(Notes by John McGivering
and John Radcliffe)
Your own boys can bear out the truth of this—and of the horror that overtakes a man when he first ships his gas-mask. What makes war most poignant is the presence of women with whom one can talk and make love, only an hour or so behind the line.Some critical comments
That last shrinking from the ultimate and the inevitable is the subject of the war-poem “Gethsemane” which many readers have found difficult.He then quotes the note to Doubleday above.
The Biblical allusion is in Matthew 26.39:Lord Birkenhead (p. 272) notes that Kipling:
"O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me..."Kipling's soldier, in his Gethsemane, Picardy, also begs that his "cup may pass". For neither Christ nor the soldier is there any escape. Christ must die to save the world that will now destroy the soldier with poison gas. All that the soldier wants is to participate in the mundane everyday life that he observes around him ... When Christ looks around him for comfort he finds his disciples are sound asleep, unconcerned; the maimed or dead soldier can expect no comfort, perhaps not even from Christ himself.
...had become obsessed with the problem of pain and and the nature of fear—the limits of human endurance before collapse. The agony of the individual in the face of this terror, and his acceptance of it, is poignantly caught in one of his greatest and most searing poems….In her Chapter XIII “Via Dolorosa, The Great War” Marghanita Laski (p. 166) writes:
The New Testament also provided the imagery for the poem “Gethsemane”, which was not published until 1919. Its subject is the German use of poison-gas, which Kipling seems to have pronounced with a long ‘a’ to rhyme with the Southern English pronunciation of ‘pass’Bonamy Dobrée (p. 98.) calls this:
His great war poem expressing all the agony of the individual giving himself to something greater than himself, in the searing poem “Gethsemane” ... (quoted here) In those days everybody would have recognized the reference to Christ’s agony in the garden (Matthew, 26.36, and Mark 14,32.)Gilmour (p. 265) writes:
Since verse remained Kipling’s favourite medium for expressing his views, propaganda and politics are only occasionally absent from his wartime poetry. But (this) one poem at least places him in the front rank of war poets:
'The Garden called Gethsemane
In Picardy it was,
And there the people came to see
The English soldiers pass..."
"And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt."