"On the
City Wall"

Notes on the text

These notes, by John McGivering, are partly new, and partly based on the ORG. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of Soldiers Three and Other Stories, as published and frequently reprinted between 1895 and 1950.



[November 16 2005]

[Heading] This passage from the Book of Joshua in the Old Testament describes how two Israelite spies went to Jericho and lodged in Rahab’s house which was also 'on the city wall'.

See the note by Daniel Karlin (p.544) for his interesting suggestion that Kipling uses ironic reversal for the position of the house, and [on page 347 of Soldiers Three, lines 10-33] where Khem Singh is hauled up instead of being lowered down like the spies. It is also a good example of the device of the imperfectly-informed narrator so that the reader appears to know more that the teller of the story.

[Page 321, line 1] Lalun An article in KJ 114/6 of July 1955 tells of the book Lalun the Bergun or The Battle of Paniput by Myrza Moorad Alee Beg, published in India in 1884 by the State Press at Bhownuggur and the Union Press, Bombay and mentioned in “To be Filed for Reference” (Plain Tales from the Hills).

[Page 321, line 2] Lilith 'a female demon, believed by some to have been the first wife of Adam' (Brewer). She appears in The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) by Robert Burton (1577-1640) and the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) translates scenes from Goethe’s Faust as:

Lilith, the first wife of Adam
Beware of her fair hair, for she excels
All women in the magic of her looks.
Lilith also appears in "Eden Bower", a poem by William Michael Rossetti (1829-1919) which ORG believes Kipling had in mind:

– It was Lilith, the wife of Adam
(Sing Eden Bower !)
Not a drop of her blood was human…
[Page 321, line 15] jubjube-tree a shrub (Zizyphus) of the Buckthorn family.- the fruit can be dried as a sweet.

[Page 321, line 16] ten thousand rupees Kipling started work at Rs, 1,800 a year.

[Page 322, line 6] the east wall facing the river this is another case where East may not be East and West is not necessarily West; the West wall faces the river Ravi and the quarter where the prostitutes lived was near the Taksali Gate in the North-West of the city, South of the Fort. This Gate appears in Kim and “In the House of Suddhoo”.(Plain Tales from the Hills).

[Page 322, line 13] the red tombs of dead Emperors see Daniel Karlin, p. 545, for an interesting note.

[Page 322, line 17] Wali Dad he is described at length on page 322. Another of the same name comes to a dreadful end in “The Ballad of the King’s Jest.”

[Page 323, line 12] making love in this context and in those days, merely verbal professions of affection.

[Page 324, line 2] write books upon its ways and its works see the verses “Pagett, M.P.”

[Page 324, lines 8-29] the administration of the Empire etc. The opinions expressed here were common among the British in Kipling's time. (see “The Head of the District” in Life’s Handicap ).

[Page 324, line 31] see visions and dream dreams your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. Joel, 2, 28.

[Page 324, line 33] Red Sauce blood – rule by the sword.

[Page 325, line 3] Pax Britannic usually 'Pax Britannica' – peace and the rule of law provided by the British Empire.

[Page 325, line 4] Peshawar to Cape Cormorin the most northerly and southerly points in India – that is to say the whole sub-continent.

[Page 325, line 23] the hospitality of Government he is either in prison or under open arrest like Khem Singh – see p. 331 below.

[Page 326, line 2] the Pen is mightier than the Sword

Beneath the rule of men entirely great
The pen is mightier than the sword.

Baron Lytton (1803-1873)
[Page 326, line 10] Dil Sagar Lake ORG has 'The Ocean of the Heart' but the reference has not been traced.

[Page326, line 28] a petty Nawab the ruler of a small Indian state.

[Page 326, line 30] chunam a lime made of burnt shells. (Hobson-Jobson)

[Page 327, line 1] huqa or hookah – the hubble-bubble pipe.

[Page 327, line 17] Shiahs Muslims who regard Ali, Mohammed’s cousin, as being his successor.

[Page 327, line 19] Sufis Muslim mystics embracing pantheistic views.

[Page 327, line 22] Pundits in this context men learned in Sanskrit lore, but also applied to secret agents employed in intelligence-gathering beyond the frontiers of India. See Kim. Hobson-Jobson (page 740) and Peter Hopkirk's The Great Game (OUP, 1991).

[Page 327, line 26] the Golden Temple The holy place at Amritsar, 32 miles east of Lahore, sacred to Sikhs, which is the headquarters of the Sikh religion.

[Page 327, line 33] salon a drawing-room, and also a meeting of knowledgeable and like-minded people in such a room, usually with a distinguished hostess.

[Page 328. line 1] electic he probably means 'eclectic', choosing the best of everything, or 'broad' (the opposite of exclusive)

[Page 328, line 13] the Athenians For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing. Acts, 17, 21.

[Page 329, line 3] a Demnition Product a curious way of pronouncing damnation used by Mr. Mantalini, a selfish, affected dandy, in Nicholas Nickleby (1838), the novel by Charles Dickens (1812-1870).

[Page 329, line 14] ‘O Peacock, cry again’ The peacock is now the national bird of India, so hunting it is banned. The song has not been traced.

[Page 329, line 20] kites in this context, birds of prey of the genus Milvus. Kipling includes one named 'Chil' (occasionally called 'Rann') in The Jungle Books.

[Page 330, line 6] sitar a stringed instrument.

[Page 330, line 9] a great battle Pannipat. Holmes (p. 54) records four battles here, the last in 1761.

[Page 330, line 10] Sivaji (1627-1680) founder of the Mahratta empire.

[Page 330, line 13] laonee a traditional Mahratta ballad – see Daniel Karlin, p. 546.

[Page 330, line 33] Fort Amara Fort Lahore, which appears in “With the Main Guard” earlier in this volume. [See the frontispiece to KJ 39 of September 1936].

[Page 331, line 18] ‘a consistent man’ Khem Singh (see overleaf) is probably a composite figure similar to Nana Goving Dhondu Pant, better known as the 'Nana Sahib', adopted son of the last Maratha Peshwa. (See Holmes, p. 71 etc. ) and mainly responsible for some of the massacres of the Indian Mutiny in 1857. ORG quotes the following letter to The Times of 9 September 1955, from a Mr. A Vickers:

Sir, In the history of the Indian Mutiny we learn that the Nana Sahib, of Cawnpore infamy was pursued and hunted by British troops. Eventually he escaped and in 1858 he finally disappeared. To this history can now be added that 42 years later (1900) the Nana Sahib was, by chance, discovered by an old loyal pensioned subahdar of our former Indian Army.

This fine old gentleman was being employed by the British recruiting Staff 0fficer (my brother-in-law) to assist in obtaining the best class of recruits for our Indian regiments. One day the old gentleman, when on tour in the foothills of the Himalayas, stopped to rest near a holy shrine under a tree in a very remote part of the Siwaliks. A very old priest in charge of the shrine tottered out to have a chat with the traveller. To his amazement the subahdar recognised the Nana Sahib whom he knew quite well as a boy in Cawnpore before the Mutiny. The subahdar did not reveal this to the old man. The recruiting officer reported the occurrence to our benign Government which decided to allow this very old man to end his days in peace and obscurity.
Yours, etc., A. Vickers, Lingfield, Broad Oak, Ottery St. Mary, Devon.
Kipling uses this device later in “The Tree of Justice” (Rewards and Fairies) where he tells how King Harold was not killed at Hastings but lived as a pilgrim for many years thereafter.

[Page 331, line 21] blowing men from guns During the Mutiny captured rebellious soldiers were tied in front of the muzzle of a field-gun which was then fired.

[Page 331, line 24] Wahabi an Islamic sect founded by Muhammed ibn-al-Wahab. (c.1703-1792)

[Page 332, line 9] Burma Burma - now known as Myanmar - was under British rule at the time, and such prisoners were often exiled there.

[Page 332, line 23] go whoring after strange gods an echo of several references in the Bible; Exodus, 34,15 and elsewhere.

[Page 333, line 14] Subadar Sahib a polite way of addressing a senior Native Officer - equivalent to a Regimental Sergeant-Major in the British army.

[Page 335, line 4] of a pleasant countenance David … was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance (1 Samuel, 17, 41).

[Page 335, line 15] Begums and Ranees Moslem and Hindu ladies of rank. See “The Incarnation of Krishna Mulvaney” (Life’s Handicap) for a Queens’ Praying at Benares and “The Man who Would be King” (Wee Willie Winkie) where an attempt to blackmail a native ruler for a similar crime is contemplated.

[Page 335, line 19] Sobraon the last of the four battles of the Sutlej campaign in the war of 1845-1846 where the Sikhs were defeated.

[Page 335, line 19] The Kuka rising suppressed with great severity in 1872; see Daniel Karlin, p. 548.

[Page 335, line 23] ’57 1857, the year of the Indian Mutiny – the revolt by the Bengal army against the British.

[Page 336, line 30] ‘niggers’ an offensive expression denoting coloured races, which is not now used.

[Page 336, line 32] Tommies abbreviation for “Thomas Atkins” the archetypical British soldier – see the note to page 77, line 7 earlier in this volume also the verses “Tommy” and “To Thomas Atkins".

[Page 337, line 31] heterodox women the Hetairai – well-educated and accomplished Greek courtesans of ancient days.

[Page 338, lines 15-16] wear an English coat and trouser etc he is the product of two civilisations and does not know which one to adopt – but see page 345, line 24 where he settles for his own people.

[Page 338, line 27] Vizier the equivalent of a Chancellor or Prime Minister – usually in Mohammedan states.

[Page 339, line 8] pince-nez French for 'pinch-nose' – eyeglasses that clip onto the bridge of the nose. This picture shows the young Kipling wearing such a pair.

[Page 339, line 13] Mohurrum commemoration of the death of Hassan and his brother Husain – see Hobson-Jobson (p. 574).

[Page 340, line 1] fakements are called tazias in this context, showy articles of little value - the items carried in the procession.

[Page 341, line 22] Ladakh a province of northern India some 400 miles from Lahore.

[Page 341, line 24] brick-tea as the name implies, tea compressed into a solid mass.

[Page 341, line 30] Vox Populi is Vox Dei The voice of the people is the voice of God (Latin).

[Page 341, line 31] the Padshahi Gate the King’s Gate – see Daniel Karlin, p. 549.

[Page 342, line 8] Ya Hassan! Ya Hussain ! see the note to Page 339, line 13 above.

[Page 342, line 21] Into thy hands, O Lord St. Luke, 23, 46, reports the last words of Jesus on the cross as: Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.

[Page 342, line 26] Sirkar the government.

[Page 343, line 26] gutting kine in their temples a dreadful desecration, as cows are sacred animals to Hindus.

[Page 344, line 10] sons of burnt fathers ‘burnt’ is English slang for suffering from venereal disease (Oxford English Dictionary) but whether it translates with a similar meaning is open to question.

[Page 346, line 31] the Gate of the Butchers not identified.

[Page 347, line 14] thou the second person singular – an informal and intimate form of address – Lalun probably thinks Wali Dad has entered the room.

[Page 348. line 16] the Kumharsen Gate not identified.

[Page 349, line 29] a lakh one hundred thousand.

[Page 350, line 6] Akala probably an invented name.

[Page 350, line 22] lest a worse thing should happen an echo of John 5, 14: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.

[Page 350, line 11] victoria in this context, a light carriage easy to enter and leave, having only one step up from the ground, said to have been developed for Queen Victoria in her later years.

[Page 351, line 18] It is expedient etc it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people; the words of Caiaphas, the high priest, planning the death of Jesus (John 11, 50).

[Page 351, line 23] ‘Two lovely Black Eyes’ the first verse of a music-hall song by Charles Coborn (1852-1945):

Two Lovely Black Eyes,
Oh ! what a surprise !
Only for telling a man he was wrong,
Two lovely black eyes !
[Page 352, line 20] the mouth of a gun see the note to page 331, line 21 above.

[Page 352, line 28] Those who employed him Russia was then suspected to have envious eyes on India as described in Kim, “The Man who Was” (Life’s Handicap) and other writings including “The Truce of the Bear”, “Russia to the Pacifists”, etc. See also Peter Hopkirk, The Great Game (Oxford, 1991) (who quotes Kim on the title-page).

[Page 353, line 18] Fort Ooltagarh ORG suggests this probably imaginary fortress could translate as ”Contrary Castle” as ulta-pulta means 'upside-down'. ORG also draws our attention to the uncollected story “The City of Two Creeds” (Civil and Military Gazette of either 18 or 22 October 1885 [printed in ORG Vol 1, p. 582 and incorrectly noted in the Index at p. 2643 of Vol 5.]


[J H McG]

©John McGivering 2005 All rights reserved