The Coiner

(notes by John McGivering and John Radcliffe)


First published in The Story-Teller for December 1931 with “A Naval Mutiny”. Collected with “A Naval Mutiny” in Limits and Renewals (1932), the Sussex Edition Volume 11, page 173 and Volume 14, page 412, and The Works of Rudyard Kipling (Wordsworth Poetry Library).

Other titles for the poem include ”Shakespeare and “The Tempest”, “The Vision of the Enchanted Island”, and “The Birth of ‘The Tempest’.

See our notes on “How Shakespeare came to write The Tempest”. Also KJ 154/8, 156/05, and 233/60, 299/09. Also a letter from Roger Lancelyn Green, the Editor of the Kipling Journal to The Times of 20 March 1965. (see ORG Volume 5, page 2528).

Notes on the Text


There is  indeed a song  King John and the Bishop.  We have not identified “Tempest-a-Brewing”  which may have been coined by Kipling.

[Verse 1] the Bermudas: a group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean some 600 miles off the coast of the United States.

Master: responsible for sailing the vessel under the general direction of the Admiral

Swabber: one who washes the decks, etc.

Bo’sun: responsible for masts, sails and rigging.

[Verse 4] Dover: a port in Kent on the South coast of England.

Southwark: then a suburb of London, on the South bank opposite

the City of London. The Globe Theatre, where many of Shakespeare’s plays were staged, was outside the jurisdiction of the Lord Mayor. A replica of the theatre (right) was opened in 1997 on the South Bank of the Thames.

[Verse 6] Mulled sack: a white wine from Spain, warmed up with spices – a ‘punch’.

leasing  Lying. See OED, ‘lease, v.2’, “to tell lies” (not attested after 1594, so earlier than the “circa 1611” dramatic date of Kipling’s poem. The first edition of the OED completed publication in 1928. I don’t know if Kipling used it at all, but if he did, he could perhaps have known this [the online edition is the second one, and I don’t now have access to the first edition]).  [D.H.]

[Verse 7] A Coiner: One who makes counterfeit money – in this context, however, a writer who turns a plain narrative into a wonderful story, like Shakespeare – or Kipling.

fill him this globe   The primary sense is obscure: how can something both be rare and fill a globe, particularly if “this globe” is the world? But the line in any cases alludes to the Globe Theatre, which Shakespeare can fill with an audience, using the sailors’ story. [D.H.]

[Verse 8] A crown: or five shillings, twenty-five pence in decimal currency, worth some £45 in 2008 values.

We bit them and rang them: tests for counterfeit coins.

[Verse 8]  poke a bag or pouch (see OED, ‘poke, n.1’)

 a truss “russ”has a bewildering variety of meanings, but I’d guess what’s meant here is an articles of clothing.

The refrain means, roughly, all we need it something to drink, something to eat, and clothes to wear”. [D.H.]



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