From Sea to Sea III

(notes by David Page, drawing on the wortk of the ORG Editors)

Publication History

The edited text corresponds with that first published in the Pioneer of 11 May 1889.

Notes on the Text

[Page 230, Epigraph] from “The Palace of Art” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892).

[Page 230, line 3] Rangoon to Penang Rangoon (now called Yangon) is about 25 miles up-river in Burma, whilst Penang is an island in the Malacca Straits just off the Malay Peninsula, about 900 miles south of Rangoon.

[Page 230, line 4] Moulmein is a Burmese port just across the Gulf of Martaban, about 150 miles east of Rangoon, memorably referred to by Kipling in his poem “Mandalay”.

[Page 230, line 4] new steamer this is the S.S. Africa, British India Line of 2032 tons. 35 1st class passengers, 18 2nd class, and 1184 deck.

[Page 231, line 3] ‘Geordie tramps’ ‘Geordie’ is the nickname for people who come from Tyneside, in Northumberland on the north-east coast of England, and particularly from Newcastle-upon-Tyne. In the sense used here, the ‘tramps’ were merchant vessels without a scheduled route which picked up cargoes wherever they could find them, hoping to pick up new cargoes at or near to the port of discharge. Many of the ‘tramps’ were owned or manned by people from Tyneside, hence ‘Geordie tramp’ was one of the generic names used for these vessels.

[Page 231, lines 10-13] Sindbad the Sailor is a leading character in several of the tales collected in the Arabian Nights Entertainments also known as a Thousand and One Nights. It was on his Seventh and Last voyage that Sindbad discovered the elephants’ burial-ground.

[Page 231, line 18] mahouts elephant drivers.

[Page 231, line 24] teak is a tropical hardwood of the genus Tectona. It is very durable and weather-resistant, the wood being yellowish-brown in colour.

[Page 232, line 4] ticca-gharries hired four-wheel carriages.

[Page 232, line 31] toddy-palms a variety of palm tree, such as Palmyra, that yields a very sweet sap which can be fermented to produce an alcoholic palm wine.

[Page 233, line 23] Nibban Nirvana, the Buddhist and Hindu place of rest and blissful peace of soul after death, in ancient Pali language. [ORG]

[Page 235, line 3] the Professor this is the first mention of Professor S.A. Hill’s camera; see the notes on Chapter I. He was a keen photographer.

[Page 235, line 24] boxwallah Strictly a dry goods merchant in India whose goods arrive in boxes [ORG], but more generally used of business-men, as opposed to soldiers or civil servants.

[Page 235, line 33] half a dozen plates these are the glass plates coated with a light-sensitive emulsion which were used in the early cameras, and each plate had to be loaded into a holder in a darkroom to be ready for use. The size of the plate is not given, and they could have been ‘whole plate’, ‘half-plate’ or, less likely, ‘quarter-plate’. ‘Whole plate’ was 6½ by 8½ inches (16 x 21 cm.), and the plates captured the black-and-white ‘negative’ image in the same way as roll film.

This Editor inherited a quarter-plate camera which he used in the early 1950s, and can verify that these were anything but ‘point and shoot’ devices. The body was of wood with brass fittings and a large glass lens. It needed a lightproof black cloth in order to focus onto a frosted glass screen (the image was inverted). Additionally, a large wooden tripod was required to keep the camera steady, together with a cable or pneumatic shutter release. However, the results that could be produced, albeit with care and slowly, could be to a very good standard. About the only thing retained on a modern digital camera is the focussing screen.

[Page 236, line 11] P.W.D. Public Works Department.

[Page 237, line 4] 87º Farenheit, equivalent to 30.5º Centigrade.

[Page 237, line 8] Patience a game of cards played single-handed to pass the time.

[Page 237, lines 14-15] ’as you have not before heard, I will now proceed to relate.’ The original source of this quotation has not been identified although a minor variant has been found in The Harvard Lampoon of 1886, three years before this ‘Letter’. However, Kipling used the phrase again in his Just So Stories – “How the Whale got his Throat” and “How the Rhinoceros got his Skin”.

[Page 237, line 18] Lushai hills a district in the extreme south of Assam Province, on the border of Burma and on the Tropic of Cancer. [ORG]

[Page 237, line 19] Iquique a major seaport in northern Chile.

[Page 238, line 21] Nuda est veritas et prevalebit meaning ‘Truth is naked and will prevail’. It is a play on the Latin tag Magna est veritas et prævalebit, meaning ‘Truth is mighty and will prevail. Thanks to Sir George Engle, the original source of the ‘Truth’ has been tracked down in The Apocrypha according to the Authorised Version of the Old Testament, III Esdras 4,41, which runs:

…And with that he held his peace. And all the people shouted, and said, Great is Truth, and mighty above all things…

Sir George has commented that he found the tag in his Vulgate’s III Esdras, 4,41, which gives it as ‘Magna est veritas,et praevalet’ – not ‘prævalebit’. So was Kipling remembering the Vulgate or another version?

©David Page 2009 All rights reserved