“Tin Fish”

(notes by Alastair Wilson)

Publication

Kipling wrote a series of articles about the Royal Navy, for the Daily Telegraph in November/December 1915, later published as The Fringes of the Fleet. Each was headed by a poem.

The poem

The fourth article is preceded by a short poem, two four line verses, later entitled “Tin Fish”. Its lines are self-explanatory: the submarine is hunted above and below the surface, but when it strikes, the results can be catastrophic. The later title is something of a curiosity: “tinfish” were torpedoes; submarines were “sardine cans” (they held more than one fish).

Readers may be interested in the paper on this poem written by Dr Daniel Karlin for a conference on Kipling Studies in September 2007.

Philp Holberton notes that this poem has strong echoes of “The Night has a Thousand Eyes” by Francis
Bourdillon (1852-1921), though Kipling’s poem is far too serious to be called a ‘parody’

The Night has a thousand eyes,
And the day but one;
Yet the light of the bright world dies
With the dying sun.

The mind has a thousand eyes,
And the heart but one;
Yet the light of a whole life dies
When love is done.

[A.J.W.]

©Alastair Wilson 2020 All rights reserved