My overall favorite is probably "The Mary Gloster." It's a Browning Monologue, a poem in which a single speaker reveals a great deal about himself in the process of speaking. I prefer it to the ones by Browning I know, such as "My Last Duchess."
The speaker is a dying 19th c. shipping magnate, a self-made wealthy entrepreneur, speaking to his worthless son. One of the things that impresses me about the poem is the degree to which the poet persuades us to the speaker's point of view. The son's interest in "books and pictures" ought to appeal to the modern reader--but doesn't. "Your rooms at college was beastly, more like a whore's than a man's" ought to turn the modern reader off--but doesn't. What remains is the picture of the bitterly unhappy old man whose only remaining wish is to be buried at sea by the wife who died when they were both young, the wife whose memory has been the driving force in his life ever since.
Not that he remained entirely faithful to her memory. "For a man he must go with a woman, as you could not understand/But I never talked them secrets, I paid them out of hand."
Another poem I reread recently is "Cleared." It's a piece of ferocious invective against the Irish independence movement--in particular its terrorist dimension. We almost always see that movement from the favorable side, thanks to folk singers such as the Clancy Brothers and poets such as Yeats. It's interesting to see it from the other side.
"Less black than we were painted? Faith, no word of black was said
The lightest touch is human blood and that, you know, runs red."
Kipling had a very high reputation, especially as a short story writer, early in his career, but fell out of critical favor later, I think mostly for bad reasons. Certainly he had politically unpopular views--but they weren't the views generally attributed to him.
Perhaps the clearest example is the often quoted "For East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet," taken to describe the fundamental gulf between European and Asian cultures. In fact its point is almost the precise opposite, as one can see by reading the rest of the verse, and still more clearly by reading the poem.
"Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth!"
Similarly on race. Kim, his one really successful novel, is set in India. Most of the attractive characters are non-European. The Llama, after Kim the central figure, is a convincing portrayal of a saint--and Tibetan. While there are a few positively portrayed European characters, on the whole the Europeans, both the English and their European opponents, come across as incompetents dealing with a culture they do not understand very well, sometimes well meaning, sometimes not.
The book obviously regards British rule over India as a good thing--but not because of the superiority of the British. For further evidence, consider the two stories (A Centurion of the Thirtieth and On the Great Wall) set in Roman Britain, where the Roman conquerors, positively portrayed, are the imperialists, and the British the ruled.
I like many of the short stories, especially the historical ones, and have reread Kim many times. But it is the poetry that really sticks. For other examples:
The Palace. "After me cometh a builder/Tell him I too have known."
The Peace of Dives. An allegory of interdependence as a force for peace. If I ever put together a collection of literature to teach economics, it will be included.
A Code of Morals. The risks of inadequate encryption on an open channel.
A General Summary. Nothing much has changed in the past few tens of thousands of years.
Arithmetic on the Frontier. Economics of colonial warfare. "The captives of our bow and spear/Are cheap, alas, as we are dear." A point of perhaps renewed relevance today.
Jobson's Amen and Buddha at Kamakura both show just how far Kipling was from the usual cartoon version of the British imperialist.
Cold Iron and The Fairies Siege are about the limits of physical force--and so, I suppose, of political realism--while Gallio's song is an approving description of how an empire deals with religious conflict.
The Last Suttee has one of my favorite examples of the use of meter in storytelling:
We drove the great gates home apace:I'll stop now. For a pretty complete webbed selection, just click.
White hands were on the sill:
But ere the rush of the unseen feet
Had reached the turn to the open street,
The bars shot down, the guard-drum beat --
We held the dovecot still.