Notes on the text
These notes, by Gillian Sheehan and John McGivering, are partly new, and partly based on the ORG. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of Limits and Renewals, as published and frequently reprinted between 1932 and 1950.
'The details in technique which are most essential to ensure a perfect Syme's stump are the provision of a broad area of support for the heel flap by transecting the tibia and fibula as low as possible; the maintaining intact of the specialised weight-bearing qualities of the heel flap; and the proper placement of the heel flap under the cut ends of the tibia and fibula. If these aims are achieved a good and useful stump is assured; if they are neglected the stump will be imperfect and may be unsatisfactory and no further operation can restore the qualities of the heel flap which are lacking.'[Page 362 line 4] Syme James Syme (1799-1870) a Scottish surgeon who first reported 14 cases of his new operation of amputation through the ankle joint in 1844. He was one of the first European surgeons to use ether anaesthesia.
“Thanks, I’ll remember that the next time you call me in”, said Scree.[Page 367 line 31] solemnity the last word in the collected versions – the magazine version has another sentence:
'They both seemed to know all about it, but it was full time for me to go home.'
One of the most memorable poems in Limits and Renewals ... This poem, interpreted confessionally, offered an appalling glimpse of the darker side of Kipling’s last years, celebrating the capacity of physical pain temporarily to blot out mental and spiritual anguish. He also refers to “The Hymn of Breaking Strain” which presented his final word on his deep conviction that life constantly tested one beyond one’s limits and that it was only by stocially accepting this condition that one could renew oneself.Angus Wilson (page 289) believes that: 'Any physical pain or malady, Kipling counts as bliss beside the agonies of despair'.
One of the disease-and-madness group has prefixed to it a poem … that has attracted attention less for its merits - it is efficient but not outstanding as verse – than for the light it seems to throw on the author’s inner life. Pain is seen as a sort of goddess witrh the blessed power of obliterating grief, remorse and other spiritual discomforts. This is an extreme view, and the poem certainly seems to show first-hand knowledge of its subject.Norman Page (page 177) sees the resemblance to a hymn ("O God our help in ages past", No. 165 in some editions of Hymns Ancient and Modern):
this powerful and disturbing poem can serve as a gloss on the preoccupation with disease and suffering in Kipling’s later yearsThis is a belief echoed by Andrew Lycett (page 546). C A Bodelsen (page 22) believes that:
It is obvious that he was not a happy man, and that he needed all the fortitude and stoicism he could summon to meet the blows that fate dealt him. No-one but a profoundly unhappy man could have written “The Hymn to Physical Pain.”See also Philip Mason (p. 233) for Kipling’s awareness that:
physical pain might be welcome as a cure for mental pain, but it is nowhere stated so explicitly as in “The Hymn to Physical Pain” ……. To pain, remorse and loneliness, must be added a lifelong dread of nightmare…
It is not easy to be sure what is meant by the Star of this poem. In relation to the story, it appears to stand for a man’s particular bent, his own special art or skill or craft ... But it sounds to me as though it should also be read with an application to Kipling himself. If so it must stand for the vision of life which he renounced when he married and came to live with folk in housen on the hither side of Cold Iron. It ends grimly - I had loved myself, and I / Have not lived and dare not die !…… The anguish of wasted opportunity, of loss and remorse, was something of which he wrote often and felt deeply. …… In a Kipling love-story of any depth, either the pair are doomed…..the passion is one-sided.'Cold Iron' here refers to the story and verse of the same name in Rewards and Fairies, where iron symbolises the reality of earthly power. Living on the hither side of 'Cold Iron' is to be cut off from moving freely within the world of fantasy and imagination, the world of the 'People of the Hills'.
The allusions to the woman in the tale are very brief but perfectly clear. It is as if “The Penalty” grew from some “honestly written” but later deleted part of Wilkett’s story, for it falls perfectly into place in it.(Dr. Tompkins does not refer to “Mrs. Bathurst” (Traffics and Discoveries), but that story immediately comes to mind as another sufferer from over-revision; Ed.)
Abide with me when night is nigh,(We have a feeling that Kipling uses this line elsewhere. Information will be appreciated; Ed.)
For without Thee I dare not die.