The New Knighthood

(Notes edited by John McGivering)


Published in Actions and Reactions (1908) where it follows “A Deal in Cotton”. Collected in the Sussex Edition Vol. 8, page 19 and Vol. 43, page 39, and in the Burwash Edition Vols. 8 and 27. It is also collected in Definitive Verse (p. 524), Inclusive Verse (p.511), The Works of Rudyard Kipling in The Wordsworth Poetry Library, (1994), and in the Cambridge Edition of 2013. There are slight variations in the text.

The poem

When, in medieval times,.a young man was to receive the honour of knighthood, he went through a ritual that Kipling has brought up to date – in this instance, perhaps a recruit to the Indian Civil Service. or a young army officer.

There is an extensive literature on the subject, from the earliest French romances, via Geoffrey of Monmouth (c 1100-1154) The Court of King Arthur, the novels of Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), and the verses of Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892). See also “Weland’s Sword” and “Young Men at the Manor” in Puck of Pook’s Hill.

The question-and-answer form of this poem is based on the old rhyme “Who Killed Cock Robin”.


Quinine: in verse 7 is a drug against malaria prepared from the bark of the chinchona tree. (see Dr Sheehan’s notes on the story).

Sir Galahad in the last line is one of King Arthur’s “Knights of the Round Table” whose exploits are set forth in Malory’s  Morte d’Arthur (c. 1469). He was a ‘stainless’ knight, without flaw.