First published with “The Edge of the Evening”, as collected in A Diversity of Creatures in 1917. Also collected in the Sussex Edition Volume 9 page 297 and Volume 34 page 326; the Burwash Edition Volumes 9 and 27. Also collected in Definitive Verse, Inclusive Verse, and The Works of Rudyard Kipling (Wordsworth Poetry Library).
Some critical comments
Philip Mallett (page 159) regards this as:
a grimmer piece, part Hardy, part Henley. It begins by imagining the world as it might be if a loving God chose to restore it, but ends by insisting that ‘we are what we are’…
Mallett then quotes the last three lines of Verse 4 which indicate that we have become so accustomed to Death that we hardly notice it.
The heart of the story is the killing of the airmen. Dr Tompkins reminds us (p. 108) that both this story and “The Honours of War” (earlier in this volume) were written in the years before the 1914-1918 war, and have linked poems that were written after it had broken out:
“The Edge of the Evening” is a sinister tale; the light is fading … indicative of a bad stretch ahead
Daniel Hadas points out that verses 3 and 5 contain strong thematic echoes of a famous passage from Wordsworth’s ‘Ode: Intimations of Immortality’: [D.H.]
Hence in a season of calm weather
Though inland far we be,
Our Souls have sight of that immortal sea
Which brought us hither,
Can in a moment travel thither,
And see the Children sport upon the shore,
And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore…..
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Notes on the Text
[line 2] broke: in this context, accustomed to – from training horses so they become used to the sights and sounds around them as well as responding to orders.
©John McGivering and John Radcliffe 2020 All rights reserved