ORG Volume 8, page 5458 lists this poem as Verse No.1102. It was first published in The Years Between (1919). See also David Alan Richards, p. 142 for further details of publication. It is collected in:
Theme and Background
The poet considers various mishaps and disasters experienced by humankind since prehistoric times, commonly blamed on the Gods or the priests. He concludes that most are of man’s own making through carelessness and lack of thought. So much for theology.
[Title] The Oxford English Dictionary defines Theology as:
Dealing with knowledge of God as gained from his works by the light of nature and reason.[Verse 1]
PRIMITIVE at a very early stage of cultural development.
stranded driven on to the sea-shore by force of weather or tide, and unable to swim away. The carcass would rot.
purged a word of several meanings connected with cleaning or clearing, here indicating a thorough evacuation of the bowels.
sick vomiting or simply unwell, here probably both.
PAGAN heathen, especially in antiquity.
a harmless flea Plague and other diseases are carried by fleas - see “A Doctor of Medicine” (Rewards and Fairies p. 264, line 25. Also Dr. Gillian Sheehan’s "Kipling and Medicine".
kith and kin once meaning 'friends and relations', now 'relations'.
MEDIÆVAL the Middle Ages generally refers to the thousand years between the end of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance, from about the Fifth Century to the Fifteenth.
privy a latrine, the sewage drops into a pit below and contaminates the ground so wells nearby contain the germs of cholera and other diseases which will be transmitted to humans in their drinking-water.
well a deep, usually circular, hole dug in the ground and lined with masonry, to provide a water-supply.
Christendie a poetic or archaic version of 'Christendom', Christian countries and peoples generally.
fevers the patients suffer abnormally high body-temperature and other symptoms caused by infection. See Dr. Gillian Sheehan’s Kipling and Medicine.
fluxes in this context morbid discharges of blood etc.
MATERIAL Concerned with commercial rather than spiritual matters.
eight hundred hens to the acre Heavy and unhealthy overcrowding. Poultry kept out of doors needed sunshine and green grass. But to be healthy they need to be kept at not more than one hundred to the acre (40 square metres per bird).
dozens a dozen is twelve.
L. S. D. the abbreviation for the Latin Libræ solidi denarii 'Pounds, shillings and pence'
[Verse 5] PROGRESSIVE modern, forward-thinking. but here used in a derogatory sense by Kipling in the same manner as “the Immoderate left” in “My Son’s Wife” (A Diversity of Creatures) and other work reflecting his right-wing views and belief in a strong Navy and Army. Mons retreat a famous episode of the First World War (1914 – 1918.) see our Notes on “The Soul of a Battalion” an Uncollected Speech. Kipling’s own son John was killed at Loos in 1915 (Carrington, pp.436 passim) A body believed to be his was later found but turned out to be that of another. See KJ228/08 and 263/09 pillage plunder, rob, loot arson setting on fire the peoperty of others the Times a newspaper established as 1785 as the London Daily Universal Register which was changed to The Times in 1788. Writing to The Times is still a traditional methord of airing a grievance.
[Verse 6] CHORUS all voices singing together
[Verse 7] Spirit He breathed in Man see Genesis, Chapter 2, verse 7. And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life: and man became a living soul. As was the sowing so the reaping. an echo of Hudibras, ( line 504) by Samuel Butler (1612 – 1680 For, as you sow, so are you like to reap
©John McGivering 2011 All rights reserved