(notes by Roberta Baldi and Alastair Wilson
edited by John Radcliffe)
Whatever corruptions there may be at the top, the work must go on; frontiers must be protected, epidemics fought, bridges built, marshes drained, famine relief administered. ... “the unforgiving minute” is upon us fourteen hundred and forty times a day. This is the truest and finest element in Kipling; his version of Carlyle's gospel of work.But there is little sense of this positive affirmation in these sombre verses. Noting the date of publication (April), one may wonder if the start of the hot season had anything to do with the black mood of Kipling's piece. Its final burden is that no-one is indispensable. [A.W]
The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts uponThe "Rubáiyát" was in vogue among the pre-Raphaelite circle of artists and writers, to whom Kipling was related. He mentions it in Stalky & Co. (p. 218) as recommended by the Head as 'a poem not yet come to its own'. See also "The Rupaiyat of Omar Kal'vin" and "The Exiles' Line".
Turns Ashes–or it prospers; and anon,
Like Snow upon the Desert's dusty Face,
Lighting a little hour or two–is gone.
"...What flower is your honour’s ladyship commanding for the table?”[Line 18] Each in his strait wood-scantled office pent Pent up in his coffin rather than his former office. [A.W.]
“Just ourselves?” she said, looking at the crotons in the great hall. “Then let’s have marigolds—the little cemetery ones.”
So it was ordered.
Now, marigolds to us mean hot weather, discomfort, parting, and death. That smell in our nostrils, and Adam’s servant in waiting, we naturally fell back more and more on the old slang, recalling at each glass those who had gone before.
‘Do those who live decline[Line 35] Today's “Most Indispensables” / Five hundred men can take your place or mine. This final sardonic statement: ‘Trust me ... / Five hundred men can take your place or mine’ (ll. 35-36) gives a crushing answer to the question posed by the heading.
The step that offers, or their work resign ?’ (ll. 33-34)