The Naulahka – XVII

Notes on the text

by Sharad Keskar

[Heading] Twelve lines from Kipling’s poem, “The Sack of the Gods”, first collected in Songs from Books, 1912, and considered to be a tribute to William Ernest Henley (1849-1903), Kipling’s literary friend, who wrote the poem “Echoes” with the lines:

“or ever the knightly years were gone with the old world to the grave
I was a king in Babylon, and you were a Christian slave.”

“The Sack of the Gods”, in the same metre, took up the same idea after Kipling had used Henley’s lines as the heading to “The Finest Story in the World” in Many Inventions (see below).

[Heading, line 2] Inca the title of the Emperor or King of Peru before the conquest by the Spaniards.

[Heading, line 4] Valhalla in Scandinavian mythology a great hall in the house of Odin (Wodin) the supreme god and creator, where the souls killed in battle enjoyed immortality and feasted for ever.

[Heading, line 11] a war ‘twixt love and hate the clash of wills between Tarvin and Sitabhai. He finds her attractive, and she almost asks him to be her King. [P.H.]

[Page 232, line 11] Kiralfy a Hungarian impresario, responsible for colonial and other exhibitions in Kensington in west London in the early years of the twentieth century. Kipling may have seen his “Nero” exhibition in November 1889.

[Page 234, line 3] cow-puncher a cowboy, a driver of steers in the western States of the U.S.A.

[Page 235, line 11] Talao a small lake but often a reservoir.

[Page 235, line 20] Shekand ‘shake hands’.

[Page 237, line 14] Sabe Americans, particularly in the south-west, often borrow Spanish words and expressions. This, as a verb, means ‘to know’ or ‘understand’. Tarvin simply meant ‘I’m beginning to understand’.

[Page 237, line 25] do you up play a trick on you or tire you out.

[Page 237, line 27] deviltry the same as devilry, wickedness or cruelty.

[Page 239, line 21] Keep off the grass this is an common notice in parks and public gardens. Here it is a way of telling her to keep away from the subject of the young Maharajah, or undertake not to do harm to him.

[Page 240, line 6] bastard Kulu Stock the inference is that not all marriages were between patrician Rajputs; but compare lines 21 and 22 of this page.

[Page 240, line 22] Indur and Allah the (gipsy) Queen had little or no religion so she swore by the Hindu Indur [Indra] and the god of Islam.

[Page 241, line 25] she had done him up another Americanism. Tarvin is expressing surprise that a woman should, on more than one occasion, have made attempts on his life.

[Page 244, line 28] Feringhi foreigner.

[Page 247, line 11] begums In Urdu, queens, princesses or ladies of rank.

[Page 248, line 32] is it a trade is it a bargain—do you agree?

[Page 251, line 28] bevy of coots The common Indian coot (Fulica atra)
is a slaty-black colour, and seems unsuitable for comparison with jewels. Perhaps Kipling meant the purple moorhen (Porphyrio martinica) a more handsome purplish-blue rail with long red legs and feet and a red forehead and bill. A Bevy simply means a group.

[Page 252, line 17] Ward-drum Kipling used the word ‘ward’ more than once to denote sections of Indian cities, either inhabited by different communities, or as allocated to particuler trades, the corn merchants separate from the butchers and the metal workers and potters.

[S.K.]