Friday, May 25, 2012

Departmental Ditties in the CMG, February 1886

The CMG publishes several of Kipling's poems in the spring of 1886, always as "Departmental Ditties."

1. Kipling's poem "Army Head Quarters" appears in the February 9 1886 edition of Civil & Military Gazette. Annotations here, the full poem is here.

Kipling's use of Hindi words is always intriguing to me. This particular poem has Khitmutgar (butler), references to deodar trees, "warbled like a bul-bul," and the Doaba region of Punjab (the Doaba is here). All of these are principally employed to suggest Anglo-Indian authenticity. His audience is always presumed to be fellow Anglo-Indians (never Indians themselves), here specifically with military or government connections. Interestingly, Kipling himself was never in the military, and is only secondarily a government employee (i.e., because the CMG is also an official government organ).

2. Kipling's poem "The Rupaiyat of Omar Kal'vin" appears in the January 30, 1886 edition of the CMG. 
David Page's notes on the poem at are here; the poem itself is here. The "Rupaiyat of Omar Kal'vin" uses very little Hindustani vocabulary, but what is interesting about it is the way it links expansion into the Northwest Frontier Provinces and Afghanistan with the British Raj's increased demand for revenue.

3. Kipling's poem, "Studies of an Elevation" appears in the February 16, 1886 edition of CMG.'s notes are here (they incorrectly mark the first date of publication as February 9). The poem itself is here. Interestingly, the 'dialect' words here are all from Hebrew -- not Hindustani. The theme is not a surprising one -- a "Gubbins" has risen through the ranks of English India ahead of the poem's speaker, and his rhetorical question is how and why.

4. Kipling's "A Legend of the Foreign Office" (first printed as "A Legend of the F.O.") appears in the February 23, 1886 issue of CMG.'s notes for the poem are here; the poem itself is here. This poem, like "Army Head Quarters," liberally uses Hindustani and Anglo-Indian words: dasturi, bakshi, thana, zenana, simpkin, peg. (The particular usage of "dasturi" to mean "bribery" here is a little questionable...)

1 comment:

  1. Oxford Hindi Dict
    dasturi (n) customary payment, payment to an intermediary, commission (as to a buyer's agent)

    can't tell who gave the meaning 'bribe', for which Chambers dict. gives utkoch / rishvat / ghoos