[October 7th 2011]
"Marklake Witches" was first published in Rewards and Fairies in 1910.
This story is told to Una alone, just as "The Wrong Thing" was told to Dan. She meets Philadelphia Bucksteed, the sixteen-year old daughter of the Squire of Marklake, just up the road from Burwash, during the Napoleonic wars. She is suffering from consumption, and will die of it before long, as everyone in the story, apart from her, knows. The reader comes to realise this, but Una does not.
Philadelphia's nurse steals three silver spoons - a hanging offence - to try to persuade old Jerry Gamm, the village 'witch-master' to cure her with a charm. When Philadelphia finds out she goes off in a fury with her riding crop to get the spoons back. Jerry, who knows that no charm will save her, hands them back – he doesn't want them anyway – and gives her good advice on breathing in fresh air at her open window.
There is a French prisoner on parole at Marklake, René Laennec. He and Jerry are good friends, and René has shown him the stethoscope he has invented. They have tried it out on sick people in the village, only to be accused of witchcraft. Philadelphia, perched above in a tree, has seen the ignorant village doctor challenging René and accusing him of unworthy intentions towards her. René, who knows she is 'not for any living man', threatens to strangle the doctor, but when the Squire comes by they hastily make it up. The story ends as Philadelphia entertains her father and a visiting General to dinner, and afterwards sings them a sad elegy – 'The time of our parting is near' – which reduces them to tears.
[Page 90, line 30] `Oh, what a town! Anna Weygandt (Reading, 168) tracks this to vol. i of The Universal Songster (London, n.d.).
[Page 91, line 11] René René-Théophile-Hyacinthe Laennec (1781-1826); inventor of the stethoscope.
[Page 92, line 11] clubbed with the hair worn in a club-shaped knot or tail at the back, a style fashionable in the second half of the eighteenth century.
[Page 92, line 22] emp- i.e. empiricist.
[Page 93, line 30] quizzes those who quiz, i.e. make sport or fun of a person.
[Page 96, line 10] white wizard one who practises a benign magic.
[Page 98, line 5] scrattle ORG glosses this as Sussex dialect for 'a feeble skinny person'.
[Page 100, line 33] the General who commanded the brigade Arthur Wellesley, born Wesley, Duke of Wellington; served in India 1796-1805 where the battle of Assaye (1803) was his most notable victory. His stationing at Hastings dates the story to 1805-6.
[Page 104, line 24] thorn in the flesh cf. 2 Cor. 12, 7:
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Saran to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.[Page 105, line 31] confrère colleague (French).
[Page 106, line 32] canaille scum.
[Page 109, line 15] vandyked furnished with deep-cut points.
[Page 109, line 16] morone maroon.
[Page 109, line 18] tucker lace worn within or around top of the bodice.
[Page 109, line 28] en grande tenue in full dress (French).
[Page 111, line 16] `I have given ... is near!' Kipling gave his friend, the American novelist Edward Lucas White, an interesting account of how he composed this song:
Shenstone has somewhere or other, about the end, I think, of a long and dreary ode, four lines of pure tears thus:[Page 112, lines 5-6] Assez ... Assaye Evidently a deliberate play on words.
Notes on the poem
This has become one of the best known and loved of Kipling's poems. J W Michael Smith, writing in the Kipling Journal of March 2006, gave this account of its origins.
It is ... well documented in Christabel Aberconway's autobiography. [Christabel Aberconway, A Wiser Woman? A Book of Memories Hutchinson, 1966.]
Notes on the poem
(notes by Philip Holberton and Donald Mackenzie)
[Title] Brookland is a village in Kent in the middle of Romney Marsh. The singer has once seen a fairy maid and fallen in love with her and cannot think of anyone else although he knows he can never marry her.
[Chorus line 2] Where the liddle green lanterns shine In the Puck stories,
“The Pharisees favoured the Marsh above the rest of Old England. They’d flash their liddle green lights along the diks”[Verse 2 line 2] duntin’ dunt: knock with a dull sound [Oxford English Dictionary].
[Verse 4 line 3] Old Goodman Kipling asks in a footnote whether this is Earl Godwin of the Goodwin Sands. The Sands, a dangerous line of shoals off the Kentish coasts are traditionally the remnants of an island property of Godwin, the eleventh-century Earl of Wessex, and one of the most powerful men in the realm.
[Verse 6 line 1] Fairfield a village on Romney Marsh very close to Brookland.
waterbound the middle of Romney Marsh is liable to be flooded all winter
[Verse 6 line 4] my bells in this context, wedding bells
©Donald Mackenzie and Philip Holberton 2005 All rights reserved