(notes by John Radcliffe and John McGivering)


This poem was first published in the Daily Telegraph of November 3rd 1930, under the title “The Day of the Dead”, eight days before Armistice day on November 11th, the twelfth anniversary of the end of the Great War. It is listed in ORG as No 1167.

It is collected as “Memories” in:

  • Inclusive Verse (1933)
  • Definitive Verse (1940)
  • The Sussex Edition vol xxxv (1939)
  • The Burwash Edition vol zxviii (1941)
  • Cambridge Edition (2013) Ed. Thomas Pinney, p. 1435..

The poem

This is a bitter attack on the Labour Government. which had been in office since the previous year. It had been reported that foreign official visitors had been advised that they need not feel obliged to lay wreaths on the Cenotaph in Whitehall or on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Westminster Abbey unless their feelings really impelled them to do so (see ORG p. 5475).

Kipling’s intense patriotism, his work for the War Graves Commission, and the loss of his son John in 1915 would have fuelled his general dislike of the concepts of disarmament and the transference of power to India, both of which were under discussion at the time, He also greatly disliked the Labour Party which he saw as even worse than the Liberals, ignorant of the need for the nation to keep up its guard against its enemies and cherish its imperial links.

Andrew Lycett writes:

Rudyard was particularly concerned about the popular anti-war mood in the country, which he attributed partly to the sophisticated propaganda of the League of Nations and partly to official government policy. Having been disquieted by the disarmament conference in London in the Spring of 1930 he published his poem “Memories” in ihe Daily Telegraph of 3 November shortly before Armistice Day

See also
“The Gods of the Copybook Headings” (1919)
“Natural Theology” (1919)
“The English Way” (1929), and the later
“The Storm Cone” (1932) and
“The Bonfires” (1933).


Notes on the Text

[Verse 1]

razed: completely destroyed.

the Worm: the fires of Hell. ‘Where their Worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched.’ (Mark,9,44).

[Verse 2]

We laid no finger to their load  See Matthew 23.4:  [D.H.]

For they [the Scribes and Pharisees] bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers”.

[Verse 3]

staves: in this context, sticks used as weapons; like swords, symbolising violence.

©John Radcliffe and John McGivering 2018 All rights reserved