| notes on the text
…the news went round that Mr Kipling was contributing some quite fascinating ballads to the Scots Observer….and, long before the volume entitled Barrack-Room Ballads appeared, “Danny Deever”, “Fuzzy-Wuzzy” and “Mandalay” had become household words. There was a go and a catchiness about them that no English ballads had possessed since Macauley. When the volume appeared it was more widely read than any poetry published for some years. It was that rare thing in poetry, a genuinely popular success; and the success was significant of the achievement.’ [Rudyard Kipling, A Criticism, John Lane: The Bodley Head, London & New York, 1900].However, not all comment was so favourable, Robert Buchanan stating at about the same time that:
‘in all the ballads, with scarcely an exception, the tone is one of absolute triviality, unredeemed by a touch of tenderness and pity. …the picture they represent is one of unmitigated barbarism’.['The Voice of “The Hooligan”', Contemporary Review, New York, December 1899].The mix of violence and fairly crude humour in this poem has continued to trouble some critics to this day.
|Beja tribesmen pictured on a postcard sent from Khartoum during World War I but still showing the hairstyle that gave rise to the nickname Fuzzy-Wuzzy and the typical long Crusader-style swords.|
‘…rendered obsolete the fighting tactics of Frederick the Great, which, improved by the Duke of Wellington to suit the arms of his day, are still alone to be found in our Field Exercise Book.’(1877).. This was an opinion that he had to revise when, as General Lord Wolseley, he took command of the British force sent to the relief of General Gordon in 1884.
THE SKY WAS BLIND WITH SAND AND SMOKE,The other is Kipling's prose description in The Light that Failed, at the end of Chapter II (Uniform Edition, page 25).
WITH BULLETS SHRIEKED THE AIR,
LIKE WAVE ON WAVE THE DESERT BROKE
AGAINST THAT STUBBORN SQUARE.