The Kingdom

(notes by Philip Holberton)


The poem, without a title, and without verse 3, forms the heading to chapter xviii of The Naulahka, published in December 1892. It is listed in ORG as no 547. ORG notes an alternative title: “King Anthony”, and in the novel, the poem is attributed to King Anthony. There are some minor differences in the text between different editions.

Collected in:

  • Songs from Books (1912)
  • Inclusive Verse (1919)
  • Definitive Verse (1940)
  • The Sussex Edition vols xix and xxxiv (1939)
  • The Burwash Edition vols xv and xxvii (1941)
  • Cambridge Edition (2013) Ed. Pinney, p. 670

The poem

This is a poem of disillusion. The speaker and his love have won the throne of a State, but find that they are still in danger. Worst of all, in the last verse the speaker finds that nothing that they fought for has any value for his love.

The poem mirrors Chapter xviii of The Naulahka. Tarvin, the hero of the book, has got hold of The Naulahka, the necklace of magnificent jewels that gives the book its name, but Kate Sheriff refuses to leave her missionary work although they are both in great danger,

Notes on the Text

[Verse 1]

 Little it profits: see the opening of Tennyson’s Ulysses:

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match’d with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race

This is not just a linguistic echo: the speaker is in both cases a dissatisfied king. The language is ultimately biblical, e.g. Mark 8.36: [D.H.]

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

[Verse 2]

a naked sword at the Council board: the speaker can only rule by the threat of force.

under the throne the snake: a symbol of hidden treachery.

[Verse 4]

all that … delights her nothing at all:   This perhaps echoes Hamlet II.2    [D.H.]

“man delights not me, no, nor woman neither.”

©Philip Holberton 2017 All rights reserved