Published in the Civil and Military Gazette (CMG), on 18 July 1887, with the subtitle 'And its Fatal Consequences', and the heading:
(Vide Recent Judgment 0f C—-H—-C—)The poem was unsigned, but is authenticated by inclusion 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 published by Kipling, but is to be found in Rutherford (p. 373) and Pinney (p. 1856), as well as on this site.
Andrew Rutherford notes: (p. 373)
The CMG for 15 July had criticised a decision of the Calcutta High Court in what was called the Meherpur Fishery Case. A young Assistant Magistrate had tried 68 people for fishing in a private lake, after they had been warned by the police that fishing was prohibited. He had sentenced all between the ages of 16 and 45 to be flogged and the others to undergo two months’ imprisonment.The poem
The poem gives a racy account of the High Court's criticism of the young magistrate's judgement, which had no doubt pleased the local people who had fished illegally, while displeasing the landlords. Catching, selling, and eating fish were very important to the people of Bengal, and public fishing rights were a sensitive issue.
But in this case the authority of the magistrate had been damaged—for the worse in the poet's view. The final couplet warns that if those sentenced by a court do take the law into their own hands to take vengeance on their judges, taking the hint from the Calcutta Press, they will be hanged.
Young persons The Chief Justice in his comments on the Assistant Magistrate’s action used the patronising phrase 'a young person in his position' . In the Indian Civil Service it was not uncommon for young men to hold such responsibilities well before the age of thirty.
ryots peasants, tenant farmers.
D.S.P. District Superintendent of Police.
D.C. Deputy Commissioner.
Shabash! Bravo! Well done!
Vakils pleaders, attorneys.
'Stunt' Assistant (Collector).
bhils marshes or ponds.
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