Two Sides of the Medal

(notes by John McGivering and John Radcliffe)


Its first publication was in Schoolboy Lyrics in Lahore in 1881, in an edition of around fifty arranged by his mother the year before Rudyard’s arrival in the city at the age of sixteen, to work as a journalist. It is listed in ORG as No 34.

Collected in:

  • The Outward Bound Edition vol xvii (1900)
  • Edition de Luxe vol xviii (1900)
  • The Sussex Edition vol xxxv (1939)
  • The Burwash Edition vol xxviii (1941)
  • Early Verse by Rudyard Kipling (1986) Ed. Rutherford
  • Cambridge Edition (2013 Ed. Pinney) p. 1162.

The poem

This is a curiously bleak and unsettling little piece, with a sting in the tail, from the pen of a schoolboy.

A young man goes out into the world with high principles and high hopes, questing for truth, seeking success and fame and pure love. He encounters failure, shame, and misery, and has to beg for his bread. Its pessimism echoes the picture of worldly corruption and decadence in London, expressed in “One View of the Question” (1890), collected in Life’s Handicap, and written some four months after Kipling’s arrival in the city.

Notes on the Text

[Verse 2]

twined wrapped round, entwined as a creeper climbs a stick.

[Verse 4]

half a crown a handsome silver coin worth two shillings and sixpence, twelve and a half pence in British decimal currency. By no means a trivial sum, being the equivalent of some £110 ($140) in present day (2017) values.

[J McG/J.R.]

©John McGivering and John Radcliffe 2017 All rights reserved