To the Companions

(notes by Lisa Lewis, Susan Treggiari,  Isabel Quigly, and Daniel Hadas)

Publication history

First published in Debits and Credits as an introduction to the school story “The United Idolaters”.


“The United Idolaters” has the same characters as the tales in Stalky & Co., and like them was set in a fantasy version of Kipling’s own school, the United Services College, Westward Ho!, Devon.

The Roman poet Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus, 65-8 B.C.E.) published three books of Odes in 23 B.C.E. There was later a fourth book, of which the date is controversial, but which was probably circulated before he died. No Fifth Book of Odes has been recorded; this is one of a series of parodies of Horace’s work that Kipling wrote. Others in Debits and Credits are “The Portent”, “The Survival” and “The Last Ode.” In 1920, Kipling and a group of friends had published a book of such parodies in English and Latin (Q. Horatii Flacci Carminum Liber Quintus). For further information see Charles Carrington, ed. Kipling’s Horace (London: Methuen, 1978).

Critical Opinion

The Horace parodies in Debits and Credits were greatly admired by the American critic Christopher Morley, who quotes “To the Companions” in full [Saturday Review of Literature (New York), vol. III, p. 155 (2 October 1926); reprinted in Roger Lancelyn Green, ed., Kipling: the Critical Heritage (London: Routledge & Keegan Paul, 1971) pp. 333-6].


Notes on the text

[Sranza 2] Venus and Liber:  Goddess of Love and God of Wine in Roman mythology.

[Stanza 4]  The God Himself of Mirth:   If Kipling had an ancient God in mind, it would be Momus.  [D.H.]

[Stanza 6]  Charon:  the boatman who ferried the souls of the dead across the river Styx to Hades. His boat is mentioned in Horace’s Book II, Ode 3, lines 27-8.



©Lisa Lewis, Isabel Quigly, Susan Treggiari 2005 All rights reserved