A Departure

(notes edited by John McGivering)


First published in Land and Sea Tales (1923) where it follows “The Parable of Boy Jones”. Also in the Sussex Edition, Volume 16, page 143, Volume 34, page 352. Also, with a minor variation, in Collected Verse, Definitive Verse, and The Works of Rudyard Kipling (Wordsworth Poetry Library). See “Poseidon’s Law” “The Wet Litany” and, for more verse of a ‘warning’ nature, “The Gods of the Copybook Headings”, “The Dykes”, “The Islanders” and “Natural Theology”. Also Gilmour p. 115.

Notes on the text

[Verse 1]

White Horse Banner: the battle standard of the Saxons, from Kent.

Hengist: died 489 – a legendary leader of the Jutes, who with his brother Horsa, settled in Kent, one of the first leaders of the Anglo-Saxon invasions of the fifth century.

Long-ships: rowing and sailing vessels used by the Vikings and others. See also “Song of the Red War-Boat.”

Liners:  in this context modern vessels carrying passengers

[Refrain ]  Woe to the weaker  Echoes the proverbial “vae victis / woe to the vanquished”. See Wikipedia.  [D.H.]

[Line 2] Hard-mouthed: A horse with a hard mouth is difficult to control.

[Verse 3] Galley:  a similar vessel to a long-ship, mainly designed to be rowed.

[Verse 4] gathering way  Moving forward faster.

[Verse 4] War-shields: When the men had embarked, the shields were arranged on the gunwales to give some protection from missiles.

Benches: in this context the thwarts on which the rowers sat.



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