Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) is perhaps the most controversial major English poet of the last two centuries, not least because of his apparent enthusiasm for the empire. A child of British India, he first became famous for tales of imperial life, notably "Kim", "the Jungle Book" and "Barrack Room Ballads". Kipling wrote verse in every classical form from the epigram to the ode, but his most distinctive gift was for the ballads and narrative poems in which he draws vivid characters in universal situations and articulates profound truths in plain language. Yet he was also a subtle and deeply affecting anatomist of the human heart, with a feeling for the natural world which rivals his younger contemporary, D H Lawrence. Shattered by World War I in which he lost his only son, his work darkens and deepens in later years, but never loses its extraordinary vitality.