You be glad you are Sussex born! Kipling in Sussex

In 1897, poet Rudyard Kipling obviously decided that things were behind the times in Torquay and moved to Rottingdean, on the Sussex coast. After five years on the Sussex coast, Kipling moved to Bateman’s at Burwash in East Sussex, purchasing the house and surrounding land and buildings – including a mill – for the princely sum of £9,300. The house may have had no running water, no electricity, and no bathroom, but Kipling’s love for the house – and for rural Sussex – soon became evident in his poetry.  One example of Kipling’s Sussex-centred poetry is his Run of the Downs, which inspired the title of my blog today:

The Weald is good, the Downs are best – 
I’ll give you the run of ’em, East to West.
Beachy Head and Winddoor Hill,
They were once and they are still.
Firle Mount Caburn and Mount Harry
Go back as far as sums’ll carry.
Ditchling Beacon and Chanctonbury Ring
They have looked on many a thing,
And what those two have missed between ’em
I reckon Truleigh Hill has seen ’em.
Highden, Bignor and Duncton Down
Knew Old England before the Crown.
Linch Down, Treyford and Sunwood
Knew Old England before the Flood;
And when you end on the Hampshire side –
Butser’s old as Time and Tide.
The Downs are sheep, the Weald is corn,
You be glad you are Sussex born!

Kipling’s poetry also may have inspired the lyrics to the unofficial anthem of Sussex, William Ward-Higgs’ patriotic song Sussex by the Sea, from 1907, a song now sung on Sussex Day. Here’s the final stanza of Kipling’s poem, Sussex:

God gives all men all earth to love,
But since man’s heart is small,
Ordains for each one spot shall prove
Beloved over all.
Each to his choice, and I rejoice
The lot has fallen to me
In a fair ground—in a fair ground—
Yea, Sussex by the sea!

If you’re interested in hearing a version of Sussex By The Sea, there’s this version by the Grenadier Guards available on YouTube.

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