Welcome to this weekend's Mark Steyn Club video divertissement - because it takes a real man to be secure enough to read poetry on camera. Today's poem comes courtesy of the students of Manchester University, who decided a few weeks ago that the public display of Rudyard Kipling's "If..." was no longer acceptable because he was a racist, imperialist, whateverist. So instead he's been replaced by Maya Angelou. Their actions are thus a perfect illustration of the behavior Kipling cautioned against:
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you...
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools...
Ours is an age of mass losing of heads and truth-twisting by knaves. So my former colleague Rod Liddle has responded with a rather droll re-write of Kipling for these crazy times over at The Spectator. And, likewise, the very act of vandalism in Manchester obliges me to add these verses to our Steyn Club poetry anthology. In this video I discuss the background to the poem, and talk about the man Kipling said had inspired it - Dr Jameson of the famously disastrous Jameson Raid. To watch (or hear) "If...", prefaced by my introduction, please click here and log-in.
If you'd like to catch up on earlier poems in the series, you can find another Kipling poem, "Recessional", here. Others in the series include "Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold, "Ozymandias" by Shelley, and "Jenny KIss'd Me" by Leigh Hunt.
This ongoing weekend poetry anthology was started for two reasons: First and most obviously, if it turns out that poetry on TV is where the big bucks are, I'll look like a genius. And, if that's not the case, then more modestly I'd like to do my bit to keep some of this stuff in circulation - especially given the state of western education systems and the increasing brazenness of the new barbarians, of which the moronic ahistorical destruction at Manchester University is an especially grotesque example. As you might have noticed from recent asides in print and on air, I'm concerned about the erasure, in the broadest sense, of our cultural inheritance - the once widely recognized allusions that fewer and fewer people know. And I regard that as a loss, and not a small one. As I wrote when we introduced our series of audio adventures Tales for Our Time, if this novelty turns out a total stinkeroo, we shall never speak of it again. But, if it avoids stinkeroo status, we may put it on DVD or some digital download format at Amazon. So bear with us, because it's a work in progress.
We launched The Mark Steyn Club just over a year ago, and as our second season cranks into full gear I'm immensely heartened by all the longtime SteynOnline regulars - from Fargo to Fiji, Madrid to Malaysia, West Virginia to Witless Bay - who've signed up to be a part of it. As I said at the time, membership isn't for everyone, but it is a way of ensuring that all our content remains available for everyone - all my columns, audio interviews, video content, all our movie features and songs of the week. None of it's going behind a paywall, because I want it out there in the world, being read and heard and viewed, and maybe changing an occasional mind somewhere along the way. And we're delighted to say that, since the birth of The Mark Steyn Club, this website now provides more free content each week than at any time in its fifteen-year history.
That said, we are introducing a few bonuses for our Club Members - not locking up our regular content, which will always be free, but admitting members to a few experimental features, such as this series of video poems. However, membership in The Mark Steyn Club does come with some non-poetic benefits, including:
~Our nightly radio serial Tales for Our Time, the sixteenth of which starts later this month;
~Exclusive Steyn Store member pricing on over 40 books, mugs, T-shirts, and other products;
~The opportunity to engage in live Clubland Q&A sessions with yours truly;
~Transcript and audio versions of The Mark Steyn Show, SteynPosts, and other video content, including today's poem;
~Advance booking for my live appearances around the world;
~Customized email alerts for new content in your areas of interest;
~The opportunity to join me and my guests later this month on the inaugural Mark Steyn Club Cruise;
~and the chance to support our print, audio and video ventures as they wing their way around the planet.
To become a member of The Mark Steyn Club, please click here. And for our limited-time Gift Membership see here. Oh, and by the way, that Steyn cruise will include a live performance of our Sunday Poem series.
One other benefit to Club Membership is our Comment Club privileges. So, if you like or dislike this feature, or consider my poem reading a bust, then feel free to comment away below. I weigh in on the comment threads myself from time to time, but sparingly - because it's mainly your turf, so have at it (in verse, if you wish).