The Four Points


(notes by John McGivering and John Radcliffe)



One of the last group of six, which did not appear until 1929, when the whole set of 26 items were assembled within a a three-volume collection called Poems 1886-1929. Collected in 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.

[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