Kipling was an extremely popular writer during his own day. Indeed, he is still a popular writer today, especially in the genre of children's literature for his Jungle Books . "If-" is still an exceedingly popular poem. However, his reputation has suffered among modern readers and scholars due to his unabashed embrace of imperialism, colonialism, and ideas regarding the cultural supremacy of the white European races. His poems detail the lust for empire-building and depict it as a noble and pure endeavor, ignoring the terrible suffering, pain, and ignominy thrust upon the colonized peoples who never asked to be subjugated by another country. His descriptions of non-white races across the globe are backward and insulting, often reeking of racism. His views on gender roles are antiquated. Overall, it is not a popular position to advocate for Kipling's preeminence as a poet given the deleterious and discomfiting views he held on a few very significant subjects.
There are various others, including some that have outlived their context by many years. The phrase ‘killing Kruger with your mouth’, for instance, was current till very recently. It is also possible that it was Kipling who first let loose the use of the word ‘Huns’ for Germans; at any rate he began using it as soon as the guns opened fire in 1914. But what the phrases I have listed above have in common is that they are all of them phrases which one utters semi-derisively (as it might be ‘For I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May’), but which one is bound to make use of sooner or later. Nothing could exceed the contempt of the New Statesman , for instance, for Kipling, but how many times during the Munich period did the New Statesman find itself quoting that phrase about paying the Dane-geld (3) ? The fact is that Kipling, apart from his snack-bar wisdom and his gift for packing much cheap picturesqueness into a few words (’palm and pine’ — ‘east of Suez’ — ‘the road to Mandalay’), is generally talking about things that are of urgent interest. It does not matter, from this point of view, that thinking and decent people generally find themselves on the other side of the fence from him. ‘White man's burden’ instantly conjures up a real problem, even if one feels that it ought to be altered to ‘black man's burden’. One may disagree to the middle of one's bones with the political attitude implied in ‘The Islanders’, but one cannot say that it is a frivolous attitude. Kipling deals in thoughts which are both vulgar and permanent. This raises the question of his special status as a poet, or verse-writer.