ORG Volume 8, page 5074 records the first publication in the Civil and Military Gazette on 14 September 1886. (Verse No. 198A) under the title “In September – Two Months, June and December.” See David Richards p. 20 for further details of the publication.
The poemss are collected under the title “Two Months” in:
- Departmental Ditties and Other Verses (1888)
- Early Verse (1900)
- Inclusive Verse (1919)
- Definitive Verse (1940)
- Sussex Edition Volume 32, p. 161
- Burwash Edition, Volume 25
- The Works of Rudyard Kipling (Wordsworth Poetry Library)
Theme and background
The poems are in the form of sonnets, a poem of fourteen lines in a strict rhyme scheme, which originated as early as the thirteenth century in Europe, and was used by Shakespeare and various later English poets, including John Keats. The first, “June”, tells of despair during the unbearable Hot Weather. “September” shows a slight but sure sign of relief to come.
India is such a vast country that snow still lies on the mountains to the north while further south the heat is starting to build up in February. By April or May it becomes unbearable for Europeans, up to 113° Fahrenheit (45 ° Centigrade) in Central India. It gets dry and dusty and everything is seen through a haze.
Later come signs of the monsoon with showers of rain and electric storms. Towards the end of the season, the heat is like the blow of a hammer, and those who can afford the money and the time retreat to the hill-stations which are mentioned in Kipling’s Indian stories and verses – Simla being the most popular.
See “At the End of the Passage” in Life’s Handicap for a vivid account of the discomfort of the hot weather. Also “A Tale of two Cities” for more on Simla; also many stories in Plain Tales from the Hills and others listed in our database of “Themes in Kipling’s Works.” See also India, a Travel Survival Kit, p. 27 (Lonely Planet Publications, 3rd. Edition, 1987.
Some critical opinions
These verses have been little noticed by the critics, though Dobrée (p. 211) observes of Departmental Ditties:
These verses are experimental. Certainly in these ditties, as Kipling very properly called them, he would seem to have been trying his hand at many forms: the ballad as in “The Ballad of Fisher’s Boarding House”; the ballade as in those “A Ballade of Burial” or A Ballade of Jakko Hill ; the Browning sort of monologue as “One Viceroy Resigns” ; the sonnet in “Two Months” …
Notes on the Text
a flaming sword: an echo of Genesis 3, 24, when Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden of Eden:
So he drove out the man: and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims and a flaming sword which turned every way to keep the way of the tree of life.
tank: in this context, a pool or reservoir.
Presage: omen or portent
Lotos: usually lotus – plants of the genus Lotus, family Leguminosae
©John McGivering 2011 All rights reserved