The Miracles


(notes by Philip Holberton)


The poem was first published in the Pall Mall Gazette on May 23rd, 1895, and in the Pall Mall Budget on June 13th, 1895. It is ORG No 636

It is collected in:

  • The Seven Seas (1896)
  • Inclusive Verse (1919)
  • Definitive Verse (1940)
  • Sussex Edition Vol. 32 p. 39
  • Burwash Edition Vol. 26
  • Wordsworth Edition (2001)
  • Cambridge Edition (2013 Ed. Pinney) p. 346

Charles Carrington (p. 173) heads the poem with the date 1891. Although it may recall Kipling’s dramatic journey between Christmas 1891 and January 1892, after the death of his friend Wolcott Balestier, it cannot have been written in 1891. In The Seven Seas, it is undated, but in later collections, presumably on Kipling’s authority, it is dated 1894.

The poem

This poem is a song of praise to the discoveries and inventions which had made communication and travel more rapid and safe. Its range is wide – telegraphy, ships, weather forecasts, lighthouses, signalling, railways, and locomotives. The speaker is wealthy – he has built or owns many of these advances.

The poem describes a hurried voyage from Europe to America and a train journey across that continent to rejoin a loved one. Although perhaps inspired partly by Kipling’s actual experience. when he rushed back by sea from India to Carrie’s side to marry her shortly afterwards, it was written after he was married and living in Vermont.

Notes on the Text


[Verse 1]

league: an old measure of distance, equivalent to three miles or 4.8 kilometers.

The dumb sea-levels: the sea-bed. The first submarine telegraph cable between Europe and America was laid in 1866.

Lost Atlantis: a mythical island described by Plato (427–347 BC). It was engulfed by the sea and gave its name to the Atlantic Ocean.

[Verse 2]

of steel and flame: a steam-ship built of steel. See “The ‘Mary Gloster’” line 54:

They piddled and piffled with iron. I’d given my orders for steel.’

[Verse 4]

I stayed the sun at noon: the height of the sun at midday, observed with a sextant, gives a ship’s latitude.

read the storm before it fell: The Meteorological Department of the British Board of Trade started issuing forecasts and weather maps for Western Europe and the Atlantic in 1879. With their help a ship could avoid a storm and predict favourable winds.

[Verse 5]

The towers… rocket: At night passing ships identified themselves to lighthouses by firing rockets. See “The Coastwise Lights”, verse 2:

by night the rocket’s trail –
As the sheep that graze behind us so we know them when they hail.

[Verse 6]

men of strength: railways were still largely built by manpower, with pick and shovel.

a nation’s length: The first transcontinental railway in the United States was completed in 1869.

[Verse 7]

I tired twenty smoking steeds: See Captains Courageous Chapter IX (written in 1897), where the railway king exhausts sixteen locomotives and their crews on his epic run from San Diego to Chicago on his way to meet his rescued son Harvey in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

bait: in this context, prepare

[Verse 8]

the Lightnings: the telegraph. Telephones were still uncommon.

[Verse 9]

little folk of little soul: See “The English Flag” line 3:

The poor little street-bred people that vapour and fume and brag


© Philip Holberton 2017 All rights reserved