One of the suite of sixteen ‘Service Songs’ which close The Five Nations. This may have been written specifically for The Five Nations but see Background note to “M.I.”.
Collected in I.V. 1919, D.V. 1940, the Sussex Edition vol. 33 and the Burwash Edition, vol. 26.
Private soldiers were transferred to the Reserve after their term of service with the army, on the understanding that they must give up their civilian occupation and return to their regiments if called upon for active service. Most would have had to wait until they became Reservists before being able to marry. During the Anglo-Boer War all Reservists were called up.
Notes on the text
(by Mary Hamer drawing on various sources, in particular Ralph Durand, “A Handbook to the Poetry of Rudyard Kipling" 1914.)
[Subscript] To describe the reservists as ‘of the line’ made it clear that they were counted among the regular and numbered troops, not as auxiliaries.
[Stanza 7] I’d rather fight with the bachelor etc not without reference to his own experience, Kipling observes how a single man’s relish for danger is undermined by marriage. Close relationships teach him instead to put a high value on preserving life. Kipling himself seems to have been a capable nurse: in Bloemfontein he looked after the son of Julian Ralph when he fell ill with suspected typhoid. [See also The Story of the Gadsbys.]