"To the
Common Room"


(notes by John McGivering
and John Radcliffe)

the poem

[May 9th 2017]


As Andrew Rutherford explains (p. 254) this poem was one of the "Inscriptions" to presentation copies of Echoes and was presented to the Common Room of the United Services College, which Kipling attended from 1878 to 1882.

Ir was published in the USC Chronicle, no. 41, 27 March 1889, and collected in the Outward Bound, de Luxe, Sussex (Vol 35 p. 24), and Burwash (Vol. 28) Editions., with the title
'Inscribed in a Presentation Copy of "Echoes" to the Common Room'
and the subheading:
'My very noble and approved good masters'.
It is also to be found in the Cambridge Edition (2013 Ed. Pinney) p. 1188. Ir is numbered 83B in ORG, p. 5057. Although it is included in the Schoolboy Lyrics section of the Outward Bound and de Luxe editions, it was not one of the original poems collected together by Alice Kipling for publication in Lahore in 1881.

The poem

The young poet, who over his years at school had been used to handing in his work to exacting masters who never hesitated to wield their red and blue pencils on his errors, asks their approval for a collection of his verses. Placetne, Domini?— 'Does it please you. my masters ?', he asks.

Kipling had left school some seven years before, but he was still only twenty-three. He greatly valued his time at USC, and the school itself, to the end of his days. See "An English School" (1893). and Stalky & Co. (1899).

Notes on the text

[Title] the Common Room This was the masters' sanctuary where they could relax between classes, talk together, spar with each other, and perhaps do a little work themslves with their blue and red pencils.

[Verse 1]

proses in this context the translation of Latin text into English, an interesting example is Kipling's poem Donec Gratus Eram.

[Verse 2]

Blue-pencil X the master will read the written work submitted by the pupil and indicate his disapproval where necessary. He occasionally uses a red pencil , see Verse 3 grammar

Red-pencil used for corrections as in verse 2.

'lines to do' 'impositions', known as 'impots', usually lines of Latin verse to be copied out and handed in by a certain time as a punishment for transgression. There are many mentions in the Stalky stories.

[Verse 2]

Latin Primer a text-book of grammar and the use of the Latin language. Perhaps Kennedy's Latin Primer, a familiar work to generations of British schoolboys.

[Verse 2]

laymen in this context men and women who are not in Holy Orders. The expression can also be applied to non-members of a profession as when Kipling said in his address to the Middlesex Hospital in London in 1908 that mankind was divided into doctors and patients. See "A Doctor's Work" (A Book of Words).

divines in this context men and women in Holy Orders, vicars, rectors etc.

lines impositions, see Verse 3.

©John McGivering and John Radcliffe 2017 All rights reserved