[ORG] Volume 5, page 2589 (Uncollected No. 249) records first publication in the National Review and the American Magazine for July 1912, and the Evening Standard, London, on 15 March 1948. Collected in the Sussex Edition, volume 30, page 269, and the Burwash Edition volume 23 – without the heading:
Men are not moved to higher things
By wit or common sense,
But cursed by priests and kicked by Kings,
Use them in self-defence.
See also the thirteen verses with the same name (ORG no. 1002) in The Years Between, the first two stanzas (slightly amended) appear over “The Edge of the Evening” (A Diversity of Creatures).
This is a political tract, set in a boiler-room (similar to those in coal-burning vessels of the time) in Hell where various souls are being punished for their sins.
The years between 1910 and 1914 were a time of considerable political unrest in Britain. Issues under hot debate included the future of Ulster, and votes for women, while a number of serious industrial disputes were taking place. Meanwhile Europe was dividing into armed camps and drifting toward war. [See “The Strange Death of Liberal England by George Dangerfield].
There was unrest in the British coal industry in 1910/1912 which is reported in The Times, and in Kipling’s letter to H. A Gwynne of 16 March, 1912 [Letters Vol 4, Ed. Pinney, page 99]. Gwynne had been a colleague of Kipling’s on The Friend of Bloemfontein during the South African War; see “Folly Bridge” (Uncollected No. 231) A strike in February 1912 may well have inspired both the letter and this tirade against Trade Unions.
Notes on the Text
Haka the only reference we have found is the traditional Maori dance performed by the New Zealand rugby team before a match, designed to strike terror into the opposition. But Kipling may simply have liked the sound of the name.
gunpowder was known to the Chinese from earliest times, and introduced in Europe during the Middle Ages. Once firearms and cannon had been invented, the day of the free-riding knight in shining armour, the classic figure of the Age of Chivalry, was over.
Friar a member of a religious order – the reference is to Roger Bacon, (c. 1214-1294), the English philosopher and Franciscan friar who is sometimes credited as one of the earliest European advocates of modern scientific method. See the Headnote to “The Eye of Allah” and Debits and Credits page 376 line 6.
Inquisitions tribunals once set up by the Roman Catholic Church to find and punish heretics.
“Who killed Cock Robin?”
“I,” said the Sparrow,
“With my bow and arrow,
I killed Cock Robin.”
“Who saw him die?”
“I,” said the Fly…
Wars of the Roses The English civil wars in the fifteenth centruty between the Dukes of York and their followers (whose badge was a white rose), and the Dukes of Lancaster (whose rose was red), ending with the defeat of the Yorkists by the future Henry VII at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.
Dies erit… This could perhaps be translated as: ‘It will be a very cold day, inauspicious for a printer’, making the point that newspapers can’t be printed without power. But it is not a recognisable quotation, nor is it good Latin.
Trades Disputes Act The Taff Vale Railway Company sued the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants in 1901 for losses during a strike. As a result of the case the union was fined £23,000.. This ruling exposed a trade union to being sued every time it was involved in an industrial dispute. After the 1906 General Election the Liberal Government passed the Trades Disputes Act which removed trade union liability for such damages in future.
For this you’ve my word, and I never yet broke it,
So put that in your pipe, my Lord Otto, and smoke it!–
Lord High Makee-do perhaps a combination of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Lord High Executioner (The Mikado), and pidgin-English, meaning to manage with available resources – make-do. See also “A Flight of Fact” (Land and Sea Tales page 109, line 16).
I’m right from old Virginny wid my pocket full of news,
I’m worth twenty shillings right square in my shoes.
It doesn’t make a bit of differance to neider you nor I
Big pig or little pig, Root, hog, or die.
Democracy government in which power is vested in the people – a conception which Kipling did not favour greatly; see such stories as “As Easy as A.B.C.” (A Diversity of Creatures) See also Philip Mason page 198.
It must be said that when one looks at the kind of “democracy” advocated by ‘Sugden’ one can see Kipling’s point. However, this is a very highly-coloured picture of trade-union views at the time, as seen by the right wing of the Conservative party, but certainly not by people of more liberal persuasion. [Ed.].
[J H McG]
©John McGivering 2009 All rights reserved