Our Fathers Also

(notes edited by John McGivering)


This poem was first published in Traffics and Discoveries (1904), where it precedes “Below the Mill Dam” with seven verses, commencing: ‘By – they are by with mirth and tears…’ See David Alan Richards p.158.

The poem is collected in:

  • Songs from Books (1913)
  • Inclusive Verse (1919)
  • Definitive Verse (1940)
  • Sussex Edition vol vii p. 373, and vol xxxiv p. 63
  • Burwash Edition vols vii and xxvii
  • The Works of Rudyard Kipling, Wordsworth Poetry Library (1994)

In the collected editions a new first verse appears, and the orignal first verse becomes the second which is repeated as verse 8 with ‘waste of Desire’ instead of ‘works of Desire’ in line two and an exclamation mark at the end. The first line of the new verse echoes “Cities and Thrones and Powers” which precedes “A Centurion of the Thirtieth” in Puck of Pook’s Hill.

The poem

The poem reflects the theme of resistance to change in Below the Mill Dam”.

Notes on the text

[Verse 1] Thrones, powers, dominions:  See Colossians 1.16: “thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers”  [D.H.]

[Verse 2] they are by with : I take this to mean “they are done with”.  [D.H.]

[Verse 3] The grapes are pressed: the juice is extracted for processing into wine.

the corn is shucked:  Pinney’s text is “shocked”, without any variants, and that’s of course required by the rhyme with “locked”. In fact, shucking and shocking corn are different. The sort of corn Americans shuck is Indian corn, or maize, and shucking it is stripping off the green outer casing (which can itself be called a “shuck”). But by “corn” Kipling surely means thrashing out the grains from old-world wheat or barley. . [D.H.]

[Verse 4] Venus: the Roman Goddess of Love, known to the Greeks as Aphrodite.

glean: the old practice of allowing the poor to tidy up a cornfield after the reaping, and take home any remaining grain they may find.

The gates of Love and Learning: In Kim (Chapter 7) the Lama refers to Kim’s school as ‘The Gates of Learning.’

[Verse 6] The Temple’s Veil: ‘And thou shalt make a vail of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen of cunning work: with cherubims shall it be made… and the vail shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy.’ Exodus 26,31-33

Shewbread: the cakes or loaves of bread which were always present in the Temple in Jerusalem as an offering to God.

Verse 8]   This verse is identical to verse  2, except for one word. “works of desire” has become “waste of desire”. The poem’s fathers are getting older and more bitter or necrotic: “desire” no longer seems to them a producer of “works”, i.e. something potentially worthwhile, but simply a “waste”. [D.H.]



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