[December 14th 2011]
[Page 255 line 9] attaché a diplomat attached to an embassy.
Washe Observatory a fictitious establishment.
[Page 255 line 11] glaring and hostile moons in No Man’s Land the area between the opposing trenches in the 1914-18 War. Moonlight made night operations even more dangerous than usual.
[Page 255 line 12] St. Peggoty’s a fictitious hospital, probably modelled on the Middlesex Hospital. This was one of the great London hospitals, recently closed (2007). Kipling died in the Middlesex on 18 January 1936. His doctor, Sir John Bland-Sutton (1855-1936) was associated with this hospital, on which “Unprofessional” and “The Tender Achilles (both in this volume) are probably based. See Andrew Lycett (page 545).
[Page 256 line 10] camouflage the art of disguising military targets by screens, painting, etc. He means: 'we can be frank and open'.
[Page 256 line 15] Sloane Street A pleasant, if busy, area of Chelsea in south-west London.
[Page 257 line 5] Arras city in north-eastern France, scene of much destruction in the 1914-18 war.
planetary Influences the effect the planets were traditionally thought to have on human behaviour. See “A Doctor of Medicine” (Rewards and Fairies), and "The Astrologer's Song" Not an idea taken seriously by modern science.
[Page 257 line 8] what system this dam’ dynamo…is wound a somewhat complicated metaphor for How the world is constructed, based on the windings of copper wire round the core of a dynamo.
[Page 257 line 13] Venus, Cancer…. Venus is the 'evening star', Earth's nearest neighbour among the planets. Cancer, the Crab, is one of the twelve constellations of the Zodiac.
[Page 257 line 20] radium the radio-active element discovered in 1898 by Madame Curie and used in the treatment of various diseases, including cancer.
[Page 257 line 23] a post hoc, not a propter Latin - post hoc, ergo propter hoc – after this, therefore because of this; fallacious reasoning.
[Page 258 line 7] Schermoltz’s fictitious suppliers of hospital equipment.
[Page 258 line 15] astrology see the note on page 257 line 5 above.
[Page 258 line 29] padrone an innkeeper.
[Page 259 line 13] pill-box in this context a small (usually circular, hence the name) fortification, containing a few men with machine-guns; the classic method of attack was to creep up and throw grenades through the embrasures before being shot by the garrison.
[Page 259 line 27] Kamerad the German for 'Comrade' used by their soldiers when surrendering; also, as here, a jocular plea for mercy.
[Page 260 line 8] all-but-graded Civil Servant he was on the point of being established as a permanent member of the Civil Service with pension and other benefits.
[Page 260 line 9] smell-and-tell temporaries an impolite description of temporary scientific employees.
[Page 260 line 20] trams public transport vehicles running on rails in the roadway; 'street-cars' in the United States.
[Page 260 line 23] a petty rating more correctly a Chief- or Petty-Officer
[Page 262 line 10] ex-captain of a turret a Chief- or Petty Officer in charge of a gun-position in a warship.
[Page 262 line 11] the hard blue eye of the born gun-layer a somewhat far-fetched description of the man responsible for depressing or elevating a gun. But gun-layers would certainly need to have keen sight, well used to reading instruments.
[Page 262 line 30] Portland Race off Portland Bill, in Dorset on the south coast of England, an area of strong and confused currents caused by wind against tide, the configuration of the sea-bottom etc.
open and shut weather Alternately sunny and cloudy [Oxford English Dictionary].
[Page 263 line 6] sample in this context tissue or liquid etc. collected from a patient for examination.
[Page 263 line 15] tides would, in this context, now be called circadian rhythms.
[Page 263 line 27] reeking of ether probably Ethyl Oxide – cleansing agent and anæsthetic. He is a surgeon. One wonders if he operated in his day clothes with just a white coat on top! [Ed.]
[Page 263 line 29] his aunt whipped an analogy from fox-hunting. The Huntsman is in charge of the hounds, and the 'Whip' or 'Whipper-in' assists the Huntsman. His aunt, anxious to see Vaughan married, organised the young women in the chase.
[Page 264 line 31] light-years the distance travelled by a beam of light in one year – some six million, million miles.
[Page 265 line 15] tape-worm a parasite in the digestive-system, here used facetiously.
[Page 265 line 24] dichotomy division into two parts.
[Page 265 lines 30 – 33] mice…. submarines like miners, submariners in the early days relied on mice to indicate the presence of dangerous gases.
[Page 268 line 9] arterial sclerosis hardening of the arteries – 'furring-up'.
[Page 268 line 24] conk out in Trade Union hours die during the usual working-hours of 0800-1800 or thereabouts.
[Page 268 lines 29-30] Raeburn … Sir Benjamin West Sir Henry Raeburn (1756 – 1823) was a famous portrait painter; West (1738-1820) was President of the Royal Academy and Surveyor of the King’s Pictures (though we do not believe him to have been knighted). The point was that Dr Loftie, a senior man, had agreed to assist in the operation.
[Page 269 line 8] ‘Doctor’ although qualified as physicians, surgeons are strictly addressed as 'Mr' (unless titled).
[Page 270 line 1] sidereal clock generally speaking, the time kept by the solar system - a mean sidereal day is jst under 24 hrs long. (about 23 hours 56 minutes, 4.1 seconds)
[Page 270 line 4] Jutland the naval battle of the First World War between the British and German Fleets on 31 May, 1916, regarded as a British strategic victory in that the German Fleet did not emerge from harbour until after the Armistice, and then only to surrender. See "Destroyers at Jutland" in this Guide.
[Page 270 lines 11-12] ships’ compasses vary … building iron or steel ships do indeed become gigantic magnets when under contruction, so that when they are afloat the magnetic compass has to be adjusted.
[Page 271 line 32] race see page 262 line 30 above.
[Page 272 line 4] a needed droplet of blood another sample.
[Page 273 line 27] vacuoles very small cavities, especially in living matter.
[Page 1274 line 6] tetanus painful spasms of the muscles of the jaw – informally known as lockjaw
[Page 275 line 20] Qua as, in the capacity of (Latin).
[Page 275 line 26] pull-devil, pull-baker an old saying which Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable defines as: 'lie, cheat and wrangle away', occasionally with ‘parson’ instead of ‘baker’. Here it seems to mean ‘an even chance of life or death', a tug of war between life and death;.
[Page 276 line 18] pom abbreviation for ‘Pomeranian’ a breed of dog of the Spitz family, named after the Pomerania region in Central Europe - now part of Germany, and Northern Poland.
[Page 281 line 15] carpenter the old feud between the physicians and the surgeons – see “The Tender Achilles” later in this volume at page 349. Physicians traditionally see surgeons as simply having manual skills, like a carpenter.
[Page 278 line 2] Barker’s John Barker & Co. Ltd,: a famous department-store in Kensington, London, which ceased trading in 1982.
[Page 282 line 15] Fratton a suburb of Portsmouth, the premier naval base in the United Kingdom.
[Page 282 line 16] Lock ‘Ospital The Lock Hospital, for the treatment of venereal disease.
First published in Limits and Renewals (1932), where it follows “Unprofessional”. Collected in the Sussex Edition volume 11 page 271 and volume 34 page 419. Also, with slight differences, Inclusive Verse, Definitive Verse and The Works of Rudyard Kipling (Wordsworth Poetry Library)
See "The Redemption Theme in Limits and Renewals, Two Different Paths”, by John Coates, KJ 260/10 and his The Day’s Work, Kipling and the Idea of Sacrifice (p. 84) for an excellent interpretation of these lines in terms of:
... the knowledge, now on the verge of rediscovery, that was possessed by the pre-Socratic philosophers but was strangled at birth. Briefly, “The Threshold” offers a sketch of man’s intellectual development. Men in their caves pictured the gods in an attempt to control and propiate them by “sympathetic magic.”
The pictures moved in the torchlight the paintings on the walls of the caves appeared to move in the flames of the torches.
Ionia a prosperous Greek settlement on the coast of what is now Turkey, the site of distinguished schools of philosophy and art which flourished between 700 and 500 BC. Taken here by Kipling as a source of ancient wisdom and knowledge.
Babylon an ancient city and empire in Mesopotamia.
Egypt fabled for its ancient culture.
[G S / J H McG]
©Gillian Sheehan and John McGivering 2008 All rights reserved