The first publication of this poem was in Schoolboy Lyrics in Lahore in 1881, in an edition of around fifty arranged by his mother the year before Rudyard’s arrival in the city at the age of sixteen, to work as a journalist. It is listed in ORG as No 19.
- The Outward Bound Edition vol xvii (1900)
- Edition de Luxe vol xviii (1900)
- The Sussex Edition vol xxxv (1939)
- The Burwash Edition vol xxviii (1941)
- Early Verse by Rudyard Kipling (1986) Ed. Rutherford, p. 91
- Cambridge Edition (2013 Ed. Pinney) p. 1191.
The poet and his friends consider the work of the latest arrival on what might be the London literary scene, how he is a great success and highly praised. Others find his output to be old material reworked – see the verses “When ‘Omer Smote ‘is Bloomin’ Lyre” and “A Conundrum of the Workshops” – and, with a touch of jealousy, condemn it. He concludes that there will be many more such instances in his own lifetime. It is in some ways a foretaste of Kipling’s own arrival in London.though throughout his career he resolutely declined to comment on the work of other writers.
After his unhappy years at Southsea, Kipling was sent to United Services College at Westward Ho! in Devon at the age of twelve, in 1878. Because of his poor eyesight he was no good at rugby or cricket, and the Head, Cormell Price, who was a friend of his father, gave him the freedom of his library:
He gave Beetle the run of his brown -bound, tobacco-scented library ; prohibiting nothing, recommending nothing. There Beetle found a fat armchair, a silver inkstand, and unlimited pens and paper. There were scores and scores of ancient dramatists ; there were Hakluyt, his voyages ; French translations of Muscovite authors called Pushkin and Lermontoff ; little tales of a heady and bewildering nature, interspersed with unusual songs—Peacock was that writer’s name ; there was Borrow’s Lavengro ; an odd theme, purporting to be a translation of something called a ‘ Rubaiyat,’ which the Head said was a poem not yet come to its own ; there were hundreds of volumes of verse—Crashaw ; Dryden ; Alexander Smith ; L.E.L. ; Lydia Sigourney ; Fletcher and a purple island ; Donne ; Marlowe’s Faust ; and—this made M’Turk (to whom Beetle conveyed it) sheer drunk for three days—Ossian ; The Earthly Paradise ; Atalanta in Calydon ; and Rossetti—to name only a few.
Stalky & Co. pp. 217-8)
And the young Kipling wrote himself, experimenting with styles and language and themes, borrowing from many other writers, expressing his feelings about the world around him, finding his own voice, determined that he would become a published poet. But even as a schoolboy he realised the competitive and vicious world he was planning to conquer.
Notes on the Text
Envy, Hatred, and Malice This is an echo of Romans Chapter 1, verse 29, elsewhere in the King James Bible. Also in the Litany in the Book of Common Prayer used in the Church of England, a form of ceremonial prayer where the Priest says or sings various requests to which the congregation reply:
From all blindness of heart; from pride, vain-glory, and hypocrisy; from envy, hatred, and malice, and all uncharitableness,
Good Lord, deliver us.
[line 1] Such an One So and So, someone. A phrase used of a person whose name is not known. Archaic, but grammatically correct; today we would say ‘Such a one’.
Kipling uses this construction in “Little Foxes” (1909), (Actions and Reactions p. 235) :
The second claimant stooped quickly beneath the lifted hunting-crop. The village rejoiced.
“Oh, Such an one; Son of such an one,” said the Governor, prompted by the Sheikh, “learn, from the day when I send the order, to block up all the holes where Abu Hussein may hide on—thy—land!”
The light flicks ended. The man stood up triumphant.
Also in the uncollected story “Railway Reform in Great Britain” (1901):
Then the Afrits of the engines shrieked with a lamentable shrieking, and the faithful were cast into turmoil. Then came Mesrour with written bonds which he had purchased from the Afrit for money, and upon each bond was written the following verses:
‘By the merit of this white bond it is permitted to such an one, the son of such an one, to enter into such-and-such an one of my engines, and to sit in the place appointed for such as hold the white bonds, and to proceed to such-and-such a place.
In both of these cases the expression is used in converse with arabic speaking people, as a deliberat archaism.
[line 9] ‘Mid amid or amongst,
[line 11] demi-gods a late sixteenth or early seventeenth century addition to the English language to describe particularly talented people.
[line 14] chew the cud normally in ruminants (cows, deer etc.) the regurgitation of part-digested food which is returned to the mouth for further chewing. It has has become a metaphor for a long discussion or argument or consideration.
[line 18] bay-leaves wreaths of the Laurel family used in ancient times to reward distinguished soldiers, athletes, scholars, or poets.
©John McGivering and John Radcliffe 2017 All rights reserved