Notes by John McGivering and John Radcliffe, with advice from a number of colleagues, including Peter Havholm, Roger Ayers, David Page, Yan Shapiro, and Brian Mattinson
…. an attack on a Government Commission which had delivered a report on the conditions of the Indian peasantry and found no cause for concern, despite the fact that several regions of India were experiencing drought and famine. This last allowed Ruddy to expound his view that the Pax Britannica, for all its proclaimed achievements, had done nothing for the ordinary Indian.Background
'...it says the condition of the lower classes of the agricultural population need not cause any great anxiety at present. That the people get ordinarily enough food to keep them in strength, and in tracts of light rainfall the most indigent classes are always at risk of distress when the rains fail or partially fail, and that in all parts of India there is a numerous population which always live from hand to mouth...'The Pioneer's response
A few months later one of my chief proprietors received the decoration that made him a Knight ... I followed under shrewd guidance, often native, the many pretty ways in which a Government can put veiled pressure on its employees...However, on this occasion the Pioneer did not hold back.
...he trod the line, accepting the shibboleths of the day, which were that socialising with Indians was undesirable, political reforms that allowed Indians a greater share of government dangerous and Indians in general untrustworthy - particularly the educated ones.For a further sense of Kipling's views at this time on government policy in India, see also "The Enlightenments of Pagett, M.P." (uncollected save in the Sussex and Burwash editions), and “The Head of the District” (collected in Life’s Handicap).
... it is in a bitter poem in Departmental Ditties that the young Kipling most clearly announces this basic fact of Indian life.Jan Montefiore (p. 120) notes that these lines parody Swinburne:
A poem in which Government is not spared at all. “The Masque of Plenty” has been curiously neglected, for it is a highly variegated set of verses in form, as well as explosive in content.
(as the) “Argument” he writes:
The Indian Government being minded to discover the economic condition of their lands, sent a Committee to enquire into it, and saw that it was good.First the Government of India in the raiment of the Angel of Plenty sings:
"How sweet is the shepherd’s sweet life….etc.”The investigator return with so good a report that the Government of India sings:
"How beautiful upon the mountains ...”And, at last, comes a chorus of the 'Crystallised Facts' which ends with these lines about the Indian peasant:
“His speech if of mortgaged bedding,
On his kine he borrows yet.
At his heart is his daughter’s wedding.
In his eye foreknowledge of debt
He eats and hath indigestion
He toils and he may not stop,
His life Is a long-drawn question
Between a crop and a crop.”
"The Masque of Plenty" ... rewrites the lament for the tragic contradictions of mankind's existence in Swinburne's Atalanta in Calydon:Other glimpses into Kipling's view of the world of government at Simla include:
His speech is a burning fire;Kipling's version turns the abstractions and metaphors into harsh material facts ... Insisting on the poverty, debt and unending labour that make a subsistence farmer's life wretched, the young Kipling mocked not only the big empty words of poetic universality but the imperialist boast of enlightened rule as equally irrelevant to the peasant.
With his lips he travaileth,
In his heart is a blind desire,
In his eyes foreknowledge of death;
He weaves, and is clothed with derision;
Sows, and he shall not reap,
His life is a watch or a vision
Between a sleep and a sleep. [Atalanta in Calydon (1865) Chorus]
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!Cres abbreviation of crescendo, playing the music louder and louder.
I think that the first twelve lines of this stanza are the things that Dufferin's predecessors imposed on the population, all imported western ideas, while the last eight lines are the local reality, which Dufferin's Report presumably exposed. Of particular interest is the line 'Railways and roads they wrought' - a hint at the 'Trains and Drains' argument raised by Dadabhai Naoroji as early as 1866 when he wondered who the trains benefitted and where the drains actually led. By the time Kipling was writing, this had been taken up by the National Congress. (See India, a History John Keay, Harper Collins, London, 2000).' [R.C.A.]to bear and to grin an inversion of the proverb 'to grin and bear it' – to make the best of a bad job or situation.