Notes on the text
These notes, by John McGivering, are partly new, and partly based on the ORG. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of Limits and Renewals, as published and frequently reprinted between 1932 and 1950.
HER eyes the glow-worm lend thee[Page 126 line 32] the terms of the front-line of ’16 he swore in the manner of the soldiers in France in 1916; the lorry-driver, also a survivor of the war, replied in similar terms and they parted with no hard feelings.
The shooting stars attend thee;
And the elves also,
Whose little eyes glow
Like the sparks of fire, befriend thee.
Then, Julia, let me woo thee,[Page 129 line 6] Plane of the Ecliptic the path that the sun appears to follow, here used jokingly.
Thus, thus to come unto me:
And when I shall meet
Thy silv'ry feet,
My soul I'll pour into thee.
When all at once I saw a crowd,[Page 129 line 10] a Trappist monk 'The Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance' or 'Trappists', a Roman Catholic religious order that strictly follows the rule of St. Benedict. They only speak when necessary - idle talk is strongly discouraged and meals are usually taken in contemplative silence.
A host of golden daffodils.
Kipling is referring to Continental (particularly French) practice. All British railway level-crossings were required by law to be protected by gates, operated from the nearest signal-box if the distance was only a matter of tens of yards, or manually by a crossing-keeper. There was no need for an audible warning of an approaching train. The present half- and full-barriers, with flashing lights and audible warning were only introduced widely in Britain from 1975 onwards.[Page 144 line 6] Charlie Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin, KBE (1889-1977) known as Charlie Chaplin, Academy Award-winning English comic, he became one of the most famous actors as well as a director, composer and musician in the early to mid Hollywood cinema.
However, in using the onomatopoeic “Kalang-alang-alang-alang” for a level-crossing gong, Kipling is reproducing perfectly the sound which he would have heard, either from his compartment on the rapide from Paris to the South of France, or from the back seat of his car ‘Esmeralda’, as she waited at some rural crossing on the way back. The gong was initiated by the train's passing over a treadle in the track.
Gongs were also found sometimes in the USA, and occasionally in Britain on such lines as those within docks, but would not have been within the general experience of most Britons. [A. W.]
But we, brought forth and reared in hours[Page 145 line 8] older than Abraham 'And these are the days of the years of Abraham’s life which he lived, an hundred three-score and fifteen years'. (175 years). Genesis 25,7.
Of change, alarm. surprise
What shelter to grow ripe is ours ?
What leisure to grow wise ?
Kipling wrote these lines on the fly-leaf of the copy of Plain Tales from the Hills he gave to his parents some forty years before this story was written.
… the cosmic powers have discarded their severe mask, and their innermost essence is shown, at least, for the moment, to be comic. [page 9, passim].
This is a reference to a theme of film-making that occupies a prominent place in the story. The accompanying poem …. takes its cue from Naaman’s reply to Elisha when the prophet tells him that he will be cured of leprosy if he bathes seven times in the Jordan…. (which) …. clearly stands for Hollywood….. I believe that Kipling wanted to suggest an analogy between what he regarded as the preposterous plots of contemporary films and the crazy events which lead up to the Comic Experience in the story: if it comes to that sort of thing, he and his ‘demon’ can do better than Hollywood.The story is told in the Second Book of Kings, Chapter 5, and mentioned in Luke, 5, 27, but it should be noted that Tzaarath, a transliteration of the Hebrew, a complaint mentioned in chapters 13-14 of Leviticus which afflicts humans, clothing and houses, was mistranslated as 'leprosy' in early versions of the Bible in English even though it has nothing whatever to do with that illness and is more akin to psoriasis. See also Luke 4,27.