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Arithmetic on the Frontier Analysis

Author: Poetry of Rudyard Kipling Type: Poetry Views: 357

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A great and glorious thing it is

To learn, for seven years or so,

The Lord knows what of that and this,

Ere reckoned fit to face the foe --

The flying bullet down the Pass,

That whistles clear: "All flesh is grass."

Three hundred pounds per annum spent

On making brain and body meeter

For all the murderous intent

Comprised in "villanous saltpetre!"

And after -- ask the Yusufzaies

What comes of all our 'ologies.

A scrimmage in a Border Station --

A canter down some dark defile --

Two thousand pounds of education

Drops to a ten-rupee jezail --

The Crammer's boast, the Squadron's pride,

Shot like a rabbit in a ride!

No proposition Euclid wrote,

No formulae the text-books know,

Will turn the bullet from your coat,

Or ward the tulwar's downward blow

Strike hard who cares -- shoot straight who can --

The odds are on the cheaper man.

One sword-knot stolen from the camp

Will pay for all the school expenses

Of any Kurrum Valley scamp

Who knows no word of moods and tenses,

But, being blessed with perfect sight,

Picks off our messmates left and right.

With home-bred hordes the hillsides teem,

The troop-ships bring us one by one,

At vast expense of time and steam,

To slay Afridis where they run.

The "captives of our bow and spear"

Are cheap -- alas! as we are dear.


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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Here mr. Ian shows the so-called "ten-rupee jezail", an original museum piece, in detail as he also reads Kipling's poem. But despite what Rudyard Kipling says, jezail was not a cheap crummy weapon, on the contrary it was genuinely a quality-made intricate rifle, legitimate for a real hard battle. x

| Posted on 2017-02-01 | by a guest

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A \'crammer\' is not a teacher but a special school where candidates for an army commission who were not able to pass the entry exams for one or other of the military academies were offered intensive tuition. (Certain private colleges which offer tuition for \'A\' level retakes are still occasionally referred to as \'crammers\').
Kipling\'s mention of \'the Crammer\'s boast\' is probably a reference to the fact that advertisements for the \'Crammers\' often used to include claims for the successes of those passing into, for example, RMA Woolwich. The ultimate point of this is that while the \'hero\' may have been a good horseman (\'the Squadron\'s pride\') having failed his initial attempt at the army\'s entrance exams, was probably not very bright.

| Posted on 2013-03-23 | by a guest

.: :.

This poem is a reflection of the military life on the North West Frontier, now the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Then, as now, expensively educated officers, such as the speaker in the poem, faced untutored natives with a reputation for ferocity and marksmanship. In Kipling's time, and this is one of his early poems, an Army Officer was expected to have gone to a good British Public School, and to be a gentleman. And "messmates" were the fellow officers of the speaker: the "Officer's Mess" was the place, and system, where they lived together.
This was an expensive, privately-funded, education, 300 pounds sterling a year, at a time when the ordinary soldier was paid less than 20, and little of it had any direct relevance to war. Unless, perhaps, you were planning to fight against a Roman Legion.
And there is an awareness that what really matters is what the school, back in England, doesn't teach.
Nothing much has changed. The ten-rupee jezail, a cheap muzzle-loading rifle, has been replaced by a Kalashnikov, but it is still being fired at invaders from the far side of the world.
The poem has scattered jargon from the place and time. A Crammer is a special sort of teacher, who gave extra, and intense, tuition to get boys through examinations. A tulwar is a type of Indian sword, and a sword-knot is a sometimes heavily decorated piece of cord-work used to prevent a sword being accidentally dropped in battle. And there are the names of tribes that were fought on the Frontier.

| Posted on 2009-10-22 | by a guest

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