Revenge— a Ballad of the Fleeter


(notes by Philip Holberton, drawing on the researches of  of Andrew Rutherford and Thomas Pinney)


Published unsigned in the Pioneer, 31 August 1885, under the general heading of “BUNGALOW BALLADS”. It was never collected by Kipling but is to be found in Rutherford (p. 279) and Pinney
(p. 1760).

For “Bungalow Ballads” see our note on the first poem in the series: “The Tale of Two Suits”.

The poem

The title echoes Tennyson’s “The Revenge. A Ballad of the Fleet.” (In Kipling’s case ‘fleet’ refers to speed, rather than sailing ships). As Louis Cornell (p. 84) recounts, a lover hoodwinks his rival into a disastrous ride on an uncontrollable horse, enabling him to win the lady. Cornell also quotes the first verse as an example of the sort of prolixity of which an older Kipling would have been incapable.

See also “Pig” in Plain Tales from the Hills in which two men fall out over the sale of an ill-tempered horse. Horses loomed large in the lives of Anglo-Indians in Kipling’s day.

Notes on the Text

[Verse 2]

brass and brass money and effrontery.

bukhed talked.

[Verse 3]

acrid Burmaa cigar from that country.

peg a drink of whisky and soda-water.

Damon-Pythias inseparable friends in Syracuse in the 5th century B.C. Pythias was condemned to death for plotting against the tyrannical King Dionysius. He was allowed to go home to settle his affairs on condition that if he did not return his friend Damon would be executed in his stead. When Pythias did return, Dionysius, amazed by their friendship, freed them both.

[Verse 5]

ek dum immediately, at once (Hindi).

highlows ankle-high shoes.

[Verse 6]

sowar mounted orderly.

[Verse 10]

pukka permanent (roadway).

[Verse 11]

tikka shay hired chaise.

[Verse 12]

City of Minars Lahore. A Minar is a minaret.


©Philip Holberton 2020 All rights reserved