Put forth to watch

(notes by Philip Holberton)


These lines were published at the head of the the story “The Way that he Took” in the Daily Express for June 12th 1900, but not when the story was collected. It is, however, to be found in Inclusive Verse (1919), Definitive Verse (1940), the Sussex Edition vol xxxiv, the Burwash Edition vol. xxvii p. 224, the Wordsworth Edition (2001), and the Cambridge Edition (2013 Ed. Pinney)

The poem

These verses express the loneliness of a soldier fresh from England on guard in a completely strange land. Even when he sees something – The buck that break before my feet – he does not know what it means. See “Two Kopjes”, where Only some buck on the move are a sign, not understood by the Kensington draper, of the presence of Boer commandoes.

The verses seem unfair to the (unnamed) Captain in the story, who is beginning to like the Karroo and has learnt enough to spot the Boer ambush. But his report is not believed by the Colonel, so there will be another British defeat.


©Philip Holberton 2020 All rights reserved