A Beleaguered City

(notes by Philip Holberton, drawing on the research of Andrew Rutherford and Thomas Pinney)


Published in the Civil and Military Gazette, 28 January 1884, as a protest against the dangers of having a rifle range sited in the heart of the station at Lahore. It followed an item on the same theme which appeared on 26 January, quoting from “The Poet’s mind”, Tennyson’s poem of that name, which includes the lines:

Vex not thou the poet’s mind
With thy shallow wit…

.Kipling wrote to his aunt Edith Macdonald:

I need only explain that I too was nearly shot while riding down the Mall, and the “Poet’s mind” was, consequently, vexed by the “shallow wit” of volunteers who could miss a mark at two hundred yards and nearly hit a man at two thousand ….The 1st P.V.R. are seeking the blood of the person who wrote the verses.
[Letter in the Library of Congress.]

The 1st P.V.R. were the First Punjab Volunteer Rifles, and the CMG’s protests led to official reconsideration of the use of this range.

The poem was not collected by Kipling but is to be found in Rutherford (p. 211) and Pinney (p. 1717).

The Poem

The poem is a parody of “The Walrus and the Carpenter” from Through the Looking Glass (1872) by Lewis Carroll. The title comes from Mrs. Oliphant’s novel of that name, about the dead, published in 1880, a version of which Beetle tells in the form-room in “The Impressionists” (Stalky & Co. p. 123).


©Philip Holberton 2019 All rights reserved