The Broken Men

(notes by Mary Hamer drawing on various sources, in particular Ralph Durand, “A Handbook to the Poetry of Rudyard Kipling” 1914.)

Publication history

Written in August 1901 according to Carrie Kipling’s diaries as represented in the Carrington Extracts. First published in The Five Nations September 1903.

Collected in I.V. 1919, and in D.V. 1940, the Sussex Edition vol. 33, and the Burwash Edition vol. 26.


In “The Unfading Genius of Rudyard Kipling”, Kipling Journal March 1959, speaking of his own poem, “The Hollow Men”, T.S. Eliot acknowledged that he ‘would never have thought of this title but for Kipling’s “The Broken Men”’.Compare too, the final stanza with Rupert Brooke’s later poem, “Granchester”.

As David Richards notes   in his 2023 essay on Kipling’s Atlas, Kipling  inscribed some lines from this poem on the map of India in the atlas he presented to Max Aitken in 1912.

Harish Trivedi asks: Whose “birth-right” is being referred to here, a collective one (“our”) or Kipling’s own, whose birth did take place in India? What are “all things meet” and what is “our Father’s House,” twice referred to in the source-poem

Professor Trivedi notes that in this inscription Kipling alters “the scent of the heat” to “the smell of the heat” in the last line of his quotation.

Notes on the Text

[Stanza 2] dock and Dartmoor: trial and imprisonment (for fraud). Dartmoor is the name of a notorious prison on the moor of that name, in Devon in the west of England.

Callao: a port in Peru at that time, and one of the overseas havens for persons wanted by the law in Britain.

[Stanza 3] ten per cent: that much a year in interest, an exorbitant amount, a detail which implies that the people he had swindled in England had been credulous in their greed.

[Stanza 5] yucca: a plant with sword-shaped leaves, originally from South America, now often used in English plantings.

jalousies: slatted wooden blinds.

[Stanza 7] English ground: they would be liable to arrest on a British ship, as all stepping aboard came under English law.

[Stanza 9] the old Lord Warden: the first hotel in Dover that would have struck the eye on landing. It is named after the ancient title of ‘Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports’ on the south coast of England.


©Mary Hamer 2007 All rights reserved