It lies tantalisingly out of reach behind a pane of glass: a small, unassuming piece of paper bearing some familiar words in a dark and compact script.
At Runnymede, at Runnymede,
What say the reeds at Runnymede?
The lissom reeds that give and take,
That bend so far, but never break.
They keep the sleepy Thames awake
With tales of John at Runnymede.
I’m at the British Library’s Magna Carta exhibition, captivated by a draft of Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem. Seeing the original manuscript of any literary work, with the crossings out, the revisions and the notes in the margins, has an interesting effect. We are so used to seeing poems and novels in their finished form that it’s sometimes easy to forget there’s an arduous creative process behind them. The work-in-progress version of Kipling’s poem shows just how he laboured to create the polished version we know today. On…
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