Song of the Engines

(notes by Philip Holberton)


First published in Joseph Finn [Josephine Balestier], ed., The Kipling Birthday Book, 1896. Published in The Day’s Work (1898) with “The Ship trhat Found Herself”, in Songs from Books (1912) as a chapter heading, and in later verse collections.

The Poem

“Song of the Engines” isn’t strictly the title, but the made-up source Kipling gave the poem when he published it as a heading to ‘The Ship that Found Herself’. [D.H.]

Lines 3&4 read: ‘It is blesseder, Brothers, to give than receive! (see Acts 20.35) In the context of the story, “give” has the punning meaning of “yield, allow some play or movement”. On p. 92 the engines insist on ‘Absolute, unvarying rigidity.’ By p. 97 they admit ‘practically, there has to be a little give and take’. See also “The Secret of the Machines” line 6:

‘a thousandth of an inch to give us play’.

The shear of the blade refers to the cutting action of the propeller in the water.



©Philip Holberton 2020 All rights reserved