The Song of the Dynamo

(notes by Philip Holberton)


This poem was first published in the Morning Post (London), on December 6th, 1927, and in Liberty (New York) on January 28th, 1928, with “The Father of Lightnings”. It is listed in ORG as no 1149.

Collected in:

  • Brazilian Sketches (1940)
  • Definitive Verse (1940)
  • The Sussex Edition vol xxxv (1939)
  • The Burwash Edition vol xxviii (1941)
  • Cambridge Edition (2013) Ed. Pinney, p. 1418

The poem

The dynamo meditates on all the different ways that its electric current can serve mankind: Hearing (telephone and radio), Seeing (electric light and movies – not yet TV in 1927), and Strength (train and tram and tube as listed in the preceding “Song of Bananas”.)

But in Verse 2 it remembers that it is actually one with the harrying (destructive) lightning, only mankind is kept safe by his “coward foresight”.
In the accompanying article, Kipling notes how

‘now and again the generous tropical thunderstorm shows what “power production” really means. Even so, men have devised “lightning arrestors,” which, like the transformers, live outside the premises..’

He was fascinated by machinery, in ships, in bridge-building, in railways, and here in a power station, and how men can devise, and build, and control it.

Daniel Hadas adds:   In verse 2, referring to ‘The Powers that move. the poet  presumably means the    various forms of combustion or water-power, placed by the dynamo beneath the “true powers” of electricity. [D.H/]


©Philip Holberton 2017 All rights reserved