Annex or Survive?
'OUR KING was with us--yesterday', is the lament of Romance's 'chosen bard' in Kipling's poem. Kipling is taking briskly to task those old-fashioned spirits for whom Romance is always located at a distance from the realities of life; for whom distance lends enchantment to the view, and the real longing is always for what is lost or unattainable. He is confident that they are wilfully looking for Romance in the wrong places: it is not an affair of the nostalgic yearning and the backward look, sailing ships, knights in armour and the Golden Age; but it is present here and now, in the street, in the factory, and the grey atmosphere of modern England (the poem appeared in 1894). 'All unseen'--and while its disappearance was being lamented, 'Romance brought up the 9.15'.
To the intellectual of today Kipling's attitude can scarcely seem anything but banal, a painfully jaunty and contrived attempt to reconcile some kind of lyrical vision with the daily grind of an industrial society and a mechanistic view of things. Few of us after a certain age can take very seriously the 'unconsidered miracle' of triple expansion engines, and the Romance of Rivets--especially of rivets who converse with each other; such things seem merely an eccentric off- shoot of a decaying plant. For a poet like W. H. Auden the industrial landscape of his childhood was indeed his first love.