(notes by John McGivering)
it calls on the street-bred people of England to remember that their great empire had been won at a price. The four winds of the cardinal points bear witness to the expansion of British hegemony overseas, each calling in turn for the English people to 'Go forth and do their bit'.
When a private is praised by his general he does not presume to thank him, but fights all the better afterwards. [see Harry Ricketts p. 356]Lord Birkenhead (p. 129) regards this as:
...a poem of greater significance than any that had gone before.Birkenhead quotes George Orwell’s essay which draws attention to the extraordinary number of his phrases that have passed into general use, as noted below in the notes on the text.
...incurred his greatest unpopularity by lashing out at what he considered the stupidity, the unfathomable stupidity, complacency , and lack of responsibility of the English in their contempt for and neglect of their armed forces.This unpopularity is echoed by Lionel Johnson, writing in the Academy in 1891-1892:
In some of the finest pieces Mr. Kipling is a prey to the grandiose aspect of things. “The English Flag”, ... for example, is grievously spoiled by exaggeration of tone. We know that England is great, that Englishmen have done great things, that the fame of her glory has filled the corners of the earth, but we have no occasion to shriek about it. [Collected in Kipling, the Critical Heritage Ed. R L Green p. 102.]Philip Mason (p. 43) discusses patriotism, which, he says:
... is another matter in which there is a discrepancy in the sources, and something of a paradox in the stories. In 1882, an assassin made an attempt on Queen Victoria’s life and Kipling wrote some verses congratulating her on her escape. They were published in the school magazine, of which he was the editor, and are headed “Ave Imperatrix“ – the first of those unofficial odes on national occasions for which he became famous .... It dutifully lays at tne Queen’s feet the homage of a school composed of soldiers’ sons...Mason explains how Kipling’s school-fellows mocked him for it and thought he had written it with tongue in cheek to get a rise out of a couple of masters, but Dunsterville (the original of 'Stalky') thought otherwise. He points to the paradox in "The Flag of their Country" where the patriotism exhibited by the speaker disgusted the boys, who considered it was not a matter for public discussion. Mason continues:
What is more difficult to understand is why Kipling felt that he could talk about what the “jelly-bellied flag-flapper” could not, why he, who had so clearly understood the discomfort flag-waving caused, should have become associated in so many minds with just that offence. Only ten years after “Ave Imperatrix“ he was to publish a song called “The English Flag”, which in most Englishmen today arouses a feeling rather similar to that with which the schoolboys looked at the Union Jack.Kipling relaxes, however, in his somewhat disrespectful but affectionate “The Widow at Windsor” where a soldier reflects on “The Empire on which the sun never sets”, observing in the third verse:
Take ‘old of the Wings o’ the Mornin’,A review of “The English Flag” and other verses in Barrack-Room Ballads by Arthur Quiller-Couch can be found in Kipling, the Critical Heritage Ed. R L Green, p. 174.
An’ flop round the earth till you’re dead,
But you won’t get away from the tune that they play
To the bloomin’ old rag over’ead,
The sky above them was an intense velvety black, changing to bands of Indian red on the horizon, where the great stars burned like street-lamps. From time to time a greenish wave of the Northern Lights would roll across the hollow of the high heavens, flick like a flag, and disappear; or a meteor would crackle from darkness to darkness, trailing a shower of sparks behind. Then they could see the ridged and furrowed surface of the floe tipped and laced with strange colours—red, copper, and bluish; but in the ordinary starlight everything turned to one frost-bitten gray.liner in this context a steamship running a regular passenger-service.
Twix’ the Forties and Fifties[Verse 6]
South-eastward the drift is."
And if anyone hinders our coming, you’ll starve!street-bred people See Verse 1 above.
A power-driven vessel making way through the water shall sound at intervals of not more than two minutes one prolonged blast. [The International Rules for Preventing Collisions at Sea 35(a)].That is the 1972 wording, which is probably much the same as it ever was. But I do remember a more poetic version of my youth: In fog, mist or falling snow, a vessel at anchor shall... [Ed.}
I do not think it can mean a funeral wreath, as in the context “they” have not yet died. The Shorter Oxford Dictionary has: 'Rack (also wrack): a mass of thick fast-moving cloud, driving mist or fog.' One of several meanings of 'wreath' is: 'a curving mass of cloud, vapour etc.' Both words mean much the same thing, cloud driven fast by the wind, thus contrasting with the preceding .calm'.conger conger conger, a large and predatory eel found in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean.
There is another place where Kipling uses "rack", in "The Bell Buoy", verse 3:"When the smoking scud is blown,Again the sense seems to be of wind-blown cloud. [P.H.]
When the greasy wind-rack lowers."