The stumbling block

(notes by John Radcliffe)


This poem was published in the Civil and Military Gazette of 8th and 15th August 1892 in association with an article “Our Overseas Men”. It was omitted when the article was collected in From Tideway to Tideway in Letters of Travel (1892-1913). See Alastair Wilson’s notes on the article. The poem was not later collected by Kipling.

The poem

As Alastair Wilson explains, the letter was probably written following Kipling’s ten days in Japan on his honeymoon in April1892, and largely based on conversations with expatriate British in the Overseas Club in Yokohama. The poem stresses the fact that issues which seem clear-cut in England look very different to the British overseas. Certainties in London are not so simple East of Suez.


Notes on the text

Greenwich is some 5 miles east of Central London, and is the site of the Greenwich Meridian (0° longitude).

Euclid of Alexandria was a Greek mathematician, often referred to as the “father of geometry”. He was active in Alexandria during the reign of Ptolemy I (323–283 BCE)

John William Colenso (1814–1883) was a Cornish cleric and mathematician,   who was the first Bishop of Natal in southern  Africa.


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