It is not often you introduce a poem by quoting the poetic preface to an allegory. Kipling saw the great war not as much as a test of empire (this was the third year of the war) but as a test of the souls of men. And he looked to older books and survivors of bloody struggles.
’Tis strange to me, that they that love to tell
Things done of old, yea, and that do excel
Their equals in historiology,
Speak not of Mansoul’s wars, but let them lie
Dead, like old fables, or such worthless things,
That to the reader no advantage brings:
When men, let them make what they will their own,
Till they know this, are to themselves unknown.
Of stories, I well know, there’s divers sorts,
Some foreign, some domestic; and reports
Are thereof made as fancy leads the writers:
(By books a man may guess at the inditers.)
Some will again of that which never was,
Nor will be, feign (and that without a cause)
Such matter, raise such mountains, tell such things
Of men, of laws, of countries, and of kings;
And in their story seem to be so sage,
And with such gravity clothe every page,
That though their frontispiece says all is vain,
Yet to their way disciples they obtain.
But, readers, I have somewhat else to do,
Than with vain stories thus to trouble you.
What here I say, some men do know so well,
They can with tears and joy the story tell.
The town of Mansoul is well known to many,
Nor are her troubles doubted of by any
That are acquainted with those Histories
That Mansoul and her wars anatomize.
Then lend thine ear to what I do relate,
Touching the town of Mansoul and her state:
How she was lost, took captive, made a slave:
And how against him set, that should her save;
Yea, how by hostile ways she did oppose
Her Lord, and with his enemy did close.
For they are true: he that will them deny
Must needs the best of records vilify.
THE HOLY WAR MADE BY SHADDI UPON DIABOLUS FOR THE REGAINING OF THE METROPOLISOF THE WORLD OR THE LOSINGAND TAKING AGAIN OF THE TOWN OF MANSOUL. BY JOHN BUNYAN
“For here lay the excellent wisdom of him that built Mansoul, that the
walls could never be broken down nor hurt by the most mighty adverse
potentate unless the townsmen gave consent thereto.” — BUNYAN’S Holy War.
A tinker out of Bedford,
A vagrant oft in quod,
A private under Fairfax,
A minister of God–
Two hundred years and thirty
Ere Armageddon came
His single hand portrayed it,
And Bunyan was his name!
He mapped for those who follow,
The world in which we are–
“This famous town of Mansoul”
That takes the Holy War.
Her true and traitor people,
The Gates along her wall,
From Eye Gate unto Feel Gate,
John Bunyan showed them all.
All enemy divisions,
Recruits of every class,
And highly-screened positions
For flame or poison-gas;
The craft that we call modern,
The crimes that we call new,
John Bunyan had ’em typed and filed
In Sixteen Eighty-two.
Likewise the Lords of Looseness
That hamper faith and works,
And Present-Comfort shirks,
With brittle intellectuals
Who crack beneath a strain–
John Bunyan met that helpful set
In Charles the Second’s reign.
Emmanuel’s vanguard dying
For right and not for rights,
My Lord Apollyon lying
To the State-kept Stockholmites,
The Pope, the swithering Neutrals
The Kaiser and his Gott–
Their roles, their goals, their naked souls–
He knew and drew the lot.
Now he hath left his quarters,
In Bunhill Fields to lie,
The wisdom that he taught us
Is proven prophecy–
One watchword through our Armies,
One answer from our Lands:–
“No dealings with Diabolus
As long as Mansoul stands!”
A pedlar from a hovel,
The lowest of the low —
The Father of the Novel,
Salvation’s first Defoe,
Eight blinded generations
Ere Armageddon came,
He showed us how to meet it,
And Bunyan was his name!