Saturday, December 30, 2006

Happy Birthday to Rudyard and Me



Today is my birthday. My son took this photo, and I thought it was appropriate to put it here, since these are my parents, and I consider them at least partially responsible for my birth. Okay, fully responsible. My mother, Katherine, and my dad, Bill, threw me a little party at their lovely home yesterday. They made chicken paprikas and German spaeztle, and an apple strudel with real whipped cream for dessert. Naturally, I ate large quantities.


Since my mom has saved every cake decoration since about 1960, she put a little tribute to birthdays past on the cake. It looked like this:

Posted by PicasaThere's the stork who brought me; and Alice in Wonderland-- to represent, I suppose, my confusion about life in general; and Bambi and a couple of ballerinas (one fell down, as I would if I attempted ballet); and then there are lots of beach umbrellas to protect Alice and the dancers from the bright flames. I found this cake very fun.

This also marks the birthday of Rudyard Kipling, long a favorite poet of mine because of his masterful use of rhyme and meter. As a teen I was greatly moved by his poem "If," which told me that if I did a lot of wise things, I'd be a man, my son.

But I suppose it says a lot about me that one of my current favorite Kipling poems is gruesome and bitterly ironic. It's called "The Hyaenas." And I'll share it with you now.

The Hyaenas

by Rudyard Kipling

After the burial parties leave

And the baffled kites have fled;

The wise hyaenas come out at eve

To take account of our dead.

How he died and why he died

Troubles them not a whit.

They snout the bushes and stones aside

And dig till they come to it.

They are only resolute they shall eat

That they and their mates may thrive,

And they know that the dead are safer meat

Than the weakest thing alive.

(For a goat may butt, and a worm may sting,

And a child will sometimes stand;

But a poor dead soldier of the King

Can never lift a hand.)

They whoop and halloo and scatter the dirt

Until their tushes white

Take good hold of the Army shirt,

And tug the corpse to light,

And the pitiful face is shewn again

For an instant ere they close;

But it is not discovered to living men--

Only to God and those

Who, being soulless, are free from shame,

Whatever meat they may find.

Nor do they defile the dead man's name--

That is reserved for his kind.

See what I mean? Yeah! You tell 'em, Rudyard! Indict humanity with your clever verses!

Anyway. I suppose it's odd that I chose to put a poem about corpses devoured by hyenas in my birthday blog, but there you have it.

11 comments:

Bill Cameron said...

Yay! Happy Birthday!

Julia Buckley said...

Thanks! Would you like some virtual cake?

The unknown kluggin said...

Happy birthday to you, and may this new year give you as much happiness and love as you deserve!

Julia Buckley said...

Hey, thanks, Unknown Kluggin. But that raises an interesting question about how much I deserve.

anne frasier said...

happy birthday!
that cake looks delicious.
loved the poem too. but then i would -- love me some corpses.

Julia Buckley said...

Yeah, Anne--and they're about to be eaten by hyenas! Why hasn't Hollywood picked up on this?

Your photo makes me think I should have let my babies smoke. It's so darn cute.

anne frasier said...

yeah, forget the pacifiers!

Julia Buckley said...

They never used pacifiers, but they do both have oral fixations, so cigarettes would be perfect!

Cochonfucius said...

My French version (Oct. 13, 2009)


Après le funèbre au-revoir,
Les vautours restent sur leur faim.
Les hyènes sages, sur le soir,
Viennent s'occuper du défunt.

Les faits de son heure dernière
N'ont pour elles aucune importance.
Leur museau pousse branches et pierres
Creusant toujours vers leur pitance.

Ce qu'elles veulent, c'est manger,
Que du groupe la force augmente.
En cadavre est moins de danger
Qu'en la moindre chose vivante.

(Cornes des boucs, dards des cloportes,
Même un enfant se bat parfois;
Un soldat, quand sa chair est morte,
Ne lève pas le petit doigt).

Glapissements dans la poussière.
Leurs blanches canines saisissent
Le mort par l'habit militaire,
Hors de la fosse elles le hissent.

Reparaît le pauvre visage
Un instant avant l'hallali.
Mais ne le voit nul personnage,
Seul Dieu et les démons salis

Qui de vergogne ou d'âme n'ont
Et mangent de toute charogne.
Hyènes ne tachent point le nom
Du mort : c'est humaine besogne.

Julia Buckley said...

Wonderful! It has a different sort of haunting beauty in French.

Cochonfucius said...

Merci.