Notes on the text

These notes, by John McGivering, are partly new, and partly based on the ORG. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of Plain Tales from the Hills, as published and frequently reprinted between 1899 and 1950.


[Heading] Go, stalk the red deer o’er the heather The verse is by Kipling and is collected in Definitive Verse, Inclusive Verse and the Sussex Edition, but he has borrowed the pseudonym–The Old Shikarri–of Henry Astbury Leveson (1828–1875), author of Sport in Many Lands and Hunting Adventures, which Kipling read as a boy (see Something of Myself, p. 7).

[Page 222, line 5] stalking-horse a horse used as a screen when walking up to game, or, any such stratagem.

[Page 222, line 10] Dalesman a Yorkshireman – they are supposed to have long memories and will bear a grudge for ever. Kipling, being of Yorkshire descent himself (See The Pater, John Lockwood Kipling, His Life and Times, 1837–1911 Pond View Books / Hawthorne Publications Ltd., 1988) may well have inherited this trait which may account for the Revenge motif that runs through much of his work.

[Page 222, line 11] Skipton a market town with a ruined castle in what used to be known as the West Riding of Yorkshire

[Page 222, line 11] the Strid a rapid river in a dangerous narrow gorge.

[Page 222, line 17] shikar Hindi, from the Persian, meaning hunting or game.

[Page 222, line 18] Mithankot a town on the Indus just below its junction with the Sutlej: Alexander the Great crossed the river on a bridge of boats in 326 B.C. and
such a bridge is still used in winter and a ferry in summer (Pakistan Handbook, Isobel Shaw, 1998 p. 214)

Jagadri a village 35 miles south-east of Umballa

Gurgaon a town 20 miles south-west of Delhi.

[Page 223, line 1] Abbottabad a cantonment 40 miles north of Rawalpindi.

[Page 223, line 4] sell him pups in this context to sell him a worthless article for an inflated price.

[Page 223, line 5] countrybreds Indian-bred horses, apt to be ill-tempered.

[Page 223, line 10] the Frontier understood to be the North-West Frontier, where there was usually action – see “The Man who Was” in Life’s Handicap, “Slaves of the Lamp” Part II in Stalky and Co., “Wee Willie Winkie”, Barrack-Room Ballads, “Her Majesty’s Servants” in The Jungle Book, “An English School” in Land and Sea Tales for Scouts and Guides, and Chapter 3 of Something of Myself (where Kipling reported Russian troop movements and remembered them when he was later ill in New York).

[Page 223, line 11] Bannu a military station at one time called Edwardesabad, after Sir Herbert Benjamin Edwardes (1819–1868) who was there as Political Agent in 1846.

[Page 223, line 11] Kohat an old cantonment 65 miles north-east of Bannu on the road to Peshawar, and controlling one of the roads from Kabul, the Afghan capital.

[Page 223, line 12] the bilious ones climb into the Secretariat A rather sweeping statement, and perhaps difficult to justify, but expressive of professional jealousy on the part of less successful officials.

[Page 223, line 13] bad for the liver a sedentary job with not much exercise, unlike that of a District Officer who usually got plenty.

[Page 223, line 14] District work. The officer would leave his bungalow for a month or so and tour part of his district with his entire household – wife, children and servants and camping equipment – so that he could ride round the country and meet the local headmen to discuss taxes and general matters, and perhaps hear law cases, as he was usually a magistrate. His camp would be struck after breakfast, packed into bullock-carts and set off for the next camping-ground, where, towards sunset, he would find his tents set up exactly as he left them that morning.

For an interesting departure from the usual method, see “Little Foxes” in Actions and Reactions where – in the Sudan – the Governor lived aboard a Nile steamer, which, depending on the accommodation provided, might have been more comfortable than camping. The arrival of the automobile put an end to this excellent system that kept the officer in touch with the people in a way that driving at thirty mph could not. For a slightly more humorous approach to modern transport see “At Howli Thana” in Soldiers Three.

[Page 223, line 14] Ghuznivide coins Ghazni is a town and fort in Afghanistan on the River of the same name 80 miles south-west of Kabul; in the 12th century it was the capital of the kingdom of the Ghaznevids and would have had its own currency.

[Page 223, line 15] Persian poetry The greatest lyric poet of Persia is undoubtedly Hafiz who died in 1389; his verses breathe the same epicurean spirit as those of Omar Khayam, but their sweetness and musical charm are far superior. (Harmsworth). No doubt many Englishmen would, like Burton, be attracted to this beautiful genre, but whether Kipling’s “Certain Maxims of Hafiz” is inspired by Persian originals is a matter for conjecture. [Ed.]

[Page 223, line 21] opium scrapers See “In an Opium Factory” in From Sea to Sea Vol. II.

[Page 223, line 23] enriching used-up soil Burning the rubbish is likely to leave a lot of carbon from wood etc. which will not burn easily, and little nitrogen because it will be burnt off from the greener material. Soil micro-organisms need a ratio of carbon to nitrogen below 4 : 1 if they are to grow in the soil, and if they find a ratio below this will take all the nitrogen for their own growth, so that the soil will be deficient in nitrogen for crops until the micro-organisms die when the nitrogen they contain will become available again. If too much rubbish is burnt on the land, it will burn some of the organic matter in the soil, killing what nitrogen there is together with most of the beneficial micro-organisms, so that eventually the land becomes a desert.
(J. H. Davis, The College of Estate Management).

[Page 223, line 27] Civilian in this context, a civil servant, but this can also simply signify a man who is not in the navy or army.

[Page 223, line 31] Assistant Commissioner a District Officer under a Commissioner.

[Page 224, line 5] gold-washing … Sutlej prospecting for gold in the River Sutlej – one of the five great rivers of the Punjab. It rises in Thibet, runs just North of Simla and enters the plains about Ludhiana, then runs south-west into the Indus. This is the classic method of shovelling auriferous gravel from the river-bed into a shallow pan and washing the gravel away to leave the heavier gold behind, If there is a promising yield, the miners used to divert a stream and wash the gravel in larger quantities.

[Page 224, line 32] Pig of the family suidae, unclean to Muslims, but providing great and dangerous sport to the pig-stickers, who in Kipling’s day chased them on horseback for sport, with a spear. The Indian variety – S. Cristatus – resembles the boar of Europe and is very fierce in the wild. There is another variety in India, S. Silvanius, about the size of a hare. Both are prone to worms and diseases of various kinds.

[Page 225, line 2] the British Army pork was always considered a great delicacy in the Royal Navy, even in the tropics. It would be interesting to have a military view of whether such a scheme would have been welcomed in the ranks ? [Ed.]

[Page 225, line 6] the Government wrote on the back of the letter the classic way of dealing with official correspondence – the senior official (Viceroy, Governor, Chief Secretary etc.) indicates the nature of the reply and a junior functionary answers as instructed, thus starting machinery that may be difficult to switch off, as indicated in the preamble above.

[Page 225, line 24] Primitive Pig … Mythology… Vishnu, the second person of the Hindu Trimurti was a Boar in one incarnation. (Harmsworth)

[Page 225, line 25] Dravidian Pig the Sanskrit term. Dravida has, in recent times, been used as the equivalent of Tamil, and as an ethnological term to designate the non-Aryan races of India. [Hobson-Jobson]

[Page 226, line 2] sub-montane tracts land at the foot of the mountains (See “Tods’ Amendment”)

[Page 226, line 3] Rechna Doab between the Chenab and the Ravi, two of the five rivers of the Punjab.

[Page 226, line 8] the Derajat West of the Indus, between Dera Ismail Khan and Dera Ghazi Khan.

[Page 226, line 10] Cis-Sutlej East of the Sutlej River in Rajputana

[Page 226, line 15] Keats’ (sic) poem Stanza XV of “Isabella, or the Pot of Basil” by John Keats.

A thousand men in troubles wide and dark:
Half-ignorant, they turned an easy wheel,
That set sharp racks at work, to pinch and peel.

Written at the suggestion of William Hazlitt and taken from a translation of The Decameron by Bocaccio, Keats completed it in 1819: it tells of a young woman loved by a man of inferior station who is murdered by her avaricious brothers as they have other plans for a richer marriage for her. She finds the body buried in the forest, removes the head and puts it in a flower-pot with the herb Sweet Basil. The brothers, wondering why she cherishes the plant, discover the contents, and flee in terror. She pines to death from sorrow.

For more on Keats, see “Wireless” in Traffics and Discoveries, Early Verse (ed. Rutherford) pp. 56 / 57 for a parody; also KJ271/24 (J.H.McGivering) and KJ 272/29 (Eileen Stamers-Smith).

[Page 227, line 15] fibrins insoluble proteins precipitated as a network of fibres when blood coagulates.

[Page 227, line 15] glucose grape-sugar or dextrose

[Page 227, line 16] maize (Zea Mays) a staple cereal in America, also called Indian Corn or mealies, with large corn-cobs.

[Page 227, line 16] lucerne (Medicago Sativa) purple medick, known as alfafa in the United States – a valuable leguminous forage plant of the pea family.

[Page 228, line 14] Cawnpore on the River Ganges, 40 miles south-west of Lucknow, and the scene of a famous siege and the killing of Europeans by rebellious Indian soldiers in 1857; a cantonment with factories for the manufacture of boots and saddles for the military

[Page 228, line 25] forgotten what he had written the cast-iron copying-press, the big book and the damp sheets had been in use for many years but may not have been available up-country. Tear-out books with carbon-paper that enabled a writer to use an indelible pencil and so keep a copy of his work were available and it is believed that Kipling used the system for the material he sent to his paper when he returned to the United Kingdom. See also Note to p. 102, line 31 of “Consequences” earlier in this volume.

[Page 229, line 1] unmasked his batteries figuratively speaking, he opened fire from a previously concealed gun-battery.

[Page 229, line 9] Berkshire a reddish-brown breed suitable for bacon: crossed with Chinese boars, it became black by the beginning of the 20th Century.

[Page 229, line 17] Department of Castigation a fictitious name, but highly appropriate (castigate – to chastise or criticise severely) (A schoolmaster of my childhood always called the Board of Education the ‘Board of Irritation’. [Ed.])

[Page 229, line 18] the Service was made for the Country… an echo of St. Mark, 2, 27 – the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.

[Page 229, line 29] handwriting typewriters had appeared in America in about 1867 but in Kipling’s early days they were bulky and expensive. He had a portable in later years but was not a very good typist.

[Page 229, line 32] Competition-wallah a man who entered the Indian Civil Service by the competitive system introduced in 1856. The phrase was probably coined by the older members who had been to Haileybury, the English public school founded by the East India Company in 1806 for training their cadets.

[Page 230, line 2] friends Kipling is sarcastic – the ‘friends’ took the opportunity of hitting Pinecoffin when he was down.

[Page 230, line 33] chaff normally the husks left over when corn is thrashed and used as animal-feed, but in this instance, light banter or joking.

[J. McG.]