In 1939 when Auden wrote his wry lines, Time that ‘Worships language and forgives / Everyone by whom it lives’ had not yet ‘Pardoned Kipling and his views’,1 nor was exoneration imminent. Despite the patriotic fervour of the ensuing war years, liberals continued to regret colonialism’s excesses, the anti-colonialist struggle was a left-wing cause, and intellectuals were sceptical about the British empire. T. S. Eliot’s praise for Kipling’s vision of imperial responsibility in a 1941 essay met with opposition from prominent writers and critics who considered Kipling’s view of life to be incompatible with the principles of civility and were repelled by the bullying self-righteousness and racial vanity of his imperialism.2 The reactions to Eliot’s apologia secured Kipling’s reputation as ‘the prophet of British imperialism in its expansionist phase’ (Orwell). During the following decades those who argued for his recognition as a major artist – although he had long since achieved popular acclaim as a ‘classic’, he had not been admitted to the canon – did so by pronouncing his social and political ideas irrelevant to evaluating his complex techniques and explorations of ‘permanent human and moral themes’.3