"The Legends
of Evil"


(Notes edited
by John McGivering.




the poem
[Drce,ber 26th 2014]


Publication

ORG Volume 8 records (listed as Verse No. 504) that Part II ('Twas when the rain fell steady...') was first published as a heading to John Lockwood Kipling's Beast and Man in India, Chapter 4, 'Of Asses'. Part I ('This is the sorrowful story...') was not added until the whole was collected.

The two parts were combined in:
  • Barrack-Room Ballads and Other Verses
  • Inclusive Verse
  • Definitive Verse
  • The Sussex Edition, Volume 32, page 305
  • The Burwash Edition, Volume 25.
  • The Works of Rudyard Kipling (Wordsworth Poetry Library)

Background

In Chaper 4 p. 78 of Beast and Man in India Lockwood Kipling gives his own version of the legend:
Some Muhammadans have an idea that the donkey sees the devil when he brays, possibly because of the belief that it was he who introduced the Father of Evil into the Ark. When Hazrat Nuh (the worshipful Noah) was marshalling the animals into the Ark, the donkey, as is his modest wont, held back. " Nay then, go along ! " said Noah ; but the ass did not move.

Then the Patriarch lost his temper, for the time was short and the clouds were gathering, and he cried, " Go on and may the Devil go with thee ! " When the door was shut Noah met the Evil One inside and asked how he came there. "Surely then," replied that Wicked One, " I came by your honour's invitation." If there is a moral in this absurdity, it is that when holy men lose their tempers they open the door to sin ; but in some topsy-turvy way, possible only to Oriental thought, the obloquy of the anecdote falls on the innocent ass.
See ORG Volume 2 page 1012 for a list of other verse headings to Beast and Man in India. See also "Collar-Wallah and the Poison Stick".


Notes on the text


Part I

[Verse 3]

millet the common name of a number of cereal grasses. This is probably Panicum miliaceum, cultivated in India for food.

[Verse 5]

sickles large curved knives used for harvesting crops by hand.

flails implements consisting of sticks loosely bound together, for separating wheat and other cereals from the stalk by hand, by beating them vigorously.

[Verse 7]

yoke in this context a shaped wooden device to harness two animals, usually oxen, together, to pull a plough, cart, or a heavy gun, as in “Her Majesty’s Servants” (The Jungle Book).


Part II


This is a version of the story of the Flood, told in the book of Genesis, Chapter 8, when Noah built his Ark and the animals went in two and two. Noah is given a powerful Irish accent, perhaps because of the associatrion of the donkey, a familiar beast of burden in Ireland of old, with the Irish. Kipling may also have felt that 'the Devil go with you !' sounded more credible as an Irish oath. Noah's accent here seems even more extreme than that given to Mulvaney in the soldier stories, which has irritated some of his readers.

[Verse 1]

pitched in this context painted with tar (pitch) to render it waterproof.

[Verse 2]

salpeen more commonly spalpeen an Irish dialect word for a good-for-notthing rascal

[Verse 4]

Flusteration a portmanteau word combining 'fluster' and 'botheration'. A state of unsettled agitation.

[Verse 5]

umbrageous a feeling of annoyance. To 'take umbrage' is to take offence.

tenant-right invasion Tenant-right’ is stricty a term in common law laying down the right to compensation which a tenant has, either by custom or by law, against his landlord for improvements at the termination of his tenancy. Here it probably simply means the infringement of Noah's rights on his own craft by the Devil..


[J McG.]

©John McGivering 2009 All rights reserved