(notes by John McGivering and John Radcliffe)


This poem, listed in ORG as No 1056, was first published in the Daily Telegraph on February 6th 1919, and soon after in a number of American newspapers.

Collected in:

  • Inclusive Verse (1919)
  • Definitive Verse (1940)
  • The Sussex Edition vol.
    xxxv (1940)
  • The Burwash Edition vol. xxviii (1941)
  • Cambridge Edition (2013) Ed. Thomas Pinney, p. 1389.

The poem

The poem is Kipling’s tribute to his friend, Theodore (‘Teddy’) Roosevelt, President of the United States from 1901-1909.  Roosevelt had died on January 6, 1919, so that this is an obituary.

Roosevelt was a colourful, decisive, active character, with high qualities of leadership. He had an instinct for reform, and for cleaning up political corruption. At his ranch in Dakota, he rode Western style. He led a cavalry unit, the ‘Rough Riders’ in the Spanish-American War of 1898. He became Assistant Secretary to the US Navy, Civil Service Commissioner, Governor of New York State, and Vice-President. He became President after William McKinley was assassinated in September 1901.

Kipling met him during his visit to Washington in March 1895, and after a shaky start, the two men warmed to each other and were friends thereafter. In 1898, before publishing his poem
“The White Man’s Burden”, Kipling sent a copy to Roosevelt, who forwarded it to the influential Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, with the comment: ‘Rather poor poetry, but good sense from the expansion point of view.’ See our notes on the poem by Mary Hamer.

Kipling did not instinctively take to American politicians. After meeting President Grover Cleveland in 1895, he described the Cleveland White House as a ‘colossal agglomeration of reeking bounders, awful, inexpressible, incredible’. (Carrie Kipling’s Diary, 5 April 1895) See Andrew Lycett pp. 271-2.

Notes on the Text


This is from The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan (1628-1688) a Puritan preacher best known as the author of this Christian allegory. He also wrote nearly sixty other essays and tracts, many of them expanded sermons. See also Kipling;’s poem “The Holy War (1917).

[Verse 1]

Concerning brave captains: an echo of the title of Kipling’s story Captains Courageous, which in turn comes from the ballad “Mary Ambree” beginning “When captains courageous, whom death could not daunt”. Kipling had previously used the same title for an article on entrepreneurs as the new adventurers, published in The Times of 23 November 1892.

both oceans: the seas on each side of the United States of America, the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans.

realm: usually a kingdom but here signifying the territory of the United States or in this context perhaps the whole world.

[Verse 2]

travail: painful or laborious effort.

hazard: danger, risk.

[Verse 4]

men of their hands: practical men

[Verse 5]

leal: loyal and honest

[Verse 6]

convoy: a group of ships or vehicles escorted for protection (convoyed) by warships or armed vehicles.

[Verse 8]

paying home:  paying in full  [D.H.]


©John McGivering and John Radcliffe 2018 All rights reserved