Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sunday Poetry - Rudyard Kipling

Still reading Kipling. I've been listening to Martin Jarvis reading Plain Tales From the Hills & I'm enjoying it very much. I'm listening to stories on the way to work & a couple before I go to sleep at night, especially if I've spent a lot of time that day looking at screens. So, I thought that an early Indian poem by Kipling would be perfect for today. The Story of Uriah refers to the Biblical story of King David, who lusts after Bathsheba & sends her husband, Uriah, to his death to get him out of the way. Apparently Kipling wrote the poem in response to a real life scandal during his time in India. The stories in Plain Tales From the Hills mostly take place in Simla, one of the hill towns where English families escaped the summer heat.
I need to read more about all this. I've read Charles Allen's Plain Tales from the Raj, Jane Robinson's Angels of Albion about the women of the Indian Mutiny & M M Kaye's memoirs of her life in India, Sun in the Morning, Golden Afternoon & Enchanted Evening (many years ago). On the tbr shelves I have Mollie Panter-Downes' Ooty Preserved, about another hill station, Ootacamund as well as a couple of novels, Paul Scott's Staying On & J G Farrell's The Hill Station.
But, as I'm currently reading four books, I'll probably just stick to the Plain Tales & dipping into the poetry for now, especially as reading Sarah Orne Jewett's A Country Doctor is leading me down the path of other Maine writers & I have enough to be going on with right now!

“Now there were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor.”

Jack Barrett went to Quetta   
  Because they told him to.   
He left his wife at Simla   
  On three-fourths his monthly screw.   
Jack Barrett died at Quetta           
  Ere the next month’s pay he drew.   

Jack Barrett went to Quetta.   
  He didn’t understand   
The reason of his transfer   
  From the pleasant mountain-land.           
The season was September,   
  And it killed him out of hand.   

Jack Barrett went to Quetta   
  And there gave up the ghost,
Attempting two men’s duty           
  In that very healthy post;   
And Mrs. Barrett mourned for him   
  Five lively months at most.   

Jack Barrett’s bones at Quetta   
  Enjoy profound repose;           
But I shouldn’t be astonished   
  If now his spirit knows   
The reason of his transfer   
  From the Himalayan snows.   

And, when the Last Great Bugle Call          
  Adown the Hurnai throbs,   
And the last grim joke is entered   
  In the big black Book of Jobs,   
And Quetta graveyards give again   
  Their victims to the air,           
I shouldn’t like to be the man   
  Who sent Jack Barrett there.


  1. I'm enjoying your Kipling posts!
    It's fun getting wrapped up in an area or an era isn't it . I really enjoyed john Masters Indian series including his Auto biography ... oh and your post reminded me of a Kipling poem that always makes me smile ...

    1. Thanks for that, I didn't know that one! I'll have to look into John Masters. I know the name but haven't read anything of his.