Friday, 31 December 2010

Kipling's Changelings

One of Rudyard's more bellicose poems, this; but I like it nonetheless. Published 1915, 'The Changelings':
Or ever the battered liners sank
With their passengers to the dark
I was head of a Walworth Bank,
And you were a grocer's clerk.

I was a dealer in stocks and shares,
And you in butters and teas;
And we both abandoned our own affairs
And took to the dreadful seas.

Wet and worry about our ways--
Panic, onset and flight--
Had us in charge for a thousand days
And thousand-year-long night.

We saw more than the nights could hide--
More than the waves could keep--
And--certain faces over the side
Which do not go from our sleep.

We were more tired than words can tell
While the pied craft fled by,
And the swinging mounds of the Western swell
Hoisted us Heavens-high...

Now there is nothing -- not even our rank--
To witness what we have been;
And I am returned to my Walworth Bank
And you to your margarine!
What I like is the sea-had-soaked-his-heart-through way marine terminology haunts even the landlubber existences of these two characters: 'Walworth Bank' sounds like a rival to Dogger Bank; 'Margarine' sounds like a sea-y 'mar' word.


rog peppe said...

Not really related, but I thought of your blog when some Kipling surfaced at Christmas dinner - "The Egg-Shell". My aunt recited it, "a nice piece of nonsense," only for my ex-Naval dad to point out that it wasn't nonsense at all, but a resonant description of naval warfare in WW1, the Whitehead being a torpedo.

I found it interesting how one person's metaphor, or nonsense, could be another's highly specific depiction.

But this is all old hat, I'm sure.

Adam Roberts Project said...

That's really interesting; I read 'Sea Constables' over Christmas, a story (also about WW1 naval war) I'd read before and not properly understood. Reading it again in a fuilly annotated edition, I was struck by how precise and detailed Kipling's technical knowledge was.