The Supports

(notes by Lisa Lewis)


First published Hutchinson’s Story Magazine, July 1919, where it is sub-headed:
“This poem has been written by Mr. Rudyard Kipling specially for the first number of ‘Hutchinson’s Story Magazine’. Collected (with many alterations – see below) in Debits and Credits (1926), following the story “On the Gate”.


Although the story “On the Gate” would not be published until 1926, there is evidence (see its headnote) that Kipling was already working on it when he wrote “The Supports.” The poem is quoted in the published story.

Critical Opinions

Philip Mason [1975] calls this:

a set of verses which I find one of his most complete achievements in that particular vein. It uses the language of the Psalms in the Authorised Version and expresses Kipling’s Blougramism [see Robert Browning’s poem, “Bishop Blougram’s Apology”] more completely than “The Sons of Martha” because it adds a sense of wonder and awe. The pause in the long line is stamped home by an internal rhyme, which I think should be emphasized [p. 269].

For Sandra Kemp [1988], the story “On the Gate” “seeks to locate religion firmly in the world of ordinary reality, which, though painful, has its own supports, as the accompanying poem indicates” [p. 94].

Notes on the Text

[Page 357, line 2] (Song of the Waiting Seraphs) This and other sub-headings in the poem were not in Hutchinson’s. For the singers, see headnote to “On the Gate.”

[Page 357, lines 4-8] To Him … devotion In Hutchinson’s this line reads “made the Heavens bide and gave the stars their motion”. In the last line of this verse “Names” reads “Name”.

[Page 357, lines 9-12] Not for … our places In Hutchinson’s it is “Prophecies and Powers”, while the second line is “But the weighed and counted hours that drive us to our places.”

[Page 357, line 16] Loaves and Fishes The miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, Matt. 14, 15-20; Mark 8, 1-8; John, 6, 5-13.

[Page 357, line 17] But for doing,’gainst our will, work In Hutchinson’s, “But for standing ’gainst our will at work”.

[Page 358, line 8] Ship of Fools The Narrenschiff of Sebastian Brant (1494) was adapted in an English version by A. Barclay in 1509 as A Ship of Fools. It gives a satirical picture of contemporary English life.

[Page 358, line 9] one collision For this in Hutchinson’s, read “or one groundswell.”

[Page 358, line 17]
business For this in Hutchinson’s, read “toilette.”

[Page 358, line 33] bearing In Hutchinson’s an extra verse after this reads:

“They that sip from every glass lose their heads the faster.
They that skip from thought to thought suffer like disaster,
And in all adversity,
Having nothing orderly,
Let the accepted time go by till Panic is their master!”

[Page 359, lines 16-24] He who used … o’ertake us This verse is not in Hutchinson’s.

[Page 360, lines 1-3] fuming crater … He shall not – He shall not – In Hutchinson’s, for “fuming” read “blazing”; line 3 is missing.


 ©Lisa Lewis 2010  All rights reserved.