The Consolations of Memory

(notes by John McGivering and John Radcliffe)



One of the last group of six, which did not appear until 1929, when the whole set of 26 items was assembled within a three-volume collection called Poems 1886-1929. Collected in the Sussex Edition vol. 35.(ORG Verse No. 859). See also “The Justice’s Tale” above


“Done out of “Boethius” by Geoffrey Chaucer”: Chaucer translated The Consolation of Philosophy (Latin: Consolatio Philosophiae) a philosophical work by Boethius, written around the year AD 524. It is one of the most important and influential works in Western Europe on Mediaeval Christianity.

Anicius Manlius Severinus Boëthius, usually known simply as Boethius (ca. 480–524) was a Christian philosopher in Rome, at a time when the Roman Empire in the West had been conquered by the Ostrogoths. The Consolation of Philosophy was written during his one-year imprisonment while awaiting trial, and eventual horrific execution, for the crime of treason, by the Ostrogoth King Theodoric the Great.

Daniel Hadas notes: The text is specifically a parody of Consolation of Philosophy 2.5 (poem).  In this poem, Boethius goes through the classical theme of the Golden Age: the world was better before the inventions of agriculture, wine, purple dye, ships, and mining for precious metals. Kipling has transposed this anti-technology theme to the infrastructure for motorcars. [D.H.]

The theme

The motorist considers the happy days before roads were tarred or cars obliged to have number plates and muses on the changes in motoring since he began.
Ann Weygandt (pp. 21/22) comments that:

This parody bolsters itself up with several words and phrases taken direct from the original. The borrowing would not make it successful, were Kipling not able to catch the rhythms of Chaucer’s prose as well as those of his poetry. But it, also, reveals how thoroughly the modern writer had
absorbed the spirit of his fourteenth-century prototype.

Notes on the text

[Line 4]

layen under clene hedge: See Chaucer’s Boethius:

þei slepen holesom slepes vpon þe gras  [D.H.]

[Line 11]

Tartarus:   Named twice by Boethius in Consolation of Philosophy 3.12 (poem), although Chaucer translates with helle.  [D.H.]

[Line 12]]

the dumbe lamp of Tartarus: In Greek mythology, Tartarus was a region of the Underworld even lower than Hades, and also the name of a minor deity. A red light was a danger signal, indicating the need to stop.



©John McGivering and John Radcliffe 2020 All rights reserved