"A Doctor of

Notes on the text

(By George Engle, with additional notes on "An Astrologer's Song" and "Our Fathers of Old" by Philip Holberton
and medical advice from Dr Gillian Sheehan)

[December 8th 2011]

[Page 253, line 3] hellebore the old name of a plant believed to cure madness and depression.

[Page 253, line 14] Guy Fawkes one of the leaders in the 1605 Gunpowder Plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament.

[Page 253, line 18] rooms i.e. rheums (colds in the head).

[Page 254, line 6] Nick Nicholas Culpeper (see above).

[Page 254, line 19] hay-mow here, a compartment of a stable or shed where hay is stored.

[Page 255, lines 18-20] Virgo (the Virgin), Aquarius (the Water-Carrier) and Gemini (the Twins) are the 6th, 11th and 3rd respectively of the 12 signs of the Zodiac – see further the notes on “The Children of the Zodiac”.

[Page 256, line 8] And again He sayeth, Return, ye children of men a conflation of the different versions of Psalm 90, 3 in the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer.

[Page 256, lines 31-33] trines, oppositions, conjunctions, etc. these are all technical terms in astrology relating to the movements of heavenly bodies.

[Page 257, line 21] there is a time… cf. Eccles. 3, 1 ff.

[Page 258, line 4] timber-tug a long vehicle specially designed for carting tree trunks from the woods to the saw-mills – so long that it can only be turned very slowly.

See “Simple Simon” in Rewards and Fairies, p. 281:

Cattiwow came down the steep lane with his five-horse timber-tug. Cattiwow never let them ride the big beam that makes the body of the timber-tug, but they hung on behind.
[Page 258, line 7] Saye one of Cromwell's generals.

[Page 258, line 8] the man Charles Stuart a term for the King used by persons radically opposed to him.

[Page 258, line 18] werish a Sussex dialect word for weak or insipid.

[Page 258, line 26] Hyssop on the Wall a tree of which Solomon spoke – see 1 Kings 4, 33. Puck is jokingly urging Culpeper not to mystify them with his learning.

[Page 258, line 28] betony from a brookside i.e.Water Betony, which, the Herbal states, is good for treating “wounds and hurts to the breast”. Culpeper would have been gathering it for his army patients when he was wounded in the chest himself.

[Page 258, line 30] Blagg or Bragge not identified.

[Page 259, line 5] Zack Tutshom a Royalist cleric mentioned in some accounts of Sussex in the Civil War. He was made to vacate his living in favour of a Commonwealth clergyman.

[Page 259, line 6] Jack Marget not identified.

[Page 259, line 28] pragmatical meddlesome, or perhaps doctrinaire.

[Page 259, line 30] Oliver Cromwell, the Protector.

[Page 260, line 9] Great Wigsell is a house similar to Batemans about seven miles away. Nicholas’s branch of the Culpeper family was distantly related to the Wigsell branch through an ancestor who died in 1462. The “cousin” or kinsman at Great Wigsell referred to by Nicholas has not been identified.

Alastair Wilson writes: The Kiplings knew the house, having looked over it when they were house hunting in 1900, but had decided that it would not suit them. It later became the home of their great friend, Lady Edward Cecil, who later married Lord Milner, one of Kipling's great political allies. [A.W.]

[Page 260, line 21] whitlow an abscess on the fingertip causing painful swelling.

[Page 260, line 22] impertinences in its old sense of “things not pertaining”, i.e. irrelevancies.

[Page 260, line 31] unfaithful shepherd a recurrent biblical image – see e.g. John 10, 1-13.

[Page 261, line 26] The Lord do so to me and more also A common biblical utterance – see e.g. 1 Samuel 14, 44 and 2 Samuel 19,13.

[Page 261, lines 32-33] I must e'en justify myself…by my works see Jas. 2, 24: '”Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

[Page 262, line 2] Roundhead an adherent of Parliament in the Civil War, especially a member of Cromwell’s army.

[Page 262, line 6] Hysterical Passion hysteria – cf. Lear lI.iv.55.

[Page 262, line 25] primum mobile in the Ptolemaic system, the outermost sphere of the cosmos whose movement is responsible for all other celestial motions.

[Page 262, line 29] both Mills one, Park Mill, built in 1274 (as described in “Below the Mill Dam”) still stands at the bottom of Batemans garden. The other – older still – was at Dudwell Farm, pulled down in 1906 by the Kiplings.

[Page 263, line 2] Munday's Lane presumably in or near Burwash.

[Page 264, line 25] a whitish rat in a letter to Osler Kipling stated that the starting point of this story was seeing “a hideous, old, puffy, scaly white rat” climbing a fig tree.in the Kiplings’ garden in South Africa in February 1901 during an outbreak of plague there.

[Page 265, line 16] Watchman, what of the night ? see Isa. 21,11.

[Page 265 line 32] 'I drenched him then and there with a half-cup of waters....' Dr Gillian Sheehan writes: A drench is a term now used only in veterinary medicine for a drink or a draught of medicine.

[Page 266, lines 4-5] White brandy rectified etc. white brandy (distilled from wine) mixed with the other ingredients mentioned and then “rectified” (re-distilled).

[Page 267, line 9] spearmint the ordinary garden mint.

[Page 268, line 26] Eureka (Greek) “I have found it”–an exclamation of delight at having made a discovery; originally that of Archimedes on discovering how to test the purity of Hiero’s golden crown (Brewer).

[Page 269, line 5] cold fallow: “fallow” is land left uncropped after ploughing and harrowing; “cold fallow” is land left unploughed and uncropped.

[Page 270, line 33] electuaries as described in the Herbal, an electuary is a conserve or paste consisting of dried parts of medicinal plants beaten into powder, sieved, then well mixed with clarified honey in a mortar.

[Page 271, line 28] Not to me the glory see Ps. 115,1.

[Page 272, line 3] The wise man that delivered the city see Eccles. 9,13-15.

[Page 272, line 5] There is a time... ('...to keep silence and a time to speak') see Eccles. 3, 7.

[Page 272, line 7] Wail Attersole in Kipling’s Use of Historical Material (pp. 103-4) Professor Weygandt suggests that Kipling may have taken the name of Culpeper’s father-in-law William Attersoll (a clergyman) and invented the nickname “Wail” for him.

[Page 272, line 13] House of Rimmon the temple of a Syrian god in Damascus – see 2 Kgs. 5, 18.

"An Astrologer's Song"

the poem
Notes by Philip Holberton

This poem is closely linked to the story that follows it in Rewards and Fairies, “A Doctor of Medicine” and reflects the beliefs of Nicholas Culpeper. See George Engel's notes above. It is listed in ORG as Verse 945. See also Kipling's lecture in November 1928 to the Royal Society of Medicine on "Healing by the Stars".

[Verse 1]

What chariots, what horses Probably an echo of 2 Kings 2,12: 'The chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof.'

the Stars in their courses/ Do fight on our side See Judges 5, 20: 'The stars in their courses fought against Sisera.

[Verse 5]

the Sign the Sign of the Zodiac. The Sun, Moon, and the planets appear to move through twelve constellations or signs in the course of a year, such as Leo, Cancer, or Capricorn. In astrology, the influence of a planet was believed to vary according to which Sign it was in.

"Our Fathers of Old"

the poem
Notes by Philip Holberton

This poem is also closely linked to the preceding story, “A Doctor of Medicine” and reflects the beliefs of Nicholas Culpeper. See the Notes above. It is listed in ORG as Verse 955. The notes in blue below about the various herbs are taken from the 1826 edition of Culpeper’s Herbal.

See also Kipling's lecture in November 1928 to the Royal Society of Medicine on "Healing by the Stars".

[Verse 1] Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum) an edible herb, rather like celery, parsley, or chervil.

Marigold (Tagetes) 'It is an herb of the Sun, and under Leo'.

Eyebright (Euphrasia) 'It is under the sign of the Lion, and Sol claims dominion over it. The juice helps all infirmities of the eyes that cause dimness of sight'.

Orris the root of various irises (Iris germanica), used in perfumery and in herbal medicine today.

Elecampane (Inula helenium) a tall herb whose roots are used medicinally. It has recently been found to have anti-bacterial properties.

Basil Both basil (Ocimum basilicum) spelt 'bazil' by Culpeper, and rocket (rucola) , are widely used for cooking today. 'It was a herb of Mars, and under the scorpion. Being applied to the place bitten by venomous beasts, it speedily draws the poison to it. Every like draws his like.'

Rocket 'All this kind of rockets are martial plants.'

Valerian (valeriana) has well-known sedative properties. 'This is under the influence of Mercury'.

Rue (ruta) 'It is an herb of the Sun, and under Leo.'

Vervain (verbena) Vervain has long-standing use in herbalism and folk medicine, usually as a herbal tea. 'This is an herb of Venus, and excellent for the womb.'

Dittany (Cunila mariana), a perennial herb

Call-me-to-you a name given to the pansy (viola), a familiar flower in cottage gardens.

Cowslip (Primula veris) A familiar sweet-smelling yellow flower in the meadows of England before the days of herbicides. 'Venus lays claim to the herb as her own, and it is under the sign Aries; and our city dames know well enough the ointment or distilled water of it adds beauty, or at least restores it when it is lost.'

On reading this note Roger Ayers dug out a little verse that he wrote on May Day, 1976:

Is it really seven years
Since we made cowslip wine?
And the flowers bloomed on Rushall Down
As they had through measured time.

We could not fill a teacup now
With the little yellow bloom
For the fields are dressed with the chemist's best
Which sealed the cowslip's doom.

'But it has not been all disaster. Some years later, our son, Tim, planted a vineyard where a few cowslips were growing. Because he knew my verse, he transplanted them into a corner of our garden. Since then they have migrated round the garden and, secure in their 'protected' status, have indiscriminately colonised lawns, flower beds and rockeries to our great joy every spring.' [R.C.A.]

Melilot (spelt 'mellilot' by Culpeper) 'Sweet clover' (Fabaceae). 'Mellilot, boiled in wine and applied, mollifieth [softens] all hard tumours.'

Rose of the Sun
this may be sundew (drosera anglica) rather than a rose. According to Culpeper 'the Sun rules it and it is under the sign Cancer. The leaves bruised and applied to the skin, erode it, and bring out such inflammations as are not easily removed. The juice destroys warts and corns, if a little be frequently put upon them ... It is under the dominion of Venus.'

[Verse 2]

The Sun was lord of the Marigold The Marigold (Tagetes) is a familiar flower in country gardens. 'It is an herb of the Sun, and under Leo.'

Basil and Rocket belonged to Mars See above.

Who but Venus should govern the Rose? See above.

Who but Jupiter own the Oak? Jupiter was the King of the Gods in Roman mythology, and the oak of Kipling's Old England was seen as the King of trees. 'Jupiter owns the tree.'

[Verse 3]

Dirt has nothing to do with disease Not until 1847 did the Hungarian obstetrician Ignaz Semmelweiss show that simply washing ones hands between patients would dramatically reduce the death rate in a maternity hospital. This was before it was proved that germs cause disease.

Bleed and blister as much as you will
treat a patient by drawing blood from him or by blistering his skin by burning or applying a caustic. Hippocrates (see below)
Bloodletting ('bleeding') was used to treat a wide range of diseases before the days of modern scientific medicine, becoming a standard treatment for almost every ailment. The more severe the disease, the more blood would be let. When you consider how many conditions are now treated by blood transfusion, giving the patient blood instead of taking it away, Kipling is right in Verse 3 line 3: 'Half their remedies cured you dead.'

Today two diseases are still treated by bleeding: Polycythemia rubra, where the body produces an excess of red blood cells, and Haemachromatosis, where there is too much iron in the blood.

[Verse 4]

lancet a surgical knife.

when the crosses were chalked on the door to show that there was plague in the house.

the terrible death-cart rolled when there were too many deaths from plague for ordinary burial, the dead were collected in an open cart and taken to a mass grave.

[Verse 5]

Galen The notable Greek physician (c. 130-201 A.D.), who attended four Roman Emperors. His extensive writings became the medical authority for centuries.

sage wise.

(c. 460-359 B.C.) the most celebrated physician of antiquity, who practised on the Greek island of Kos. He originated the theory of the four humours, see above. In some medical schools today newly-qualified doctors still take his 'Hippocratic Oath', promising to practise medicine ethically.


©George Engle and Philip Holberton 2011 All rights reserved