by Alastair Wilson)
|notes on the text|
“TERRITORIAL FORCE (DUMMY HORSES)This exchange probably induced guffaws among Naval Officers in the Naval and Military Club, and retired Admirals no doubt chaffed their retired General neighbours after Church on Sunday, when local gossip was exchanged (cf, the scene in "An Habitation Enforced" (Actions and Reactions pages 30-31). This whole story is Kipling’s rather elaborate working-out of a similar leg-pull at the expense of the Army. It may be remarked that Kipling was still very much interested in Naval matters, as much as anything because his son John had been, until very recently, destined for the Navy himself. When John’s eyesight was shown to be defective, and a Naval career no longer an option, Kipling’s interest in the Navy became, let us say, somewhat diluted.
EARL OF RONALDSHAY asked the Secretary of State for War if rocking horses are to be supplied to all Cavalry regiments for the purpose of teaching recruits to ride; and does he propose to extend the advantage to the Territorial Force with a view to increasing their efficiency?
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. Haldane): The Noble Lord is doubtless alluding to certain dummy horses on rockers which have been tested with very satisfactory results. The question of the supply of such dummy horses is now under consideration.
EARL OF RONALDSHAY : Is it the intention to make good the deficiency of real horses by these wretched mechanical beasts?
MR. HALDANE: I am told that various hon. Members opposite practise with profit on these dummy horses.
Close to these farces, but not quite the same, are those in which the ridiculous incidents serve some extraneous purpose as ordeals or gauges. The gaudy jest of ‘The Horse Marines’ reassures the retired Colonel that the spirit of his regiment has not changed since he commanded it. ‘Same old game – same young beggars.'Four pages on, she writes:
Kipling’s own delight in these tales is manifested in the gaiety of their detail. His imagination keeps offering him more and more. Scenes, types and similes bubble up …. . Many of these accessories to the jest are fibres which tether it to earth: such are Pyecroft, shining his uncle’s boots at the beginning of ‘The Horse Marines.’And another two pages on, still in the chapter on ‘Laughter’, she cites the poem ‘The Legend of Mirth’ which is linked to, and immediately follows the tale:
All these examples are linked by the fact that the laughter – the violent sense of fun – is accompanied by a suspension of daily hardship and strain. … Something, too, may be gathered from the tales themselves and their accompanying verses. Those who laugh are men who carry responsibilities and control large interests. It is a Law Lord and a famous engineer who apply themselves to find out if a monkey will climb a monkey-puzzle tree, … (even) the Archangels present themselves. They appear in ‘the Legend of Mirth’ which is attached to ‘The Horse Marines’. Theirs is the rigour of unresting zeal, so careful to conform to its own high standards, so anxious, so perilously near to pride, that it needs to be pierced by:
Tales of the shop, the bed, the court, the street,And Allah despatches a Seraph on this mission. The ‘utter mirth’ in which the Four forget both ‘zeal and pride’ sends them reeling through the universe which answers to their laughter:
Intimate, elemental, indiscreet . . . .
Tales to which neither grace nor gain accrue,
But only (Allah be exalted!) true.
And e’en Gehenna’s bondsmen understood They were not damned from human brotherhood.The Archangels have received new light on their tasks from frivolity, and they tell the tale roundly against themselves in heaven. These are some of the implications that came to enrich Kipling’s natural – he might have said national – addiction to farce.