"A Song of Kabir"


(Notes edited by
Alan Underwood)

the poem

[August 1st 2006]


Published as a heading to "The Miracle of Purun Bhagat" in the Pall Mall Gazette and the Pall Mall Budget on 18 October 1894. It is placed at the end of the story in book form. Coillected in
  • The Second Jungle Book (1895)
  • Songs from Books (1912)
  • Inclusive Verse (1919)
  • Definitive Verse (1940)
  • The Sussex Edition vol xxxv (1939)
  • The Burwash Edition vol xxviii (1941)
  • Cambridge Edition (2013) Ed. Pinney, p. 684

The poem

Four four-line stanzas, which follow the theme of "The Miracle of Purun Bhagat" , the powerfuk high-caste Brahmin administrator who reaches high office, and forsakes it ti beciome a wandering holy man, meditating on the meaning of life, and of things.

Notes on the text

[Title] Kabir Kabir, was a disciple of Ramanand (c. 1400-1470) who founded a Hindu sect. The mendicant members of the sect were known as Bairagis. Kabir taught that distinctions of creed were unimportant. He influencd bith Hindua and Muslim thought, and in particular the Sikh religion. His utterances form much of the text ofthe Abi Granth, the sacred book of Sikh priests.

[line 2] fiefs a fief, originally a feudal benefice, has come to mean something over which one has control, a domain or dominion.

[line 3] guddee a throne, or seat of office.

[line 4] bairagi the crutch or staff carried by a holy man, but in this context the holy man himself.

[line 6] sal Shovea robusta a timber tree, with wood like teak.

[line 6] kikar Acacia arabica which produces a gum and a tannin widely used in northern India for tanning leather.

[line 8] the Way by tradition, the Buddha said: There is a path which opens the eyes and bewstows understanding. which leads to peace., to insight, to thr higher wisdom. Verily it is this Noble Eightfold Path: that is to say, Right Views, Right Aspirations, Right Speech, Right Conduct, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindedness, and Right Raptire. [R. Durand, A Handbook to the Poetry of Rudyard Kipling 1914, p. 182]

It is not always clear what Kipling meant by 'The Way', but there is probably something to be said for the ORG suggestion that he meant: 'the road to beatitude, nirvana, external bliss, or paradise, without any reference to formal religion'.

[line 11] the Red Mist of Doing 'The Hot Mist of Doing'in the Pall Mall Budget.


F A Underwood 2008 All rights reserved