[April 6th 2020]
This poem was published in the Civil and Military Gazette, on 10 August 1886, with the signature R.K., and the heading:
The horse, added Mr. Thomas, was still fit for "purely processional purposes" Vide the Pioneer’s story of the Madras Scandals.The poem is included in Kipling’s Scrapbook 3 of his own press cuttings in the Kipling Papers at the University of Sussex Special Collections. It was not otherwise collected by Kipling, but is to be found in Rutherford (p. 328) and Pinney (p. 1817).
A man is selling a horse that is terrible in every respect, old, mis-shapen and ill behaved. But like his daughter, or his many other worthless possessions, the beast is useful for 'processional' purposes.
As Pinney explains, the occasion of the poem was the publication of a story about the attempt of a civil servant named Thomas to palm off an unsound old horse on another man by an illegal scheme. Rutherford (p. 331) writes:
Through the summer of 1886 the Pioneer ran a series of articles on what it described as "the Madras Scandals". These centred on the charge that Mr H.E. Sullivan, the Senior Member of Council in Madras, had been guilty of serious malpractice, and that Mr Crole, the Collector of Madura, had been victimised because of his attempting to draw attention to the case.Kay Robinson, already a friend of Kipling, had taken over as Editor of the Civil and Military Gazette in June 1886, with a brief from the proprietors to give the paper 'more sparkle'. When Kipling returned from leave in Simla to Lahore in August the two young men were soon working together on excellent terms. Robinson must have encouraged Kipling to enlist the CMG in the campaign against the "Madras Scandals", hence this poem, "At the Bar" a few weeks later, and Kipling's "Two Limericks on the Madras Scandals" the following month.
©Philip Holberton 2020 All rights reserved