Beat off ?

(notes by Sharad Keskar and Philip Holberton)


This poem is the heading to Chapter XIII of “The Naulahka”. It is collected as a Chapter Heading in Songs from Books (1912) and later collections.

The poem

Although Tarvin did not find the Naulahka at the Cow’s Mouth in Chitor, he still believes he will get it and “make our sea-washed village gay”—make Topaz a boom town.

Notes on the text


caravel a small, highly manoeuverable, two- or three-masted lateen-rigged ship with triangular sails, inventeded by the Portuguese and used by them and by the Spanish for long voyages of exploration from the 15th century. Christopher Columbus’s fleet in 1492, when he reached the Americas from Europe, consisted of three caravels.

picaroon a pirate ship.

Westward Ho!    Of particular resonance to Kipling since this was the name of the village where his school was, near Bideford in Devon.

hand and reef  Sailor skills in handling sails aloft.

plate ships these were bringing back gold and silver from South America to Spain in Elizabethan times.

Santos Bay Santos is the port for San Paulo in Brazil.


©Sharad Keskar and Philip Holberton 2020 All rights reserved