Notes on the text
(by Alastair Wilson and Mary Hamer)
‘And when we have wakened the lust of the foe,The jaunty hornpipe rhythm takes the edge off a rather risqué comparison. Cruisers, whose traditional task is to seek out enemy ships and lure them into ambush, are throughout compared with seaport prostitutes. Georgian sailors, 100 years earlier, used the same analogy: they would refer to a girl, whether virtuous or not, as a ‘saucy frigate’.
To draw him by flight to our bullies we go—
Yet never so halting that he is outrun
And never so halting that we are outdone.
Then lurching and lunging, he followeth far,
With hail of long pieces our beauty to mar
Till, ware of fresh smoke stealing nearer, he flies—
And our bullies close in for to make him good prize.’
What ship, where bound? ; or[Stanza 5] describes exactly what happened at Jutland, 17 years later, see Naval Background in the Headnote.
Heave to, I am sending a boat!.
'Are you sure that the enemy is still there?'Bearing in mind the tactical need to update the returning ship with a situation report, a ship would not make her signals ('signeth') 'fleeringly' (in a mocking or sneering fashion). But see the note on The Victorian Navy below.
'Are those their signal lamps flashing, or a lightning flash ('levin')?'
'Is that thunder or gunfire?'
'Is that funnel-smoke, or a cloud on the horizon?'
'Is that a ship’s navigation light, or the morning star?' (actually, the planet Venus, rather than a star).
'Get out of this and conduct your own damned manoeuvres in your own damned tinker fashion! You’re a disgrace to the Service, and your boat’s offal'.In reality, in the 1897 manoeuvres on which "Their Lawful Occasions" may be presumed to be based, the Admiral commanding Blue Fleet was Admiral Sir Henry Stephenson, a gallant and bold admiral who had been a very intrepid polar explorer in his youth, but who was, perhaps, less fitted for high command in an increasingly technological navy. Pyecroft suggests, using gunnery idiom, his groovin’ to be badly eroded by age and lack of attention, and it is known that Sir Henry was not in the best of health at this time. So perhaps Kipling had heard of some distinctly fleering remarks during his time on board Pelorus.