Over the Khud

(notes by Philip Holberton)


There is a printed version from a newspaper cutting, with the subtitle “A Mountain Morality”, in Kipling’s own Scrapbooks of his press cuttings, now in the Kipling Papers at the University of Sussex Special Collections.

The newspaper is undated and has not been identified. It is signed “The Other Player”, a pen name Kipling had used before, to sign “A New Departure” and “Duet from the Pinafore” in the Civil and Military Gazette. Rutherford suggests 1885/6 for the date, but Pinney points out that both these previous uses of the signature are from 1883, and that Kipling spent July and early August 1883 in Simla, his first visit. However, he also notes that all the other cuttings on the scrapbook page containing the poem are from 1884, and that that scrapbook is labelled as containing work from 1884 through 1886. Pinney therefore judges that the poem probably appeared in the Pioneer some time in 1884.

It is not otherwise collected by Kipling, but is to be found in Rutherford (p. 305) and Pinney (p. 1744).

The poem

The poem begins with the scene of a literal fall. In tune with the subtitle “A Mountain Morality”, later verses use this as a metaphor for moral falls. In Verse 2, ‘Pretty Blue Eyes ….. Dance all too near to the Khud.’ In Verses 4 and 5 people look down on those who have fallen, who are on the wrong side of propriety’s fence, whom now they ostracise, ‘don’t know’ and ‘cut’. Verse 6 considers how easy it is to fall too, and the last verse asks pity on the fallen.

A Khud is a deep valley or precipitous hillside. cf. “Sappers” verse 11:

We make ‘em good roads an’ – they roll down the Khud.

Riding accidents were not uncommon in the Simla region. Rutherford (p. 305) quotes the 1883 edition of Murray’s Handbook to the Punjab, p.174:

Up to 1875 at least 22 ladies and gentlemen were killed by falling over precipices at this station, and many more have had narrow escapes.

Kipling later uses such a fatal fall as the climax of his 1889 story “At the Pit’s Mouth” (Wee Willie Winkie)


©Philip Holberton 2020 All rights reserved