The Light that Failed

Notes on Chapter VII

These notes by Geoffrey Annis are based on those prepared for Vol. V of the ORG, published in 1970. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan Uniform Edition of The Light that Failed, first published in 1899 and frequently reprinted since.

[Page 76, Heading] These verses, 1, 2 and 4 of the whole poem, were first published in the Civil and Military Gazette in August 1887 entitled “Misunderstood”. It appeared in full with the first line as title “Roses Red and Roses White”, and also – erroneously – as “The Quest”. Completed by the addition of a third verse, it first appeared in Songs from Books in 1912. Courtly and pre-Raphaelite in tone, it poignantly suggests Dick’s sense of rejection, and the one-sidedness of their relationship.
Andrew Lycett (pp. 290-291) sees the poem as reflecting Rudyard’s attitude to Flo Garrard and their own doomed relationship’.

Flo herself, in an inscription of her copy of the novel left to Frances Egerton, her companion of later years, dismisses it as: ‘a somewhat murky little story’, and the characters as ‘stupid and objectionable’. Of this poem she writes:

… in the case of the ‘Blue Roses’(I didn’t refuse any other colour) but as a matter of fact, Dick,with his usual obliquity of vision failed to observe that I wasn’t exacting them of him, but he of me.

The depth of Kipling’s anguish, and his humiliation, come over even more strongly in the third verse, omitted above:

Home I came at wintertide
But my silly love had died
Seeking with her latest breath
Roses from the arms of Death.

[Page 96 line 1] glacis the sloping bank in front of a fortification, designed to expose attackers to the defenders’ fire.

[Page 96 line 3] tarred … cannon refers to a then obsolescent type of cast-iron muzzle-loading cannon, for which tar was a good preservative.

[Page 98 line 15] Il y a du sentiment, mais il n’ya pas de partis pris freely translates from the French as: ‘There’s feeling in your work, but it’s not there intentionally’.

[Page 100 line 14] the Rule of Three the arithmetical rule of simple proportion, by which,given the relationship of two quantities,the proportional relationship of a third and fourth can be ascertained. Thus: as A is to B, so is C to X, X being the unknown quantity.

[Page 101 line 13] under the Line on the southern side of, and near the Equator

[Page 101 line 16] fore-chains the platform projecting from the side(s) of a sailing ship at the lower ends of the shrouds (standing rigging which holds up the mast from side to side), thus extending the base of their support of the foremast. It provides a comfortable seat outboard in fair weather.

[Page 101 line 25] wild bees the deadly wild bees mentioned in the story “Red Dog” in The Second Jungle Book and referred to as ‘The Little People of the Rocks’. The same sensuous imagination that informs the Jungle Books is here expressed by Dick in his attempts to seduce Maisie.

[Page 102 line 8] a big, red, dead city This refers to Fatehpur Sikri, near Agra in Rajasthan, one of the capitals of Akbar, the greatest of the Mogul Emperors. The city was built of soft red sandstone. It is now empty and deserted, but still magnificent, and carefully preserved.

[Page 103 line 2] ‘Now I lay me down to sleep’ the first line of a popular children’s hymn thought to be written by Isaac Watts (1674-1748). Dick is, perhaps, evoking their childhood together.

[Page 103 line 10] sangaree or sangria, a spiced diluted wine drink, enjoyed today by visitors to Spain.

[Page 104 line 21] Red rocket forward… before the days of wireless telegraphy, this was how a vessel would report herself to a Lloyd’s Signal Station.

[Page 104 line 24] Cross Keys Line a fictional steamship company

[Page 104 line 31] in deep draught fully loaded.

[Page 104 line 32]Barralong possibly a reference to the ‘Barolong’, a tribe in Southern Africa.

[Page 109 line 8] have got orders. What can do? a facetious use of ‘pidgin’, a simplified form of English used for conducting business with people who donot fully understand the language.

[Page 109 line 16] two of a trade, so we should never agree ‘Two of a trade did never agree’ is a very old proverb, which occurs in the poem “Work and Days” by Hesiod (c. 700 BC) in ancient Greece. See also John Gay’s Fables I, xxi:

In every age and clime we see
Two of a trade can ne’er agree.

[Page 112 line 22] Liverpool Street Station to Blackfriars Bridge just over a mile.

[Page 112 line 27] pay in silver the threepenny piece of 1890 was a tiny silver coin easily lost.

[Page 116 line 13] doesn’t care a tinker’s – Dick is observing the proprieties of the day by not swearing before a lady, and saying, probably, “… tinker’s damn”. (We would say ‘tinker’s cuss’ or ‘tinker’s curse’ today.)

[Page 117 line 12] It wouldn’t be proper another reference to the strait-laced custom of the day. When a man visited an unmarried and respectable young woman it was not proper for her to be left alone with him, so she would need to be accompanied by an older woman, as a ‘chaperone’ .

[Page 118 line 29]after the manner of the heathen probably a quotation from Ezekiel 11,12:

‘For ye have not walked in my statutes, neither executed my judgements; but ye have done after the manner of the heathen that are round about you.


©Geoffrey Annis 2006 All rights reserved