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Advent Kipple.

Kipling had empathy with working men, the barracks, and those worn by hard graft. In this poem there is a discussion of winter for the fenmen, and one needs some background on what the fens were.

The Romans cultivated both islands and silt lands, but in subsequent Anglo-Saxon times the Fens were a thinly settled waste. Throughout the Middle Ages piecemeal encroachment took place, but the peatlands remained untouched until the mid-17th century, when the 4th earl of Bedford engaged a Dutch engineer, Cornelius Vermuyden, to drain the southern peat area, later known as the Bedford Level. Most notable among the drains then constructed was the Old Bedford River; running from Earith to Salter’s Lode, it was 70 ft wide and 21 mi (34 km) long. The New Bedford River, 100 ft wide, ran parallel to it about 1/2 mi to the east. The immediate prosperity that these drains helped create proved short-lived, because they had the effect of lowering by perhaps 10 to 12 ft the level of the peat surface.
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The introduction of windmills, substituting pumped for gravity drainage, saved most of the drained Fens from being reinundated, but the peat continued to sink as the drainage became more effective, so that by about 1800 some areas once inhabited had become watery wastes. There were still tracts that had never been reclaimed, particularly the large reed-bordered lakes of Whittlesey Mere and Ramsey Mere. Fishing and fowling remained characteristic occupations, and ague, or fen fever, was prevalent. From 1810 windmills began to be replaced by steam-pumping stations, though a few windmills survived even into the 20th century to form familiar landmarks. Pumping is now done by diesel engines, but the perennial problem of protecting the low drained lands from the high-riding river remains and was dramatically illustrated in the severe floods of March 1947, when several riverbanks were breached.

Encyclopedia Britannica

It is meteorological summer here, but the pohutukawa has not yet flowered, which is the harbinger of a hot summer. We don’t do cold and bleak in New Zealand for Christmas. But in Cambridgeshire the wind blows over damp plains. From which Kipling wrote a carol.

A Carol
“THE TREE OF JUSTICE” — REWARDS AND FAIRIES

Our Lord Who did the Ox command
To kneel to Judah’s King,
He binds His frost upon the land
To ripen it for Spring —
To ripen it for Spring, good sirs,
According to His Word.
Which well must be as ye can see —
And who shall judge the Lord?

When we poor fenmen skate the ice
Or shiver on the wold,
We hear the cry of a single tree
That breaks her heart in the cold —
That breaks her heart in the cold, good sirs,
And rendeth by the board.
Which well must be as ye can see —
And who shall judge the Lord?

Her wood is crazed and little worth
Excepting as to burn,
That we may warm and make our mirth
Until the Spring return —
Until the Spring return, good sirs,
When Christians walk abroad;
When well must be as ye can see —
And who shall judge the Lord?

God bless the master of this house,
And all who sleep therein!
And guard the fens from pirate folk,
And keep us all from sin,
To walk in honesty, good sirs,
Of thought and deed and word!
Which shall befriend our latter end….
And who shall judge the Lord?

Rudyard Kipling