"A Madonna of
the Trenches"

Notes on the text




[Nov 25 2003]


[Page 239, line 10] Swinburne, “Les Noyades” Verses 1 and 16 of the poem by Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909), whose works were an early influence on Kipling. The title of the poem refers to an episode of the French revolution, when in 1793, at Nantes, men and women were stripped and bound face to face in pairs, then thrown into the river Loire to drown. According to Carlyle, this was known as "mariage republicain." Swinburne imagines "one rough with labour” who has long been in love with an aristocratic young girl, rejoicing that he will be united with her at last, even though in death. Nora Crook pointed out that the poem was seen as “shocking and objectionable”, “combining as it does sado-masochism, necrophilia, egalitarianism and blasphemy with the Romantic ecstasy [p. 155].

[Page 239, lines 12-13] Lodge of Instruction (attached to Faith and Works E.C. 5837) See notes on “In the Interests of the Brethren” and "The Janeites." Hearst’s reads: “in the autumn of ’19” instead of “in the years after the war.”

[Page 239, line 18] Brother Keede A character in “In the Interests of the Brethren.” In Hearst’s, “we owed much to our fat … Brother Keede.”

[Page 240, lines 5-6] his papers … above suspicion See below under Tyler’s Room. [Page 241, line 10].

[Page 240, line 14] robing Robes are not part of the regalia in Craft Masonry, either now or in the past, in England or any other Constitution. Robes are worn in Royal Arch Masonry, although there is no evidence that Kipling ever belonged to that Order, regarded in those days as the completion of the Third Degree in Craft Masonry. But it was not unusual for a Freemasons’ Hall to have a Robing Room, and some exist to this day, where Masons put on their Aprons, Cuffs, Collars and Gloves before going into the Temple.

[Page 240, line 16] Sampoux In the magazine version this was “Fampoux,” a real place where the second battalion of the Irish Guards were in January 1918. [The Irish Guards in the Great War, vol. II, p. 188. The map of the area following p. 130 shows no canal in the neighbourhood of Fampoux.] It may be that the reference to a canal on page 253, line 7, meant that the name had to be changed to a fictional Sampoux, combining Fampoux with the real life Sambres Canal. Or perhaps it was because both Sgt Godsoe and Strangwick belonged to a South London battalion, rather than the Irish Guards.

[Page 240, line 21] Jumps Involuntary movements, nervous starts. A contemporary slang reference to the condition of soldiers suffering from shell-shock and battle fatigue.

[Page 240, line 24] I suppose After this in Hearst’s: “Meeting me again has stirred him up.”

[Page 240, lines 30-31] Labour … Banquet Labour means the performance of Masonic ritual, Banquet the refreshments afterwards. The Brethren are said to be “called from labour to refreshment that profit and pleasure may be the result.”

[Page 241, line 2] across the tessellated floor The floor of a Masonic Lodge is normally a “Black and White mosaic or chequered pavement, representing the Light and Darkness, the joys and sorrows of our chequered existence on this earth,” emblematic in this sense of life and death, which is explored later in the story.

[Page 241, line 10] Tyler’s Room The Tyler, also known as Outer Guard, is the officer stationed outside the locked door of the Lodge room, armed with a drawn sword. He is responsible for the security of the Lodge by keeping out non-Masons, examining visitors to the Lodge to prove that they are Masons by checking that the certificate issued by their Grand Lodge is in order, putting certain questions to them and verifying the answers, demanding the appropriate password and grip and preparing candidates.

[Page 241, line 16] sal volatile Solution of ammonium carbonate in alcohol or water, used as a restorative in fainting fits.

[Page 242, 28-31] They’re tough … back See also previous page and line 9 above. Some of these details expand a phrase “paved with ancient horrors” in Kipling’s history, where a similar comment is made about the French [The Irish Guards in the Great War, vol. II, p. 188].

[Page 243, line 15] paregoric From the Greek “encouraging, soothing.” A camphorated tincture of opium flavoured with aniseed and benzoic acid, used as a sedative and to relieve pain.

[Page 243, line 29] Non-Com. Non-commissioned officer.

[Page 243, line 32] B.H.Q. Battalion Headquarters.

[Page 244, line 30] mornin’ After this in Hearst’s, “in the middle of my breakfast I remember."

[Page 246, lines 6-7] beasts of officers Clem is misquoting 1 Corinthians 15, 32: “If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not?” This passage is prescribed to be read as part of the Church of England Burial Service.

[Page 246, lines 18-22] Whatever … other love See epigraph. Clem is confusing Swinburne’s lines with a biblical text: “yea verily I say unto you.”

[Page 251, line 20] fag British slang for cigarette.

[Page 251, line 26] Very light Illuminating flare fired from a special pistol, invented in 1877 by Edward Wilson Very (1847-1910), an Admiral in the U.S. Navy and an ordnance expert.

[Page 253, line 15] Zoo-ave “Zouave”, a French light infantryman in oriental uniform, originally recruited from the Algerian Kabyle tribe of Zouaoua.

[Page 253, line 18] poy-looz Poilus (hairy or unshaven ones), a slang term for French private soldiers.

[Page 256, lines 17-18] only the second time … together In Hearst’s this was “the first time we’ve been reely alone together.”

[Page 257, line 2] she stoops After this in Hearst’s, “a little, bein’ tall, d’ye see.”

[Page 257, line 30] No need to black a dead man’s name While this is a standard saying in English, Kipling had used the words in “Banquet Night” (q.v.): “But that is no reason to black a man’s face / Because he is not what he hasn’t been born.”

[Page 258, line 23] Angels of Mons It was widely believed in England that St George, England’s patron saint, had come with a band of angels bearing flaming swords to save two outnumbered divisions of the British Expeditionary Force from the might of the German First Army during the retreat from Mons (26-27 August 1914). The myth apparently originated in “The Bowmen,” a short story by Arthur Machen published in the Evening News of 29th September, 1914, which imagines that a prayer to St George brought the archers of Crecy and Agincourt to shoot down the enemy and rescue the hard-pressed British troops. Machen himself would write that he derived his inspiration partly from Kipling’s short story “The Lost Legion” in Many Inventions. He commented that “In the popular view shining and benevolent supernatural beings are angels and nothing else … and so, I believe, the Bowmen have become ‘The Angels of Mons’.” [Arthur Machen, The Bowmen (London, Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton Kent and Co. Ltd, 1915) pp. 11 and 18].

[Page 259, lines 6-7] Why stand … every hour? I Corinthians, 15, 30. Also part of the Burial Service.

[Page 260, line 3] some flamboyant robe See note on “robing” above. Although Kipling was not a member of the Royal Arch, he could have been aware of their regalia. The Lodge of Instruction might have been taking place in a hall or temple where robes from other Masonic degrees were stored.

[Page 260, lines 32-3] breach of promise action A girl who had been jilted by her fiancé could sue for damages, partly for expenses incurred in anticipation of the wedding, and partly because it was thought that his rejection made it unlikely that any other man would be willing to marry her.

[Page 261, line 9] quietly After this in Hearst’s, “in a taxi.”

[Page 261, line 15] “That’s all that’s wanted!” Some readers, like Brother Armine, have found this puzzling. It could mean that, for Keede, Uncle Armine’s personality and manner complete the diagnosis. He is now the only older male in Clem’s family, but, as Bella’s widower, the last man to whom the story could be confided, even if he were capable of understanding it or sympathising. Under his Masonic obligations Keede could not do so in any event.

Crook, however, does not see Brother Armine as inadequate, considering that the phrase means that Clem needs a substitute father “and now he has been found … a simple man, but he is one of the Craft and a maker” [p. 168]. If it is accepted that Clem is the son of Godsoe and Bella, this would make Brother Armine a more admirable character.

[Page 261, line 19] wakes After this in Hearst’s: "Then we went out and left the nephew in charge of the uncle."


[L.L. and G.K.]