(notes by Roger Ayers)
| the poem
... descriptive of whatever is basest and most brutal in the character of the British mercenary.There is very little specific comment on the poem until 1979 when Angus Wilson (p. 82) links the same first verse directly to Mulvaney in his assessment of the characters Kipling has given his ‘Soldiers Three’, although there is nothing of Mulvaney’s Irishness anywhere in the poem.
and this piece being just
... a glorification of the familiar episode of drunk and resisting the guard.
This overlooked aspect of Kipling reaches its apogee in his drinking poems which naturally accommodate both his ebullient musicality and his inquisitive ear for realistic speech.and the first verse of “Cells” is quoted as the first of many examples.
...so focused on a central character that Kipling’s own attitudes remain a secret. It is this absolute psychological realism that permits the devotee of Kipling to take apparent prejudice and amorality in his stride; Kipling speaks as rarely as Browning with his own voice.and in “Cells” Kipling is speaking with the voice of a soldier that he knew.