Index Malorum

(notes by Philip Holberton)


Published in United Services College Chronicle No. 6, for 1 November 1881.

The poem was never collected by Kipling, but is to be found in Rutherford (p. 76), and Pinney p. 1589.

The Poem

Kipling was sent to United Services College at Westward Ho! in Devon in 1878, at the age of twelve. As he recounts in Stalky & Co. (1899) it was a hard life for a small boy, with a good deal of bullying, and beatings as punishments. The poem describes the discomforts of a winter term made worse by remembering the luxuries of home.

Jan Montefiore points out:

“Index Malorum” is a pastiche of Tennyson’s “In Memoriam”. It uses the “In Memoriam” stanza (abba trimeter), and the first stanza is a pretty good imitation of the opening of Tennyson’s part 15, which is also about an autumn evening:

To-night the winds begin to rise
And roar from yonder dropping day:
The last red leaf is whirl’d away,
The rooks are blown about the skies ….

Notes on the Text

[Title] Index Malorum Latin for ‘list of evils’.

[Verse 1] The wild waves Westward Ho! is on the north coast of Devon.

[Verse 2] We plug with wood the window sill the windows do not fit well. The boys try to plug the gaps to keep out some of the draughts.

[Verse 3] They have to wrap themselves against the cold even indoors. The fires give more smoke than heat.

[Verse 4] rime frost

Goosey Pool described by L.C.Dunsterville [the original of “Stalky”] in KJ 22 (June 1932) p. 49: ‘There was a famous pond on the Burrows called Goosey Pool, famous only to us and probably no more than a dirty pool to the casual observer.’ (Rutherford) Goosey Pool is also mentioned in
“The First Day Back.”

in and outer edge technical terms in skating; the edges of the blades of a skate.

[Verse 5] cates choice foods (archaic).

[Verse 6] a yard-broad fire’s glow a fire a yard (an old measure of almost a metre) wide at home, contrasting with the smoky school fires in Verse 3.

[Verse 7] the ice clink in the glass this might suggest a well-chilled cocktail, but here it means that the school building is so cold that drinking water freezes in the tumblers.


©Philip Holberton 2019 All rights reserved