William the Conqueror – part 2

Notes on the Text

These notes, edited by Alastair Wilson, are partly new, and partly based on the notes on this tale in the ORG. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of The Day’s Work, as published and frequently reprinted between 1898 and 1950.

[Heading] This is a four-line verse from A Valediction (Forbidding mourning), also by John Donne (see the Heading of Part I).

[Page 201. line 11] the India which he served by accident or design, ‘The India we Served’ was the title of a later book by Sir Walter Lawrence (the ORG has Sir William), a friend of the Kiplings.

[Page 201, line 16] how to hull rice how to strip off the outer husk of the rice with a pestle.

[Page 201, line 18 quern a hand-mill for grinding grain in which the upper stone is turned by a handle.

[Page 202, line 3] paddy rice in the straw or husk, from padi (Malay).

[Page 203, line 20] izzat a splendid word, implying honour, standing and even knowledge.

[Page 203, line 21] Bias River (or Beas). This (sixth) river of the Punjab joins the Sutlej about thirty miles south of Amritsar. Faiz Ullah, protesting against looking after goats for the babies’ milk, said it was an affront to his honour to do such menial work. Scott told him to forget his honour until he had again crossed the great river into his home country once more. A sweeper is of the lowest caste.

[Page 204, line 4] gunny coarse sacking, usually of jute.

[Page 205, line 6] ’That’, said the interpreter … the sentence which follows shows how the babu (Hindu clerk) of that period liked to air his knowledge generally and of English idiom in particular. Hurry Chunder Mookerjee in Kim is a delightful example of this.

[Page 205, line 12] Ramasawmy possibly a real name, but intended as a ‘type’ name.

[Page 206, line 25] the Pauper Province the name by which the Punjab was known among those responsible for its administration. It was the last of the great provinces to be taken over by the British (annexed on April 2nd, 1849, after the battles of Chillianwalla and Gujrat which ended the second Sikh War (1848-49)). The funds for its administration were not provided on a generous scale at the outset.

[Page 208, line 7] Lawrence Hall Sir John Lawrence, later Lord Lawrence, was the great British administrator of the Punjab, and his name was associated with many public works in that province, and elsewhere in India, because he was later Viceroy, 1864-69. His statue also stands in Waterloo Place, in London.

[Page 208, line 15] one Europe evening a “Europe morning” (in India) was one spent in bed: but this meant a normal evening in dinner clothes as spent by the British in India.

[Page 209, line 4] Jandiala a town in the Punjab: the fact that Sir Jim did it “for the sake of a girl in a crinoline” (we may assume she is now his wife) dates it to 1850-70.

[Page 209, line 29] Derajat one of the Divisions of the Punjab, now in central Pakistan. In round terms, the rate of infant mortality among the British in India at this period was over twice the rate at home.

[Page 212, line 1] Tamil the oldest, richest and most highly organised Dravidian language, spoken in the north-east of Sri Lanka (Ceylon), and in the south of India, particularly in the modern state of Tamil Nadu: it is also widespread in the adjacent states of Kerala and Karnataka, and is found overseas where colonies of expatriates have taken it. It is recognised as one of the official languages of India. The ORG recorded in the 1960s that there were about 13,000,000 Tamil speakers, but the most recent Indian census of 2001 recorded that there were 60,793,814 Tamil speakers, and the most recent estimate is 66,000,000.

[Page 214, line 1] Japes a jape, in this context, is a jest: the word also means a means of deception. It is also a verb, meaning to make game of, and it is in this latter sense that Kipling uses the word in Stalky and Co (“The Moral Reformers” p. 140, line 9)

[Page 215, line 31] V.C. the Victoria Cross, the most famous of all medals for gallantry, was instituted in 1856. All ranks of the armed forces and civilians are eligible for this award, to qualify for which the recipient must have performed some conspicuous act of bravery in the presence of the enemy. It takes precedence over all other orders and medals. (Kipling wrote an account of various deeds which had won the doer the Victoria Cross in > Winning the Victoria Cross in Land and Sea Tales).
It cannot be supposed that Queen Victoria at the inception of this decoration contemplated its bestowal on a woman, yet it seems clear that a female civilian attached to a uniformed service, e.g., a nursing sister, could have been recommended for it, given the overriding qualification “in the presence of the enemy”, and it is possible that Kipling had this in mind when he wrote Sir James’s half-jesting remark.

It is a measure of the changes that have been made in this world since that note was written some 50 years ago, that today, in the British armed forces, women serving in the front line in all three services are fully eligible for gallantry awards: indeed the first award to a woman of the Military Cross, which ranks in gallantry terms one step below the V.C., was made to Private Michelle Morris in 2006. [Ed.]

[Page 217, lines 1-3] ”Duty before decency” … Mr. Chucks … Midshipman Easy Mr. Chucks, the boatswain, known as “Gentleman Chucks”, in Peter Simple. See the note on p. 184, line 11 above.

[Page 217, line 27] servants killed snakes.snakes would seek out dry places in the camp. The ORG note is a very personal one, by Reggie Harbord: ‘they were lucky in their servants. Mine always called me to kill their snakes, handing me an old polo mallet without a head for the purpose. I must have killed a dozen cobras down Poona way in 1919’.

[Page 218, line 28] cinchona an important genus of shrubs and trees. A few of the species are of world-wide importance as the only natural source of quinine, the specific for malaria. Although the drug has been produced in the laboratory, the natural product is still the most economic and effective anti-malaria drug.

[Page 219, lines 7-10] his own voice sounded strange … his hands … grew large some of the many symptoms of malaria (see also page 218, lines 28-30). See Dr Gillian Sheehan’s article on “Kipling and Medicine”.

[Page 219, line 28] light engine a locomotive on its own, without any train.

[Page 219, line 32] pagal “off his head” with the fever.

[Page 219, line 33]  Heaven-born  An expression of respect to a person of a higher rank, often used  by Kipling to convey in English the sense of such a dialogue. Harish Trivedi notes that it is not a direct translation of a phrase in Punjabi or Hindi.

[Page 220, line 3] tez strong, hot. His language was improper. A play on words – not only was his language hot, but the fever was burning him, too.

[Page 220, lines 25-26] feeder-line; relief-work a branch railway, to help to open up the country and to provide wages for the indigenous labour-force so that they can buy food until the next harvest.

[Page 224, line 3] nullah a dry, storm-water-course which fills up in heavy rains and carries the waters to the rivers.

[Page 225, line 10] barrage the engineers’ term for the construction of a dam, checking the flow and so deepening the current, or even creating a lake. From the French, barrage, which means ‘dam’.

[Page 225, line 11] aprons apron, originally ‘napron’, but corrupted from “a napron” to “an apron”. In the present sense it means a protecting ledge below the entrance to a dock or similar works, or floorings of planks before a dam, to make the water descend gradually, or more slowly

[Page 225, line 24] poshteen the fleece is inside the jacket, and the embroidered skin outside.

[Page 226, line 22] Umballa Umballa and the other three places mentioned are all cities in the Punjab, on the railway between Delhi and Lahore.

[Page 226, line 33] teak floor teak is a most durable timber grown in India and (chiefly) Burma (now Myanmar). It is used for furniture, but chiefly for shipbuilding because of its great durability.

[Page 227, line 7] ‘Waits’ parties of carol-singers and street musicians who serenade the inhabitants of a town at Christmas tide. (From the old French, waite, a sentinel.)

[Page 227, line 12] Mark my footsteps well, my page from Good King Wencesla(u)s, by Helmore and Neale (John Mason, 1818-66), a much-loved carol in Kipling’s day, as it is in 2009. The music is Finnish in origin, and some 300 years older than the words. The more usual text is “Mark my footsteps, good my page …”

[Page 227, line 23] When (properly “While”) shepherds watched … from the hymn ascribed to Nahum Tate (1652-1715), poet laureate, and Nicholas Brady (1659-1726); another much-loved Christmas carol, then and today in 2009.


©Alastair Wilson 2009 All rights reserved