The Jester

(Notes by John Radcliffe)


This poem. listed in ORG as No. 969, was first published in 1911 in the Windsor Magazine as a three-verse heading to the story “The Honours of War”. It was omitted when the story was collected in A Diversity of Creatures in 1917.

It is collected in:

  • Songs from Books (1913)
  • Inclusive Verse (1919)
  • Definitive Verse (1940)
  • The Sussex Edition vol. xxxiv (1939)
  • The Burwash Edition vol. xxvii (1941)
  • Cambridge Edition (2013) Ed. Thomas Pinney, p. 761.

The poem

The poem, linked to the story of a farce with an underlying seriousness, is a salty piece of worldly wisdom. The highest virtue is to save one’s friend by risking oneself. The second is simply to save through wise advice. To save through a jest, as Stalky does in “The Honours of War”, is lesser yet in virtue, says the poet, though perhaps better company, since ‘… there do the Angels resort!’. Kipling was a great believer in the saving power of mirth.

Daniel Hadas adds: the phrase in Stanza 3,  “there do the Angels resort” has an echo of “The Legend of Mirth.”


©John Radcliffe 2018 All rights reserved