The Four Points


(notes by John McGivering and John Radcliffe)



One of the last group of six pieces, which did not appear until 1929, when the whole set of twenty-six was assembled within a three-volume collection called Poems 1886-1929.   and the Sussex Edition vol. 35. p. 125. (ORG Verse No. 860).


“Thomas Tusser”: Thomas Tusser (1524-1580) was an English poet and farmer.

His instructions to farmers, Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry was published in 1557. See KJ 019/70 and 020/101 on a new edition of Tusser for Kipling; also our notes to the heading of “An Habitation Enforced” (Actions and Reactions).
Ann Weygandt (pp. 27/28) notes that Tusser’s great work:

…consists chiefly of far from poetic couplets giving
advice as to the proper times and seasons for planting and
harvesting, breeding and slaughtering, brewing and baking. Its compressed, proverb-ridden style is quaint, but monotonous.

However, Weygandt goes on to note the Foreword to a new edition of The Five Hundred Points published in London by James Tregaskis in 1931, and edited by E V Lucas, with a ‘Benediction’ by Rudyard Kipling. Lucas quotes from a letter from Kipling in which he praises Tusser’s verse and expresses appreciation of the: ‘meatiness of Tusser’s couplets, and their long life and practical value’

Weygandt concludes:

Kipling’s affectionate intimacy with Tusser was such that … he was able to produce a very fair imitation of his style. The singsong rhythm, the inversions,
the compressions, the very vocabulary – he achieves them all.

The theme

The poet advises the driver to make the appropriate hand-signal when necessary and reminds him that overtaking on corners will eventually kill him. It was the custom to blow the horn when entering a main road from a side road and it is preferable to drink alcohol after driving rather than before.

Notes on the text

[Verse 1]

put foorth a hand:  hand-signals were used as late as the 1960s before the arrival of the flashing indicator.

thy days may be long in the land:   See Exodus 20.12: [D.H.]

Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land.

[Verse 2]

seventy times seven: many, many times. An echo of Matthew 18,22: ‘Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.’

[Verse 3]

Sith: (archaic) since

Crowners:  archaic dialect form of ‘coroners’. law officers who hold Inquests on unexpected deaths.



©John McGivering and John Radcliffe 2020 All rights reserved