In late 1915, Kipling wrote a series of articles for the Ministry of Information about the Royal Navy. These were for publication in both Britain and America, with this verse first published in an American copyright pamphlet on 24th November 1915, and later in the Daily Telegraph in November/December 1915. The articles were later published as The Fringes of the Fleet. Each piece was headed by a 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.
Notes on the text
gets home: hits its target.
Â©Alastair Wilson 2020 All rights reserved