The Married Man

(Reservist of the Line)

(notes by Mary Hamer)

Publication history

One of the suite of sixteen ‘Service Songs’ which close The Five Nations. This may have been written specifically for The Five Nations,  but see the note to “M.I.”.

Collected in I.V. 1919, D.V. 1940, the Sussex Edition vol. 33 and the Burwash Edition, vol. 26.


Private soldiers were transferred to the Reserve after their term of service with the army, on the understanding that they must give up their civilian occupation and return to their regiments if called upon for active service. Most would have had to wait until they became Reservists before being able to marry. During the Anglo-Boer War, all Reservists were called up.

Notes on the Text

(by Mary Hamer drawing on various sources, in particular
Ralph Durand, “A Handbook to the Poetry of Rudyard Kipling” 1914.)

[Subscript] To describe the reservists as ‘of the line’ made it clear that they were counted among the regular and numbered troops, not as auxiliaries.

[Stanza 2]  Waits till the sights come on:  till one can see the enemy in his sights  [D.K.]

[Stanza 6]  ‘oly One in Three:  This is a theological formula for the Holy Trinity. The Trinity can be described as both the One God in Three Persons and Three Persons in the One God. [D.H.]

[Stanza 7] I’d rather fight with the bachelor etc: not without reference to his own experience, Kipling observes how a single man’s relish for danger is undermined by marriage. Close relationships teach him instead to put a high value on preserving life. Kipling himself seems to have been a capable nurse: in Bloemfontein, he looked after the son of Julian Ralph when he fell ill with suspected typhoid. [See also The Story of the Gadsbys.]


©Mary Hamer 2008 All rights reserved