Today we bring you a 1916 newspaper article entitled “Did Kichener Wield Excalibur? Was He Reincarnation of King Arthur? Growing Belief that Kitchener Fulfilled a Prophecy.” It saw print in The Boston Daily Globe, author unknown.
This article has the sense of resurgent glory After Avalon is seeking; it has the sense of Arthurian characters emerging into a post-Camelot world. It also has the idea of Arthurian characters coming about again, in new contexts and worlds. These are all excellent ideas or foundations to use in your After Avalon story.
Did Kichener Wield Excalibur? Was He Reincarnation of King Arthur? Growing Belief that Kitchener Fulfilled a Prophecy
“Yet somme say in many partyes of England that yng Arthur is not dead. But had gone by the wylle of our Lord Jhesu in to another place, and men say that he shal come ageyn and he shall wynne the holy crosse.” Malory.
“And afterwards I will come (again) to my kingdom, and dwell with the Britons with much joy.”—Arthur in Layamon’s “Brut.”
In England the belief finds growing credence that Lord Kitchener was the reincarnation of King Arthur. Merlin’s prophecy that he should live again and Arthur’s own words as he lay dying are recalled. The manner of his death, the mystery of the man, his aloofness and his isolation all lend color to the belief.
So much was Lord Kitchener the object of speculation when he lived, so greatly did Britain depend upon him for her salvation, so startling was the tragedy of his death, it is not strange that the imagination and the heart of the people are quickened to a belief that this man was not as are the others of his day and generation, but that he came forth from out the vast mystery of power and space to save his people in their hour of peril, even as King Arthur in the long ago had issued from the unknown, a shining personage, to free his people from their enemies and make his Nation age-renowned.
Some one, seeking for the right word to describe Kitchener, hit upon “ruler” as the one that suited him best. It was written in his mien and lineaments and in his mind that he was set apart for a high purpose, to rule men and to overrule the decisions of many in high posts of authority.
Recalling his march to Khartoum, his domination in Egypt, his reorganization of the forces in India and his last and greatest service of gathering into his hands the lines of scattered, diverse and conflicting authorities in regard to military affairs in Great Britain in the early, critical days of the present war, it is not strange that the minds of many persons turn back to those dim pages of legendary history for a parallel or a prototype; to the days when King Arthur, through the institution and puissance of the Round Table, drew all the petty princes under him and as their head made a realm.
The first view of the romantic figure of Arthur is as a plain knight, “riding a simple knight among his knights, and many of them in richer arms than he.”
Doubts and questionings concerning his origins ran around the court, but King Arthur continued unmoved to work for the good of his country, smiting his his foes with Excalibur, that mighty, cross-hilted sword which the Lady of the Lake, “clothed in white samite, mystic and wonderful,” had given to him. On one side of the blade, “so bright that men are blinded by it,” in the oldest tongue of the world, were graven the words “Take me,” suggestive of Kitchener’s brief motto, “Thorough.” On the other side, in King Arthur’s speech, was “Cast me away.”
Sage Merlin counseled him to take the sword, saying that the time to cast it away was far distant. He also swore King Arthur should not die, but pass, to come again.
“The King will follow Christ, and we the King, In whom high God hath breathed a secret thing,” sang his knights, and like an antiphonal response were the bravely defiant words of King Arthur: “The old order changeth, yielding place to new.. . . No tribute we pay.”
Out of obscurity came Kitchener of Khartum. His father was an English gentleman and soldier, who, having settled in Ireland, lived unpretentiously and educated his sons to be loyal to their King and country. Horatio Herbert was not a brilliant lad, but he had a fine physique and the quality of thoroughness in all that he did. Already he seemed to have a vision of the time when Great Britian would need his services. His time, his efforts were devoted to the training for the Army. That he should have fought for France in his youth seemed, too, to be prophetic. Fate had him in her hands, and when the old Duke of Cambridge took him to task for having joined the French Army he replied that he did not like to be idle.
There was no time for idleness in the routine of the man who had set before him as his goal the greatness of the British Empire and had devoted his sword and his life to helping its achievement. When he marched to Khartum the British public followed him with awe. He was referred to as the man who had made himself into a machine. As King Arthur had fought in great battles and overcome the heathen hordes, so did Kitchener pulverize the dervishes, smash the Mahdi’s tomb and make England feared and respected.
“He has no age but the prime of life,” wrote one who knew him well, “nobody but one to carry his mind, no face but one to keep his mind behind.”
He had not intimate friends; until late in life no home; there was no Guinevere.
Yet with this machinelike personality, this cold, exacting precision, his presence worked like magic with the men under him. Their unbounded confidence in him served as a tonic. He made enemies because he would not yield, because he was “the ruler” whose will must be obeyed, but he never wavered or changed his policy because of what even the greatest and most influential might think. He acted imperially, not seeking popularity.
Such as came to him was because his achievements for the Nation demanded recognition. The man in the street and in the fields believed that he could do anything. He stood in the popular imagination for the Empire as truly as the Kaiser stood for Germany. When the war broke out there were those in official positions who would have willingly sent Kitchener abroad, but men who were both wise and patriotic knew that Kitchener must be in command. The writer, passing through Whitehall during those first apprehensive days, saw the crowds waiting by the hour at a certain door of the War Office in London. The were hoping to see Kitchener emerge, but he had no fancy for cheers, and was almost always able to escape by some other door than the one that was being watched.
The army that was built up to meet the foe was Kitchener’s army. That appellation made it seem more formidable; it was a presage of victory; and when young officers and stupid statesmen, of whom there were not a few, talked of the war being over in a few months Kitchener’s stern statement that it would last at least three years and that millions of men would be need to insure victory made the people know that it must be so, shattering as the idea was to their complacency.
Kitchener’s work for Britain was accomplished. He had a mission to perform, however, a detail of sufficient importance to require his personal service. Aboard the Hampshire he set forth, unknown to all but a few deep in the counsels of the State, on rough northern seas. It was his passing from earth. His agony, if such there was, was shrouded from mortal gaze. The deep claimed him. As when King Arthur passed from sight of Guinevere:
“The moony vapor rolling round the King
Who seemed the phantom of a Giant in it,
Enwound him fold by fold, and made him gray,
And grayer, till himself became as mist,
* * * moving ghostlike to his doom.”
Perhaps Lord Kitchener remembered, as King Arthur did, the deeds of his mighty prime, perhaps a white arm, “clothed in white smite, mystic and wonderful,” once more held up Excalibur. Perhaps even those three queens came in their barge once more and took Lord Kitchener to Avalon, chanting:
“From the Great Deep to the Great Deep He Goes.”
[Text courtesy of The Camelot Project]