by John McGivering)
|notes on the text|
… he has come to a territory which it is forbidden the living to explore …. he realises that his own little daughter is one of the dead children in the garden.Some critical responses
...one of the most moving of Kipling’s stories, and one of the very few with a clear autobiographical impulse ... The first visit suggests the entry into a fairy-tale, its highly wrought beauty owing something to Kipling’s Pre-Raphaelite background …'Dr Tompkins (p.111) says:
... when he sees the spirit of his dead child he stops with the green spear of one of the horsemen laid to his breast and this foreshows the meaning of the whole story; that way is not for him.She goes on to say (p. 203):
the barrier between the living and the dead is not meant to be passed. Even if the road to Endor is seductively lovely as the approach to the yew-studded lawn ... Even if the dead is very young and much beloved, one must turn one’s back on that road and return to the living world to which one belongs.That is also the message of Kipling’s verse “En-Dor” to which she refers.
This strange haunting story of the limbo of lost children not yet ready to feel at home in Heaven , harking back for a space to the earth and the life they knew there, is among the earliest of Kipling’s “difficult” stories of his middle and late periods which critics are never tired of dissecting and explaining. Like all Kipling’s higher allegory it loses much by any detailed attempt at explanation. All that we need is for the sense of the strange and the uncanny, of the achieving of the relief of sorrow by forbidden means that are at last realized as forbidden and put away, to grow on us as they grow on the narrator (who on this one occasion we cannot but accept as Kipling himself) until the heart-breaking moment of climax; the acceptance of grief that leads to peace.Seymour-Smith maintains (p. 310) that this: ”Mrs. Bathurst” and “Wireless” are the only memorable stories in this volume, in that they clearly draw their power from personal experience.'
... it is even one of the best in the English language. It fulfils all the requirements of short-story technique, and, more than this, it has real human interest and significance.On the previous page he observes:
The short story is sometimes compared to the lyric; the comparison in this case is eminently fitting, for “They” is intimately and sacredly personal, a cry from the heart, not of Kipling the author …. But of Kipling the man. It is not a self-portrait, yet a piece of sincere self-expression…. To understand it, one must remember …. That Kipling lost by death his eldest daughter then in her sixth year. And one must read the verses at the beginning.Some further reading