"The Houses"

or "The House Militant"

(1898)


Notes by John Radcliffe
and John McGivering



the poem
[Augusr 3rd 2011]

Publication history

ORG Volume 8, p. 5377 (Verse No. 724) records first publication in The Navy League Journal of 28 June 1898. Also later in Harper’s Weekly of 18 January, 1902 and the Guide to the Coronation Review of 1902 (for King Edward VII), published by the Navy League.

It is collected in:
  • The Years Between 1919
  • Inclusive Verse 1919
  • Definitive Verse 1940
  • Sussex Edition vol. 33, page 390
  • Burwash Edition vol. 26
  • The Works of Rudyard Kinpling, Wordsworth Poetry Library 1994
See David Alan Richards p. 252 for further details of publication.

Theme

The poem affirms the value of the mutual ties between the Dominions of the British Empire.

Background

Under the British North America Act of 1867, the British provinces of North America came together in a Confederal Union of Canada, which was granted 'Dominiuon Status', in effect independent self-government under the formal authority of the British Crown, with its own Parliament. Relations between Canada and the United Kingdom would continue to be close, but would be conducted on a basis of independent equality. This was to become a model for other parts of the Empire: Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, were given similar status in the years after 1902.

For Kipling, a firm believer in the British Empire as a force for good in the world and a system for mutual support between what he saw as the family of Anglo-Saxon peoples, this was an excellent model, and in this poem he is extolling it. Kipling had made a brief foray into Canada during his journey to England from India in 1889, and in July 1892, on their way back from their honeymoon, the Kiplings had travelled across Canada by train. Rudyard greatly liked what he saw.

In London in 1898, after a visit to South Africa, as Andrew Lycett records (p. 306), Kipling dined with the US Ambassador to Britain, John Hay, and Cecil Rhodes:

No record of these meetings exists, but the coordination of an Anglo-Saxon world view must have been high on the agenda. Rudyard indicated as much in 'The Houses"described by Carrie as his 'verses on "Anglo-Saxon alliance", published in the Navy League Journal later in June.
Kipling's experience of the Second South African War (1899-1902) in which soldiers fron many different parts of the Empire, and many Americans, fought on the British side, confirmed this view. In his story "With Number Three" which describes a visit to a hospital train, he reflects on the value of encouraging young men from Canada Australia and New Zealand to settle in South Africa. After the war he was an enthusiastic supporter of Joseph Chamberlain's campaign to stimulateb trade between Britain and the Empire.

The "Five Nations" of his collection of verse published in 1903 were the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. See Mary Hamer's introduction. See also "The Song of the Cities" in The Seven Seas.


Notes on the Text


[Alternative Title] The House Militant An echo of "The Church Militant" (Ecclesia Militans) in Christian theology one of the divisions of the Universal Church, Christians on earth who fight sin, the devil and 'the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places' (Ephesians 6:12). [others are The Church Suffering, The Church Expectant, and The Church Triumphant].

[Prose Heading] A Song of the Dominions This defines the poem as a celebration of the free communication amd mutual assistance between the Dominions and the United Kingdom. But see Mary Hamer’s Notes on “The Islanders” (1902) which tells how we:

... fawned on the Younger Nations for the men who could shoot and ride.
[Verse 1]

T’wixt an abbreviation of 'betwixt', meaning 'between'..

[Verse 2]

kin cleaving to kind relations sticking together. 'kind' in this context means people of a similar nature or type.

anon in this context 'soon', but usually pronounced to rhyme with 'don'.


[J McG.]

©John McGivering 2011 All rights reserved