Notes by John Radcliffe
and John McGivering
A parable of newspaper attacks on dead men who cannot defend themselves. Useful also in America.As Kipling would have remembered, in South Africa the corpses were buried in shallow graves as they fell, without coffins. Birds of prey would eat them until driven away by the burial parties. Animals would dig them up after dark. Unlike mankind, however, the creatures would just eat the bodies without making derogatory remarks about them.
[Letters, (Ed. Thomas Pinney) vol 5. p. 543]
Most of these poems ... are concerned with people who are either hindering the work at hand or denying its worth. These are "The Hyaenas" whose natural proclivities are transferred to the politicians now carving up Europe and portrayed by Kipling in measured, simple language that just contains his personal fury..."How he hates politicians" wrote Rider Haggard after one of their regular war-time meetings, "Worse than I do even..."
One such "hyaena" was Pope Benedict XV who several times during the war had tried to initiate peace negotiations and is savaged by Kipling, who believed that any such action was really pro-German, in "A Song at Cock-Crow".