The Heritage

(notes by John McGivering and John Radcliffe)


First published in Collier’s Weekly on November 4th 1905. ORG No. 880.

Collected in:

  • Songs from Books (1912)
  • Inclusive Verse (1919)
  • Definitive Verse (1940)
  • Sussex Edition Vol. Vol. 34 p. 90
  • Burwash Edition Vol. 27
  • Wordsworth Edition Poems of Rudyard Kipling (2001)
  • Cambridge Edition (2013 Ed. Pinney) p. 746.


This is another example of Kipling’s long series of poems and tales pointing out the importance of a strong Navy and Army. These include:

“The Three-decker” (1894),
“The Dykes” (1902), and
“The Storm-Cone” (1932), which foretold the 1939 war.

A comntinuing theme is that our fathers worked, denying themselves pleasures so that we would be secure; our duty is to do the same for our children to safeguard their heritage.

When thus poem was written, in 1905, Kipling was keenly aware of how unprepared British forces had been for the South African War, and how they might well have to face a war in Europe in the not-too-distant future. This was also the theme of “A Village Rifle Club” (1901), and “The Army of a Dream” (1904).

Notes on the Text

[Verse 1]

Ere yet the earth was small steamships and railways had revolutionized communications, so the earth had indeed become smaller and would become smaller still with the arrival of air travel.

brook a word of many meanings, here ‘to put up with’, ‘to endure’.

[Verse 4]

yoke in this context the wooden device put on the necks of bullocks to enable them to haul a wagon or gun or plough, and so a badge of servitude

[J McG/J.R.]

©John McGivering and John Radcliffe 2017 All rights reserved