The Five Nations

(by Mary Hamer)


Preparing for publication and after

Serious professional attention to detail went into preparing the texts for this publication. Kipling’s careful rereading of works he had published earlier and was reprinting here is demonstrated in many cases by minute adjustments to language. Weight and prominence was also varied in the case of individual words by judicious choice of capitalisation. He also took the greatest care in composing the volume and in choosing the order in which readers met the poems. Intending to benefit from the bond of sympathy which had grown up between himself and his readers, and drawing on his authority as their spokesman, Kipling included a number of poems which were already familiar, some of them deeply admired . These include “Recessional” and nine other poems which had received publication in The Times, and three which had been featured in Kim. (Although Kipling began to work on Kim as early as 1895, the composition of this novel overlaps with the early part of the Boer War and with the composition of a few of the poems in The Five Nations: he was still working on Kim in 1899 and did not complete it until August 1900.)

Though not as successful as his earlier collection, The Seven Seas, 110,000 copies of The Five Nations had been printed by 1918 and by 1931 the number was 145,000. It was eventually reprinted thirty-four times between 1903 and 1948.

A general note on publication history

Kipling was intent on engaging the American people almost as much as his own countrymen: notes on early publication of poems in the United States are included here. He included some individual poems from The Five Nations in later collections that he made, while The Five Nations was reprinted in its entirety when he collected his works for the Sussex and Burwash editions.

Kipling published his poems in newspapers and magazines, sometimes immediately after they were written; this is not always the case but it is frequently the only guide to a date of composition. In collecting The Five Nations for the Sussex Edition Kipling did give a date for each of the poems except those grouped together as ‘Service Songs”. Those dates are given here in brackets below the titles. Some appear to reflect the date of first publication. In the case of some poems however, those bearing the date 1902, the date seems to be that of composition.


©Mary Hamer 2007 All rights reserved