Apparently written towards the close of the surge of work which began in the latter part of 1902 and culminated in the 1903 publication of The Five Nations. Collected in I.V. 1919, D.V. 1940, the Sussex Edition vol. 33 and the Burwash Edition, vol. 26.
His experience in South Africa had convinced Kipling of the need for reform of the army in readiness for the war to come, one that he saw Germany was already preparing to wage against England. He had also learned to align himself with the perspective of financiers like Cecil Rhodes, Abe Bailey and Alfred Beit. Through this poem he advances the argument that it is international trade, including the sale of arms, which alone can guarantee peace.
Turning his back on abstract statement however, instead he chooses literary means, harnessing the vigour of the ballad and the old Morality play. Borrowing both cast and location from the Old Testament and working within the mindset of Christian tradition - even perhaps casting a playful glance at the Milton of Paradise Lost - Kipling creates a new myth. If it were one of his stories for children this poem might be called "How the International Financier Made the First Peace".
Notes on the text
(by Mary Hamer drawing on various sources, in particular Ralph Durand, “A Handbook to the Poetry of Rudyard Kipling" 1914.)
[Title] Dives taken from the Vulgate, i.e. the Latin translation of the Bible, where it is not a proper name but means ‘a rich man.’ In the original parable this rich man is in hell, pleading for water. See Luke 16,19-31.
[Stanza 1] The Word almost a pun, meaning ‘an order’ but also recalling the phrase which opens the gospel of St John: ‘In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God’.
[Stanza 3] Goshen the part of Egypt inhabited by the Israelites when they lived there in exile.
Gadire the country of the Gadarenes, near the Sea of Galilee in Israel.
[Stanza 7] money-changers currency brokers. The ‘money-changers’ were driven out of the Temple in Jerusalem by Jesus. See Matthew 21,12, Mark 11,15.
Habergeon coat of mail.
[Stanza 8] Syrian and the Persian and the Mede/And their hearts were nothing altered a list comprised of those who might be expected to be the villains, for in the Bible all these were the traditional enemies of the Jews. Also notice the echo of
Daniel 6,12 ’the law of the Medes and Persians which altereth not’.
Atlantis and the Captains of the West this is possibly a Biblical reference in view of the context, but I have found no source in which these terms are linked in a manner that would make sense here.
[Stanza 16] Ancient Akkad see Genesis 10,10, one of the cities of Nimrod and the principal city of Sargon 1, King of Babylon, who ruled from the Euphrates to the Mediterranean.
Islands of the Seas see Isaiah 11,11.
[Stanza 17] Ashdod a city of the Philistines, see I Samuel 1) situated on the military route between Syria and Egypt. Captured by the Assyrians in 711 BCE, see Isaiah 20,1.
[Stanza 18] Is not Calno like Carcemish? see Isaiah 10,7-9. Calno may be identical with Calneh, one of Nimrod’s cities on the east bank of the Tigris; it was commercially important. Carcemish was a town on the Euphrates, once the Hittite capital; it was twice reported captured, see 2 Chron.35,20 and Jeremiah 46,2.
Crowning Tyre see Isaiah 23,8.
[Stanza 19] Hast thou seen the pride of Moab? see Jeremiah 48,29 and Isaiah 26,6.
Philistia the land of the Philistines, traditional enemies of the Jewish peoples.
Gaza the chief stronghold of the Philistines.
Askalon and Gath respectively the westernmost and easternmost towns of Philistia.