This is the mouth-filling song”


(notes by Philip Holberton)


First published in Just So Stories for little children, following “The Sing-song of Old Man Kangaroo”. Listed in ORG as No. 794.

Also collected in:

  • Inclusive verse (1919)
  • Definitive Verse (1940)
  • The Sussex Edition vol xiii and xxxiv (1939)
  • The Burwash Edition vol xii and xxvii (1941)
  • The Cambridge Edition (2013) Ed. Pinney, p. 891

The poem

The poem echoes the story, in which Old Man Kangaroo is very truly sought after and made different from all other animals.

Notes on the Text

a Boomer: Australian name for a large male kangaroo. cf. Kipling’s caption to the picture on p. 67: The Kangaroo hasn’t any real name except Boomer. He lost it because he was so proud.

Warrigaborrigarooma: a made-up name.

that Continent Hadn’t been given a name: Australia was named in 1804 by Captain Matthew Flinders. Though Kipling doesn’t specify that the story happened “once upon a time” or “in the beginning of years”, it is clearly set in the time when not all animals had yet got their proper shape. Australian Aborigines call that the Dream Time.

They ran thirty degrees, From Torres Straits to the Leeuwin: Kipling is pretty accurate. Cape York, the northernmost point of Australia, on the south side of Torres Straits, is at 10°S 142°E., and Cape Leeuwin, right at the south-west of the continent, is at 34°S 115°E. The straight-line distance between them is about 3900 km. (2450 miles). (See the note by Alastair Wilson on Longitude and Latitude).

From Adelaide to the Pacific: The Pacific Ocean bounds Australia on the east.  Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, is only a third of the way across the continent. The nearest point on the Pacific coast is about 840 km (560 miles) away.

importunate:  persistently demanding. Boomer was importunate when he went from one God to another, until Big God Nqong granted his request.


© Philip Holberton 2017 All rights reserved