'Arithmetic on the Frontier' by Rudyard Kipling
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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.
Editor 1 Interpretation
Arithmetic on the Frontier: The Poetry of Rudyard Kipling
Rudyard Kipling is known for his captivating poetry, and "Arithmetic on the Frontier" is no exception. The poem is a satirical take on the struggles faced by colonial soldiers in British India. It is a testament to Kipling's skill as a writer that he can use humor and irony to highlight the harsh realities of life in the frontier.
The poem opens with the lines, "A scrimmage in a Border Station--/ A canter down some dark defile--/ Two thousand pounds of education/ Drops to a ten-rupee jezail--." These lines set the tone for the poem, and the reader immediately realizes that they are in for a treat. The reference to education being worth two thousand pounds highlights the value placed on education in British society. However, the fact that it drops to a mere ten-rupee jezail (a type of rifle) shows that it is of little use in the face of danger.
Kipling's use of language is masterful, and his ability to convey the harsh realities of life in the frontier is unparalleled. He describes the scene in vivid detail, and the reader can almost feel the dust in their eyes and the heat on their skin. The poem is full of military jargon, which adds to its authenticity. The soldiers are referred to as "file and flank" and "platoon and troop," and Kipling uses words such as "bayonets," "carbines," and "rifles" to create a sense of danger and tension.
The poem is structured as a series of couplets, and each couplet is a self-contained unit. Kipling uses rhyme to add to the poem's musicality, and the rhythm of the poem is almost like a march. The use of rhyme and meter also creates a sense of order and control, which is in stark contrast to the chaos and violence described in the poem.
One of the most striking aspects of the poem is its use of humor. Kipling's wit and irony are on full display, and he uses humor to highlight the absurdity of colonialism. The soldiers are described as "half-devil and half-child," which is a reference to the racist attitudes prevalent in British society at the time. Kipling is mocking the idea that the British are superior to the people they are colonizing, and he is also highlighting the fact that the soldiers are caught in the middle of a power struggle that they have no control over.
The poem also contains a critique of the education system in British India. The soldiers are described as having "two thousand pounds of education," but this education is of no use to them when they are faced with danger. Kipling is suggesting that the education system is not preparing the soldiers for the realities of life in the frontier, and that it is failing them in their time of need.
Kipling's use of imagery is also noteworthy. He describes the "dark defile" and the "wailing Arab" to create a sense of danger and tension. He also describes the soldiers as being "grimly gay," which is a poignant reminder that they are human beings who are trying to find joy in a difficult situation.
The poem is a powerful commentary on the experiences of colonial soldiers in British India. It highlights the struggles they faced and the absurdity of colonialism. Kipling's use of humor and irony adds to the poem's impact, and his vivid descriptions create a sense of realism that is both captivating and unsettling.
In conclusion, "Arithmetic on the Frontier" is a masterpiece of poetry that showcases Kipling's skill as a writer. It is a powerful commentary on the experiences of colonial soldiers in British India, and it highlights the struggles they faced in a poignant and humorous way. Kipling's use of language, imagery, and humor make this poem a must-read for anyone interested in the literature of colonialism.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry Arithmetic on the Frontier: A Masterpiece by Rudyard Kipling
Rudyard Kipling, the renowned British author, poet, and journalist, is known for his exceptional literary works that have inspired generations. One of his most celebrated poems is "Poetry Arithmetic on the Frontier," which is a masterpiece in its own right. This poem is a perfect example of Kipling's ability to blend humor, wit, and wisdom into a single piece of literature. In this article, we will analyze and explain the poem in detail, highlighting its key themes, literary devices, and overall significance.
The poem begins with a humorous tone, as Kipling introduces the concept of "Poetry Arithmetic" to the reader. He describes it as a unique form of mathematics that is practiced by the soldiers on the frontier. The soldiers, according to Kipling, use this form of arithmetic to calculate the number of casualties they have suffered in battle. This is done by counting the number of men who are missing, wounded, or dead, and then dividing the total by the number of men who were present at the beginning of the battle. Kipling then goes on to explain that this form of arithmetic is not taught in schools, and that it is only practiced by the soldiers on the frontier.
The poem then takes a more serious turn, as Kipling describes the harsh realities of war. He talks about how the soldiers on the frontier are constantly facing danger and death, and how they have to be prepared to face it at any moment. He also talks about the emotional toll that war takes on the soldiers, and how they have to deal with the loss of their comrades. Kipling's use of vivid imagery and powerful language makes the reader feel as if they are right there on the frontier, experiencing the horrors of war alongside the soldiers.
As the poem progresses, Kipling introduces the concept of "Poetry" into the equation. He talks about how the soldiers on the frontier use poetry to cope with the harsh realities of war. He describes how they write poems about their experiences, and how these poems help them to process their emotions and deal with their trauma. Kipling's use of poetry as a coping mechanism is a powerful message, as it shows that even in the darkest of times, there is still beauty and hope to be found.
The poem then takes a more philosophical turn, as Kipling talks about the nature of life and death. He describes how death is a natural part of life, and how it is something that we all have to face eventually. He also talks about how death can be seen as a form of release, as it frees us from the pain and suffering of life. Kipling's use of philosophical ideas adds depth and complexity to the poem, and shows that there is more to it than just a simple calculation.
Throughout the poem, Kipling uses a variety of literary devices to enhance its overall impact. One of the most notable devices is his use of repetition. He repeats the phrase "Poetry Arithmetic" throughout the poem, which not only adds to its humor, but also helps to reinforce its central theme. He also uses imagery to great effect, painting vivid pictures of the soldiers on the frontier and the horrors of war. His use of metaphor is also noteworthy, as he compares death to a "release" and poetry to a "coping mechanism."
In conclusion, "Poetry Arithmetic on the Frontier" is a masterpiece of literature that showcases Rudyard Kipling's exceptional talent as a poet and writer. Through its use of humor, wit, and wisdom, the poem explores the harsh realities of war, the power of poetry, and the nature of life and death. Its message is timeless and universal, and it continues to inspire and move readers to this day.
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