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Rudyard Kipling

(30 December 1865 – 18 January 1936 / Bombay)

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A Code of Morals


Now Jones had left his new-wed bride to keep his house in order,
And hied away to the Hurrum Hills above the Afghan border,
To sit on a rock with a heliograph; but ere he left he taught
His wife the working of the Code that sets the miles at naught.

And Love had made him very sage, as Nature made her fair;
So Cupid and Apollo linked , per heliograph, the pair.
At dawn, across the Hurrum Hills, he flashed her counsel wise --
At e'en, the dying sunset bore her busband's homilies.

He warned her 'gainst seductive youths in scarlet clad and gold,
As much as 'gainst the blandishments paternal of the old;
But kept his gravest warnings for (hereby the ditty hangs)
That snowy-haired Lothario, Lieutenant-General Bangs.

'Twas General Bangs, with Aide and Staff, who tittupped on the way,
When they beheld a heliograph tempestuously at play.
They thought of Border risings, and of stations sacked and burnt --
So stopped to take the message down -- and this is whay they learnt --

"Dash dot dot, dot, dot dash, dot dash dot" twice. The General swore.
"Was ever General Officer addressed as 'dear' before?
"'My Love,' i' faith! 'My Duck,' Gadzooks! 'My darling popsy-wop!'
"Spirit of great Lord Wolseley, who is on that mountaintop?"

The artless Aide-de-camp was mute; the gilded Staff were still,
As, dumb with pent-up mirth, they booked that message from the hill;
For clear as summer lightning-flare, the husband's warning ran: --
"Don't dance or ride with General Bangs -- a most immoral man."

[At dawn, across the Hurrum Hills, he flashed her counsel wise --
But, howsoever Love be blind, the world at large hath eyes.]
With damnatory dot and dash he heliographed his wife
Some interesting details of the General's private life.

The artless Aide-de-camp was mute, the shining Staff were still,
And red and ever redder grew the General's shaven gill.
And this is what he said at last (his feelings matter not): --
"I think we've tapped a private line. Hi! Threes about there! Trot!"

All honour unto Bangs, for ne'er did Jones thereafter know
By word or act official who read off that helio.
But the tale is on the Frontier, and from Michni to Mooltan
They know the worthy General as "that most immoral man."

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Rookie - 860 Points John Richter (11/3/2014 3:07:00 PM)

    hahahaha! I would say that Mr. Kipling enjoyed a rather fastidious humor.... And I enjoyed it here in this poem quite abundantly too.... Though a quarter of the way through I needed to stop and look up the word heliograph.... Only a matter of technological difference between he and we.... Today the faux pas might have been the general overhearing it on a cell phone set to speaker mode... (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 2 Points Arun Kumar G (6/6/2014 1:33:00 AM)

    a subtle showcase of love prestented with appreciable humour. The General isnt very immoral afterall, for he let him be. Have always been a fan of Kippling :) (Report) Reply

  • Bronze Star - 6,774 Points * Sunprincess * (1/4/2014 1:35:00 AM)

    .....I like how the husband even though isn't at home...he is still looking out for his wife... (Report) Reply

  • Rookie J-prof Kayode (6/5/2013 2:12:00 AM)

    the poem is really interesting.the ryhmes.the dictions the military register i so much love it'' it's a warning to the she-lady there.
    ''your rhymes and words all make up my day
    The poem you wrote offers my heart a play'' (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Terence George Craddock (6/5/2010 10:33:00 AM)

    The poem is written to be fun and entertaining! Whatever it meant with regard to military matters of the day will be documented in various sources. There is an unwritten code for pranks in the military and what some soldiers have dared makes incredible reading!
    German soldiers even dared to try to kill Hitler more than a dozen times but of course he had the luck of the devil! Rudyard Kipling told stories people never grew tired of. A man who has stood the test of time. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 144 Points Manonton Dalan (6/5/2010 5:33:00 AM)

    brother rudyard eavesdropper
    are always lurking in the dark
    hills ares still being sack & burn
    their anger strap on their belly
    before you know you're with holy
    i don't know who is immoral man
    colin couldn't be he is gentleman
    ***
    colin the golfer (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Kevin Straw (6/5/2010 5:28:00 AM)

    I see Pruchnicki is continuing his skilful impersonation of Yosemite Sam. Why he should call me adolescent because I pointed out the ridiculousness of Kipling's premise that a soldier at war would defame his general by flashing the details to all and sundry, I do not know. There are some critics whose intellect seems to desert them when they try to apply it to literature. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Pat Bailey (7/13/2009 1:37:00 PM)

    Yes, Britain in the Victorian era was Jingoistic with a capital J. So what? That was 'political correctness' back then. Don't expect words on a page to magically change with the times in order to remain 'PC' as defined by 21st century thinking.

    We hear the same thing about Samuel Clemens' works. I can imagine Huck Finn referring to his friend as 'African-American Jim', or 'Jim of color'. Why not appreciate literature for literature's sake instead of trying to updat it to reflect the mores of today?

    Mark: excellent point about 'the world at large' having (hathing?) eyes. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 30 Points Mark Schulte (6/7/2009 4:55:00 PM)

    I agree with those who see this simply as a funny personal snafu that is being described by Kipling. But is also has a good natured cautionary message for modern ears as well and that is: be careful what you put on the internet - Facebook or otherwise - because the 'world at large hath eyes'. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Michael Harmon (6/5/2009 10:33:00 PM)

    I. Argumentum ad Hominem (abusive and circumstantial) : the fallacy of attacking the character or circumstances of an individual who is advancing a statement or an argument instead of trying to disprove the truth of the statement or the soundness of the argument. Often the argument is characterized simply as a personal attack.
    A. The personal attack is also often termed an 'ad personem argument': the statement or argument at issue is dropped from consideration or is ignored, and the locutor's character or circumstances are used to influence opinion.
    B. The fallacy draws its appeal from the technique of 'getting personal.' The assumption is that what the locutor is saying is entirely or partially dictated by his character or special circumstances and so should be disregarded.
    http: //philosophy.lander.edu/logic/person.html (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Michael Pruchnicki (6/5/2009 10:30:00 AM)

    Perhaps the joke is labored, as our adolescent critic claims, but so what? What's his understanding of military life and the pranks that are part of a soldier's life on foreign soil in peace or war? Does everything have to conform to today's mores? Sit back and enjoy, lad! By his standards, Mowgli might as well have been brought up by Aunt Min's dachshund with her puppies in a posh apartment on the upper west side! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Kevin Straw (6/5/2009 5:29:00 AM)

    This joke is laboured and simply does not work. A heliograph was a way of sending morse by flashing light. I cannot believe a heliographer (a private soldier) would send such a message libelling (?) his General, which could be seen by everyone. This poem is a little joke which K has set among the military in India at the time of the Raj, nothing more or less - it could have been a misdialled telephone call in a city office. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Joseph Poewhit (6/5/2009 2:53:00 AM)

    Kipling understood the region and the fighting spirits. The poem gives dire warning of underestimating the Afghan. people. Other poems of Kipling bring this forth also. One in remembrance is, 'they send there women out at nights to finish the job with knives'. His warning of calling the general 'DEAR' brings out the attitude of his comprehensions of the situation. Kipling again, understood the people. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Paula Atherton (6/5/2008 10:25:00 AM)

    Well said Mr Pruchnicki.

    Everyone seems to be so judgemental.

    Wouldn't it just be better if we just enjoyed the poetry and accept that it is our right to express whatever we want. We aren't here to be liked, simply to be. Of course somethings we like others we don't, that's good, but my God, please just accept each other as valid human beings and try to empathise once in a while.

    Ps, Mr Kipling made exceedingly good cakes! (joke) lol. (Report) Reply

Read all 21 comments »

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