This poem was published in the Englishman, on 2 March 1887, with the signature ‘G.L.’ and the heading:
“Call it what you please,” said the Major.
“One half of it’s idleness and the othcr half is liver.”
The Confessions of Lieutenant Dawking
It is authenticated by inclusion in Kipling’s Scrapbook 3 of his own press cuttings in the Kipling Papers at the University of Sussex Special Collections. ‘G.L.’was one of over fifty pseudonyms used by Kipling; see the article on the subject by Thomas Pinney in KJ 340 for March 2011.
The poet falls ill and blames it on being desperately in love. The doctor takes a robust no-nonsence attitude to his sufferings, prescribes him a powerful pill and loathsome medicinal draughts, but also recommends riding on his lively and demanding horse. The strenuous exercise cures his pains but he then finds he is in love no more.
The rhyme-scheme is interesting: the first half of line 1 rhymes with the first half of line 2, and the second halves rhyme similarly, while the third line has an internal rhyme. The poem could equally well be written out as a six-line verse rhyming ababcc.
Notes on the Text
baize baize-lined gun-case.
dexter right-hand (Latin).
Tophet a place in the Valley of Hinnom outside Jerusalem, used for burning rubbish. Hence perpetual fire, Hell.
as blue as I depressed.
gram a pulse crop used to feed horses.
Lethe In Classical Greek, the word ‘lethe’ means ‘oblivion’ In Greek mythology, Lethe was one of the five rivers of the underworld of Hades; all those who drank of its waters experienced complete forgetfulness.
©Philip Holberton 2020 All rights reserved