This poem is part of the tale “Letting in the Jungle”, collected in The Second Jungle Book (1895). First publication was in the Pall Mall Gazette and the Pall Mall Budget on 12 and 13 December 1894, within the text of the story. It appeared in McClure’s Magazine in the United States in January 1895. ORG (Volume 8, p. 5354) lists it as Verse No. 611.
It is also collected in:
- Songs from Books 1913
- Inclusive Verse 1919
- Definitive Verse 1940
- The Sussex Edition, vol xii p. 137 and vol xxxiv p. 153
- The Burwash Edition, vols xi and xxvi
- The Works of Rudyard Kipling, Wordsworth Poetry Library, 1994
This song is to be found within the text (p. 74) of the early part of “Letting in the Jungle” in The Second Jungle Book. It is sung by the wolves, Gray Brother and his three brothers, at Mowgli’s request. He has overheard Buldeo the village hunter telling a group of charcoal burners that the villagers plan to kill Messua – Mowgli’s adoptive mother – and her husband, as witches. He plans to get there first, and save them, so he asks the wolves to hold Buldeo and the charcoal burners from getting back until dark.
Kipling describes it (p. 73) as:
…the magnificent Morning-song in the Jungle, with every turn, and flourish, and grace-note that a deep-mouthed wolf of the Pack knows.
Kipling had delighted in the sunrise from a very early age. In the first chapter of Something of Myself (pp. 1 and 19), he writes:
My first impression is of daybreak, light and colour and golden and purple fruits at the level of my shoulder. This would be the memory of early morning walks to the Bombay fruit-market with my ayah… (nurse)… my fortunate hour would be on the turn of sunrise…
Elsewhere he writes often of the early morning, as in this lyrical passage from “The Prophet and the Country” (Debits and Credits p. 199):
Daylight was just on the heels of dawn, with the sun following. The icy blackness of the Great North Road banded itself with smoking mists that changed from solid pearl to writhing opal as they lifted above hedge-row level. The dew-wet leaves of the upper branches turned suddenly into diamond facets, and that wind which runs before the actual upheaval of the sun, swept out of the fragrant lands to the East and touched my cheek – as many times it touched it before, on the edge, or at the ends, of incomceivable experiences.
“The Dawn Wind” begins:
At two o’clock in the morning, if you open your window and listen,
You will hear the feet of the wind that is going to call the sun.
And “Mandalay” has the Burmese dawn coming up ‘…like thunder…’
In Something of Myself (p. 18) he writes of his childhood:
Then we went to London and stayed for some weeks in a tiny lodging-house in the semi-rural Brompton Road, kept by an ivory-faced, lordly-whiskered ex-butler and his patient wife. Here, for the first time, it happened that the night got into my head. I rose up and wandered about that still house till daybreak, when I slipped out into the little brick-walled garden and saw the dawn break…
And in Chapter III (p. 53):
Often the night got into my head as it had done in the boarding-house in the Brompton Road, and I would wander till dawn in all manner of odd places – liquor-shops, gambling-and opium-dens, which are not a bit mysterious, wayside entertainments such as puppet-shows, native dances; or in and about the narrow gullies under the Mosque of Wazir Khan. ……..
For a possible source of “Letting in the Jungle”, see KJ144/12 which has ‘Extracts from Sir Andrew Fraser’s “Among Indian Rajahs and Ryots for the devastation caused by elephants” ‘.
Notes on the Text
No shadows in the tropics sunrise occurs almost instantly with no twilight. as does sunset.
Good rest to all Many of the jungle animals are nocturnal, so sleep during the day.
Jungle Law see “The Law of the Jungle”, verses with “How Fear came” in The Second Jungle Book; Baloo teaches Mowgli the Law in the early stories in The Jungle Book.
Horn and pelt jungle animals, deer and other creatures with horns, retire to sleep, and so do those with hides, as ‘pelt’ signfies in this context, in other words, ‘all animals’.
covert here meaning a clump of bushes, trees etc. in which animals can hide.
talao defined in a footnote as ‘pond or lake.’
lair a den or hiding-place for animals.
each mark the tracks left in the mud round a water-hole.
©John McGivering 2011 All rights reserved