(Norman Conquest, 1066)
Notes by Peter Keating
| notes on the text
The Norman Conquest of 1066 was the beginning of the history of the English race as one people and of England as a great power in Europe. You might say, indeed...The first line of the poem then follows. There is no title, but an entry in the left-hand margin of the poem reads ‘William’s Work.’ Harbord gives this as one of the poem’s alternative titles, together with "William the Conqueror’s Work", "William the Conqueror’s Song", and "The Making of England" (ORG, Verse I (1969), No. 975(e)).
The battle of Hastings decided, though not even William knew it, that the great, slow dogged, English race was to be governed and disciplined (and at first severely bullied in the process) by a small number of the cleverest, strongest, most adventurous race then alive …They brought England back by the scruff of the neck into the family of European nations, back into close touch with the Roman Church, to which a series of vigorous and clever popes was then giving a new life. Such remains of Roman ideas of government and order as were left in Europe were saved for us by the Normans. [Fletcher, A School History, pp. 43-4.]"The Anvil" is one of several poems in A School History in which Kipling chooses to communicate complex ideas by means of very simple rhymes and rhythms. This is not always his concern by any means – “The Dawn Wind”, in contrast, is extraordinarily complex in both its form and content - but here, to inculcate a fundamental lesson, simplicity is clearly regarded as crucial.