of the Passage"
by John McGivering)
|notes on the text|
The sky is lead and our faces are red,Philip Holberton writes: In Life’s Handicap this verse is called “Himalayan”. It is the third verse (of four) of a poem of that name by Kipling published in Echoes in 1884. The style is a parody of a minor American poet, Joaquin Miller. The other three verses, though still describing the hot season in the Plains of India, are relatively light-hearted, using a number of native words for comic effect and with the names of three hill-stations (Simla, Murree, and Naini Tal) as a sort of refrain.
And the gates of Hell are opened and riven,
And the winds of Hell are loosened and driven,
And the dust flies up in the face of Heaven,
And the clouds come down in a fiery sheet,
Heavy to raise and hard to be borne.
And the soul of man is turned from his meat,
Turned from the trifles for which he has striven
Sick in his body, and heavy hearted,
And his soul flies up like the dust in the sheet
Breaks from his flesh and is gone and departed,
As the blasts they blow on the cholera-horn.
I cannot be sure that ‘ the blind face that cries and can’t wipe it’s eyes,’ which appears with horrible facetiousness in “La Nuit Blanche” in Departmental Ditties and as pure horror in (this story) rose in Kipling’s own dreams, but he himself has told us in “Brazilian Sketches” (Sussex Edition, Volume 24) that once in a child’s dream he wandered into a Fifth Quarter of the world and ‘ found everything different from all previous knowledge,’ and the memory of that dream must have provided the groundwork for George Cottar’s (“The Brushwood Boy” in The Day’s Work) wanderings …Braybrooke [Kipling's Soldiers, C W Daniel, London 1925, p. 92 ) regards this as a study of a man driven mad by three elementals:
The sense of being alone, the force of the pitiless sun ….. and the curse of being unable to sleep. …. Something robs Hummil of sleep and his mind slowly but surely goes.