The Roman Centurion’s Song


I think Jon hits the nail on the head saying, “Kipling is often thought of as an imperialist snob, which indeed he was to some degree. But he was a very complicated, contradictory man who was also fascinated by the idea of the outsider becoming naturalised. He was himself always something of an outsider as an Anglo-Indian, never quite fitting in anywhere. This song, very much like Sir Richard’s Song, sums up that process and makes a strong case for home being where the heart is, not where the birth certificate or passport designates it.”

It would be easy to wade into Kipling’s association between the Roman Empire and the British Empire with the latter taking the place of the former at the heart of things. But it’s the little details that make this more human and actually rather moving. Bellamy did a great job of setting these poems, but I’ve said before they have a natural fit as lyrics, albeit very smart ones, for songs.



16 Responses to “The Roman Centurion’s Song”

  1. muzza(s.e.England) says:

    Loved it!…………..Where to settle…an emotional problem for all those that move around the world for various reasons………..A stick -in -the mud Brit am I.

  2. Gail Duff says:

    On a sunny morning, coming up to May Time, what could be better than this?

  3. the_otter says:

    Nice singing from Jon.

    People may also like to check out Roman Wall Blues ( by Auden. It was interesting for me to go back to it after reading the Kipling.

  4. edith lewis says:


  5. John Phipps says:

    This calls to mind the Cardwell reforms that did away with the 21 year enlistment.

  6. Jane Ramsden says:

    This one didn’t float my boat, but then I’m a stick-in-the-mud Brit too. Well, you’ve not got a lot of choice when you have 12 cats & rescue others into the bargain. Volunteer minders are thin on the ground!

    Thanks, Otter, for the poem and link to the Poemhunter site – one worth knowing about!

  7. Diana says:

    Good old Rudyard! He certainly always tells a good tale. His range of speech varies so much too – from “Tommy” to this precise english I really enjoyed this one, his description of Britain and its’ weather is spot on.

  8. Diana says:

    @John: Hope you make it to the top of The Black Hill tomorrow at dawn – hope there is not too much snow there and it isn’t too cold.

  9. Linda says:

    Always enjoy a Kipling.

  10. Muzza(N.W.Surrey. UK) says:

    @Linda…..lucky old you………I never did learn to Kipple!

  11. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Muzza: I do not believe you never learnt to Kipple… I bet you’re exceedingly good! HAHAHAHAHAHA!

  12. Muzza(N.W.Surrey. UK) says:

    @Jane…………………….Dickens………now you’re talking!

  13. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Muzza: Not sure what you’re thinking of… I was only thinking ‘exceedingly good cakes…’ Mr Kipling? Oh, never mind!

  14. Jane Ramsden says:

    Not sure if I’m ploughing a lone furrow here, but this one still doesn’t really float my boat!

    However, I’ll continue on the lone furrow with a pointer to some music that does float my boat (courtesy of a ‘heads-up’ from Pierre Walsh) from the aptly named Furrow Collective, who are Alasdair Roberts, Emily Portman, Lucy Farrell and Rachel Newton. They are described on their website thus:

    “The Furrow Collective delves into an obscure world of balladry at its darkest and quirkiest. [Their album] ‘At Our Next Meeting’ brings gems from the traditional repertoires of four of the finest folk musicians from both sides of the English/Scottish border. Daringly exposed, unaffected voices are accompanied by harp, guitar, viola, concertina, banjo, fiddle and musical saw. With a bold, improvisatory approach, their focus is to capture the raw edges and fleeting magic of narrative song, with storytelling at the centre.

    Emily and Alasdair are both celebrated for their original, folklore-influenced song-writing and have collaborated on several previous albums. Lucy and Rachel are bewitching solo artists, sought-after session players and long-time members of The Emily Portman Trio.

    Warmly accessible, yet raw and uncompromising, ‘At Our Next Meeting’ shows a breadth of Scottish and English folk traditions with four artists at the height of their powers.”

    See here for more:

    So, if we’re doing sad soldiers, here’s a beautiful ‘woollen sampler’ of their not-at-all-woolly singing of ‘I’d Rather Be Tending My Sheep.’ (Well, I would like this one, wouldn’t I? Lol.) Watch this wonderfully-constructed film uploaded to YouTube by Marry Waterson:

    The next Jon-song is ‘Port of Amsterdam’ so, if we are doing sailors, my next ‘boat-floater’ will be Gill Sandell’s ‘Light The Boats.’ See the next exciting instalment!

  15. Old Muzza(N.W surrey.UK) says:

    Hi Jane….thanks for the link………..loved the little video that accompanies Marry Waterson
    I knew a shepherd ..he had two children .Baaasil and BaaBara

  16. Jane Ramsden says:

    Hi Muzzy! The video is Ramtastic! Admin Skyman will love it, as he really liked a similarly quirky one by Harry Bird and the Rubber Wellies. I might just repeat it here! It has wellies and waves enough to lead us into the Port of Amsterdam!

    “We Ain’t Got Far to Go” –

    I am now going to do my review of Gill Sandell as promised. Did it all last night/early morning and lost it putting the finishing touches at the last push! Aaaaaaaargh! Still, none of the song links were playing early morning due to some techie whizz glitsch, so I’d have had to add in later anyway… *sigh*… It’s hard being a researcher! Lol.

    Simon knows this, as I know he’s really busy… bit of spam creeping in here that needs zapping. Skyman, I will let you know if we get anything ‘fruity’… after we’ve all read it, of course! Hahahahahaha!

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