The Ladies

(notes edited by John McGivering)


The last verse was used as the heading to “The Courting of Dinah Shadd” in Macmillan’s Magazine on March 1st 1890, and in the same month in Harper’s Weekly and in subsequent editions of Plain Tales from the Hills. It is listed as No. 439 in ORG.

The complete poem is collected in

  • The Seven Seas (1896)
  • Inclusive Verse (1919)
  • Definitive Verse (1940)
  • Sussex Edition Vol. 33 p. 148
  • Burwash Edition Vol. 26
  • Wordsworth Edition Poems of Rudyard Kipling (2001)
  • Cambridge Edition (2013 Ed. Pinney) p. 417

There is a musical version by Peter Bellamy here

The poem

A soldier looks back on the women whose company he has enjoyed over the years, recalling four in particular. Unlike Larry Tighe in “Love o’ Women” (Many Inventions)
he does not appear to have suffered any ill-effects from these liaisons. After reminiscing a little, he comes to the conclusion. that women, whatever their social class, are much the same: ‘The Colonel’s Lady an’ Judy O’Grady are sisters under their skins.’ As Charles Allen (p. 308) points out

This was not at all a common sentiment in the drawing-rooms of Chelsea and Kensington in 1890.

See also “Georgie Porgie”, “Without Benefit of Clergy” (both collected in Life’s Handicap), “Beyond the Pale” (collected in Plain Tales from the Hills), and Mandalay.” See also Brian Mattingly’s list of musical settings of Kipling’s verse.

Notes on the Text

[Verse 1]

I’ve rogued and I’ve ranged: He has been rather unprincipled – rogued – and enjoyed sexual relations with many women – ranged.

‘arf-caste:  half-caste, a person of mixed race.

Prome:  now Pyay in Burma (now Myanmar.).

jemadar-sais:  a head-groom

[Verse 2]

Yellow and Brown:  in this context Asiatic and Indian girls.

[Verse 3]

‘Oogli:  Hooghly district is one of the districts of the state of West Bengal in India. The spelling varies. The Hooghly River is a tributary of the great River Ganges in West Bengal,

Aggie de Castrer:  de Castro: a typical name from a mixed-race community.

[Verse 4]

Burma: now Myanmar

Bazar:  usually Bazaar – in this context a market in the East. In the United Kingdom usually an exhibition of articles for sale to raise funds for a charity.

tiddy:  perhaps ‘Tiddley’, slang for neat or smart, or perhaps ‘very small’, ‘tiny’.

‘eathen: Heathen, unbeliever. A member of a religion other than that of the speaker.

on the square: an echo of Freemasonry meaning ‘honestly’.

[Verse 5]

Neemuch:  a town in Malawa District

nigger:  an unpleasant word for a black or non-white person, common in Kipling’s day, unacceptable today.

Mhow: now officially known as Dr Ambedkar Nagar, is a cantonment in the Indore District in Madhya Pradesh state, India. It is located 14 miles (23 km.) south of Indore.

bolee:  slang – the language of a tribe or some organisation.

[Verse 6]

Meerut: a city of Uttar Pradesh, India

[J McG]

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