This poem was first published in the Morning Post (London), on December 16th 1927, and in Liberty (New York) on February 18th 1928, with “Railways and a
Two-Thousand-Feet Climb”. It is listed in ORG as no 1152.
- Brazilian Sketches (1940)
- Definitive Verse (1940)
- The Sussex Edition vol xxxv (1939)
- The Burwash Edition vol xxviii (1941)
- Cambridge Edition (2013) Ed. Pinney, p. 1421
This poem tells how much England depends on imports. In this it is like the earlier poem “Big Steamers” (1911). Where that poem looked at all the goods coming from all over the world, this is concerned in particular with the products of the Western Hemisphere, including tropical Brazil. .
It is written in deliberately archaic language and uses some old-fashioned words and word-forms and spellings, and many more capitalised words than we would today.
Kipling clearly saw it as complementing the article about railway transport to which it is linked.
Notes on the Text
Such as in Ships The title is an echo of Psalm 107.23: ‘They that go down to the sea in ships.’
Barks small sailing vessels
Arks large ships
Victuals food supplies
an Hemisphere archaic. Now a Hemisphere.
Half the world.
Indian Weed Tobacco, which Columbus found in what he mistakenly thought were the Indies.
the Main The ocean. The ‘Spanish Main’ referred to the south-western Atlantic, off the Spanish territories of Central and South America.
Teas Brazil does not grow tea, though her neighbour Argentina does. Brazil grows about 30% of the world’s coffee. Kipling describes a visit to a coffee estate in Article V of the Brazilian Sketches.
Cottons and Sugar of the Cane major Brazilian exports.
How infinite the Toil! In his articles Kipling notes how easily everything grows in the climate of Brazil but how difficult transport is, with heavy rainfall and a 2000-foot escarpment between the coast and the productive agricultural areas on the plateau,
tropique old-fashioned spelling.
Engines of tumultuous breath this poem accompanies the sixth article in which Kipling gets quite lyrical about a Corliss steam-engine that lowers his train down the precipitous mountain-side.
Hecatombs literally a sacrifice of 100 oxen; here it stands for the vast quantities of goods loaded into ships’ holds (our Navies’ labouring Wombs) In the third article Kipling tells of coffee-bags being loaded by conveyor in Santos docks..
Make Pennyworths when they reach England, the huge volumes of goods from Brazil are broken down and repacked into quantities that ordinary people can buy.
©Philip Holberton 2017 All rights reserved