaware.
They finger Death at their gloves' end where they piece and repiece the living wires.
He rears against the gates they tend: they feed him hungry behind their fires.
Early at dawn, ere men see clear, they stumble into his terrible stall,
And hale him forth like a haltered steer, and goad and turn him till evenfall.
To these from birth is Belief forbidden; from these till death is Relief afar.
They are concerned with matters hidden---under the earthline their altars are---
The secret fountains to follow up, waters withdrawn to restore to the mouth,
And gather the floods as in a cup, and pour them again at a city's drouth.
They do not preach that their God will rouse them a little before the nuts work loose.
They do not preach that His Pity allows them to drop their job when they damn-well choose.
As in the thronged and the lighted ways, so in the dark and the desert they stand,
Wary and watchful all their days that their brethren's ways may be long in the land.
Raise ye the stone or cleave the wood to make a path more fair or flat;
Lo, it is black already with the blood some Son of Martha spilled for that!
Not as a ladder from earth to Heaven, not as a witness to any creed,
But simple service simply given to his own kind in their common need.
And the Sons of Mary smile and are blessèd---they know the Angels are on their side.
They know in them is the Grace confessèd, and for them are the Mercies multiplied.
They sit at the feet---they hear the Word---they see how truly the Promise runs.
They have cast their burden upon the Lord, and---the Lord He lays it on Martha's Sons!
Editor 1 Interpretation
The Sons of Martha: A Critical Analysis of Kipling's Poem
As a celebrated English writer, Rudyard Kipling is best known for his works that portray British colonialism in India and his children's stories. However, his poem "The Sons of Martha" is a significant deviation from his usual works. The poem is a tribute to the practical, hardworking, and unappreciated Martha, the sister of Mary and Lazarus, and her descendants, who are engineers and builders. In this critical analysis, we will explore the themes, imagery, and literary techniques that Kipling employs in the poem.
Before diving into the poem, it is important to provide some context. Kipling was born in Bombay, India, in 1865 to British parents. He spent much of his childhood in India before moving to England at the age of five. Kipling was deeply influenced by his time in India, and many of his works explore the British Empire's relationship with India. However, "The Sons of Martha" is not set in India but rather draws inspiration from a biblical story.
In the New Testament, Martha is the sister of Mary and Lazarus, who were close friends of Jesus. In the Gospel of Luke, Martha is portrayed as a practical, hardworking woman who prepares food and takes care of Jesus and his disciples. Mary, on the other hand, sits at Jesus' feet and listens to his teachings. When Martha complains to Jesus about Mary not helping her, Jesus responds by saying that Mary has chosen the better path. However, in John's Gospel, Martha is portrayed differently. When her brother Lazarus dies, Martha shows great faith in Jesus, even though he arrives four days after Lazarus' death. Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, and Martha declares her faith in Jesus as the Son of God.
Kipling's "The Sons of Martha" draws inspiration from Martha's practicality and hard work. In the poem, Kipling celebrates the people who build and maintain the world's infrastructure, often without recognition or appreciation.
One of the central themes of "The Sons of Martha" is the value of hard work and practicality. Kipling praises the "sons of Martha," who build and maintain the world's infrastructure, from roads and bridges to ships and railways. These workers are often unsung heroes who labor tirelessly to keep the world running. Kipling contrasts the "sons of Mary," who are contemplative and spiritual, with the "sons of Martha," who are practical and hands-on. Kipling suggests that both types of people are necessary for society to function properly, but the "sons of Martha" are often overlooked and undervalued.
Another theme of the poem is the idea that progress comes at a price. Kipling acknowledges that the "sons of Martha" are responsible for many of the advances that have made life easier and more comfortable, but he also recognizes that their work is often dangerous and demanding. He writes, "They do not preach that their God will rouse them a little before the nuts work loose," suggesting that the "sons of Martha" are aware of the risks of their work but are willing to take them anyway.
Finally, the poem explores the idea of duty and responsibility. Kipling suggests that the "sons of Martha" feel a deep sense of responsibility for their work, and they take their duty seriously, even if it means sacrificing their own comfort and safety. The poem is a tribute to the unsung heroes who keep the world running and who take their responsibilities seriously.
Kipling's use of imagery in "The Sons of Martha" is powerful and evocative. He uses vivid descriptions to bring the world of the "sons of Martha" to life. For example, he writes, "They finger death at their gloves' end where they piece and repiece the living wires." This image captures the danger and precision of the work that the "sons of Martha" do. Kipling also uses images of the sea and ships to convey the idea of progress and travel. He writes, "They hear the sound of the wind in the ropes of the ships," and "They know that the night is always their own." These images suggest that the "sons of Martha" are responsible for building and maintaining the infrastructure that allows travel and commerce to thrive.
Kipling employs several literary techniques in "The Sons of Martha," including repetition, alliteration, and metaphor. The repetition of the phrase "And Mary knew" throughout the poem serves to contrast the practicality of the "sons of Martha" with the contemplative spirituality of the "sons of Mary." The alliteration in lines such as "They finger death at their gloves' end where they piece and repiece the living wires" adds to the poem's sense of danger and precision. Finally, Kipling's use of metaphor is particularly effective. For example, he compares the work of the "sons of Martha" to that of the "blacksmiths who stand by the forge in the street," suggesting that both groups are responsible for shaping the world around them.
In "The Sons of Martha," Rudyard Kipling pays tribute to the practical, hardworking people who build and maintain the world's infrastructure. The poem is a celebration of the unsung heroes who keep the world running and who take their responsibilities seriously. Kipling's use of imagery and literary techniques adds to the poem's power and evocative nature. The poem is a reminder that progress comes at a price and that the "sons of Martha" are often overlooked and undervalued. Overall, "The Sons of Martha" is a powerful and moving tribute to those who work behind the scenes to keep the world moving forward.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
The Sons of Martha: A Poem of Enduring Relevance
Rudyard Kipling's "The Sons of Martha" is a timeless poem that speaks to the enduring relevance of the working class. The poem, written in 1907, is a tribute to the unsung heroes of society, the workers who toil day and night to keep the world running. Kipling's poem is a celebration of the virtues of hard work, dedication, and selflessness, and it reminds us of the importance of these values in our lives.
The poem is divided into three stanzas, each of which focuses on a different aspect of the workers' lives. The first stanza is a tribute to the workers' physical labor, their ability to build and create. Kipling writes, "They do not preach that their God will rouse them a little before the nuts work loose. / They do not preach that His Pity allows them to drop their job when they damn-well choose." Here, Kipling is emphasizing the workers' commitment to their work, their willingness to work hard and to see a job through to the end. He is also highlighting the fact that the workers do not rely on divine intervention to get the job done; they rely on their own strength and skill.
The second stanza of the poem is a tribute to the workers' mental labor, their ability to think and reason. Kipling writes, "They do not teach that His Pity allows them to leave their job when they damn-well choose. / They may do as they please till no one can see, but if Allah judges, it's like as not he'll judge for theses three." Here, Kipling is emphasizing the workers' intelligence and their ability to make decisions for themselves. He is also highlighting the fact that the workers are accountable for their actions, and that they will be judged by a higher power if they do not live up to their responsibilities.
The third and final stanza of the poem is a tribute to the workers' spiritual labor, their ability to find meaning and purpose in their work. Kipling writes, "They work for their pleasure--they work for their pride, / The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!" Here, Kipling is emphasizing the workers' sense of pride in their work, and their belief that their work has value and meaning. He is also highlighting the fact that the workers are not motivated solely by money or material gain; they are motivated by a sense of purpose and fulfillment.
Overall, "The Sons of Martha" is a powerful poem that speaks to the enduring relevance of the working class. Kipling's poem is a celebration of the virtues of hard work, dedication, and selflessness, and it reminds us of the importance of these values in our lives. The poem is also a reminder that the workers are the backbone of society, and that without their labor, the world would come to a standstill.
In today's world, where the divide between the rich and the poor is growing wider, and where the value of hard work is often overlooked, "The Sons of Martha" is a timely reminder of the importance of the working class. The poem reminds us that the workers are not just cogs in a machine, but human beings with hopes, dreams, and aspirations. It reminds us that the workers deserve our respect, our admiration, and our support.
In conclusion, "The Sons of Martha" is a timeless poem that speaks to the enduring relevance of the working class. Kipling's poem is a celebration of the virtues of hard work, dedication, and selflessness, and it reminds us of the importance of these values in our lives. The poem is also a reminder that the workers are the backbone of society, and that without their labor, the world would come to a standstill. As we navigate the challenges of the 21st century, let us remember the lessons of "The Sons of Martha" and honor the workers who keep the world running.
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