(notes by Roger Ayers)
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notes on the text
It was the Patient East, but not quite as Arnold has painted her. She was thinking, it is true, but there was no dignity in her attire...The ORG identified Arnold as Sir Edwin Arnold, one-time principal of the Poona College (1856-61), later Editor of the Daily Telegraph, whose major work was The Light of Asia, a book in blank verse depicting the life and philosophy of Prince Gautama, the founder of Buddhism. However, there is nothing in it to which Kipling's 'Patient East' might be related but I was pointed by Mary Hamer, to whom I am very grateful, to a work by Matthew Arnold which gave a positive identification.
The East bow'd low before the blast,and is confirmed in the following lines:
In patient, deep disdain;
She let the legions thunder past,Here is Matthew Arnold's female, thinking, patient East, who is depicted in his poem as facing a victorious, female, Roman West, just as the India of Kipling's day might be considered to be facing the British empire. Kipling has modified Arnold's version of the Patient East to represent an India who patiently tolerates the British M.P. when he tries to get her to adopt 'all the (British) refinements of civilisation' and convince her of some unspecified 'important political considerations'. However, in the end she rejects him and he, too, hurries off, 'torn with inward strife, the wilderness to find' – back to his wife.
And plunged in thought again.
The Patient East dropped her head on her hand and laughed. "After all, what does it matter?" she said. "They will pass away— all my lovers have, I wonder whether I shall be glad or sorry".'That Kipling ended the story in this way, effectively prophesying the end of British rule in India, must have been very provocative at the time of writing. The fact that he did so I attribute to the power of Arnold's verse, which made Kipling consider the East outlasting the British Empire as it had the Roman Empire. That the very idea remained provocative for the next 45 years may have been the reason that when reprinted in the Kipling Journal in 1934, these two lines were omitted without reference, even though the C&MG had reprinted them in India and Kipling had reiterated the thought in "Recessional".
Small parsons crimp their eyes to gaze,The ORG assumed that this was by Kipling, having been unable to find it in the poem "The Burden of Nineveh" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and it was given a separate ORG number, Verse 321. With one word changed, it is in fact by Rossetti but it only appeared in his first version of the poem, published in the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine in 1856. This was heavily revised by Rossetti for inclusion in a collection published in 1870, which became the standard work. The lines above, part of the original stanza 7, were lost in the revision. It is not surprising that the editors of the ORG did not find the very scarce magazine first edition in an age before the internet.
And misses titter in their stays
Just fresh from Layard's "Nineveh".
[The Burden of Nineveh.]
Small clergy crimp their eyes to gaze,and there seems to be little significance in the change.