"Sleipner,
late Thurinda"

Notes on the text

Notes by David Page with technical comments by Alan Underwood. The page and line numbers below refer to the Authorised Edition of Abaft the Funnel published by Doubleday and Page, New York, in 1909.



[October 4th 2006]

[Title] Sleipner (or Sleipnir) was Odin’s eight-legged grey horse of Norse legend, who could carry him over sea as well as land.

[Verse Heading] The Place Where the Old Horse Died. The heading is the first four lines of the last verse of George John Whyte-Melville’s (1821-1878), “The Place Where the Old Horse Died.” The six-verse poem chronicles, and laments, the death of a favourite horse in the hunting field. The poem is also referred to by Kipling in “The Rout of the White Hussars” where:
There was no Band, but they all sang “The Place Where the Old Horse died” as something respectful and appropriate to the occasion.
[Page 129, lines 8-9] Shayid Spring meeting the name of a race meeting held in the spring at Shayid. Nowhere of that name has been identified so far.

[Page 129, line 11] Officers’ Scurry probably describing a ‘sprint’, which at five furlongs this certainly was in modern racing. Kipling, in an article titled “Concerning One Gymkhana” printed in the Civil and Military Gazette, 11 June 1887, describes two scurries – a polo-scurry and a hurdle scurry – the first of three-quarters of a mile (or 6 furlongs) and the second of half-a-mile (or 4 furlongs). (Kipling’s India: Uncollected Sketches 1884-88, ed. Thomas Pinney)

[Page 129, line 13] price of the stable the bets placed on all three of the horses brought up by Jale.

[Page 129, line 13] pigeon-toed feet turned inwards.

split-chested probably meaning a groove down the breast rather than the chest which lies behind the forelegs.

dâk horse a horse used in the relay system for carrying the mails. In short, Benoni was a poor-quality animal.

[Page 130, line 2] ridden out to the last ounce getting the last ounce of performance out of the horse.

[Page 130, line 5] turned over at the on-and-off course fell, probably at a ‘bank’ where the horse has to jump up onto an obstacle made of solid earth (turfed over), cross it and jump down again. Nowadays they are not normally used in British National Hunt racing although they do exist, at Cheltenham for example. Banks are included in point-to-point courses (run by hunts for amateurs in order to raise funds) in Cornwall and at four other places.

[Page 130, line 9] shamiana tent.

[Page 131, line 10] charpoy the light Indian bed, usually consisting of a simple frame bedstead with strings or ribbons as supports for the body.

[Page 132, line 13] lotteries see the headnote.

[Page 132, line 18] 1200 i.e. rupees = £80 at the time. [ORG] Approximately the cost of 89 bottles of malt whisky.

[Page 132, line 24] pegging out a slang term for dying. Thought to derive from the game of Cribbage where pegging out means the end of a game.

[Page 132, line 25] click of the dice possibly referring to a method of distributing lottery tickets or selecting a horse for auction in a random manner. see the headnote.

[Page 133, line 2] drawer (of the lottery of life) i.e. God. [ORG]

[Page 133, line 22] refer this matter to Calcutta No doubt the headquarters of racing in India was in Calcutta – as the Jockey Club at Newmarket controls racing in England. The intention here being to leave it all to the Local Stewards at the Shayid Race Meeting. [ORG]

[Page 134, line 16] to weigh out the rider at the finish of a race is weighed together with the saddle, etc., to check that he has not cheated by removing any handicapping weights.

[Page 134, line 20] ridden out ridden further in front of the other horses than is strictly necessary, with the consequent risk of damaging the horse, or tiring it too much.

[Page 135, line 1] Militia subaltern The Militia was a military force raised from the civil population for home defence. As civilian ‘part-time’ soldiers, Militia subalterns (second lieutenants and lieutenants) had a reputation for making up for their lack of military skills by showing excessive zeal.

[Page 135, line 5] carcase or carcass. In the sense that it is used here, the next (Goriah) meeting likened to an attraction for the vultures (sportsmen).

[Page 135, line 5] Ghoriah a tribe (khel) of this name existed near Peshawar.

[Page 135, lines 7 & 8] Pullman car a luxurious railway passenger carriage of the type developed by George M. Pullman (1831-1897) initially in the U.S.A. from 1860 onwards.

[Page 135, line 15] bukhs talks.

[Page 135, line 21] to hack to ride a horse as a means of transport or recreation rather than for racing.

[Page 138, line 13] nutmeg tickings nutmeg-coloured markings on the horse.

[Page 139, line 2] thirteen-three thirteen hands and three inches or 55 inches (4ft. 7in.) tall to the withers, the ridge between its shoulder blades. This was the height limit for polo ponies in India from 1888, when it was raised from thirteen-two. There is no height limit now, but the horses used for polo are still called ponies.

[Page 142, line 6] 900 (rupees)=£60 at the time. [ORG] Approximately the cost of 67 bottles of malt whisky.

[Page 143. line 11] Bucephalus the horse of Alexander the Great (320 B.C.), but he wasn't a mythological beast like Sleipner. [ORG].

[Page 143, line 13] “get” progeny. [ORG]

[Page 146, line 1] strait-jacket a special jacket with long sleeves which fastens up the back, and the sleeves can be tied at the back also. Used to restrain someone, and in the 1880s, usually someone considered to be insane.


[D.P./F.A.U.]

©David Page and Alan Underwood 2006 All rights reserved