Linda Leinen is a thought-provoking blogger who authors the literary-oriented blog, The Task at Hand. She writes one blog post per week. I can’t emphasize enough how wonderful her works is; you should read it to convince yourself how good she really is.
In her excellent article dubbed, Chase Jarvis & A New Paradigm, Linda includes a few lines of a poem written by Rudyard Kipling which captivated me. Kipling was a blur in my mind, so I Googled the name to refresh my memory. I was interested in reading the full poem. Sure enough, I obtained the information I was looking for, and a lot more I might add.
- How the Whale Got His Throat
- How the Camel Hot His Hump
- How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin
- How the Leopard Got His Skin
- The Elephant’s Child
- The Sing-Song of Old Man Kangaroo
- The Beginning of the Armadillos
- How the First Letter was Written
- How the Alphabet was Made
- The Crab that Played With the Sea
- The Cat that Walked by Himself
- The Butterfly that Stamped
The fifth story of the book—The Elephant’s Child—is where you will find the full poem that I mentioned before. I could not resist the temptation of sharing it with you. I firmly believe that great literature should be shared.
I Keep six honest serving-men:
(They taught me all I knew)
Their names are What and Where and When
And How and Why and Who.
I send them over land and sea,
I send them east and west;
But after they have worked for me,
I give them all a rest.
I let them rest from nine till five.
For I am busy then,
As well as breakfast, lunch, and tea,
For they are hungry men:
But different folk have different views:
I know a person small–
She keeps ten million serving-men,
Who get no rest at all!
She sends ‘em abroad on her own affairs,
From the second she opens her eyes–
One million Hows, two million Wheres,
And seven million Whys!
Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay, in the Bombay Presidency of British India, and was taken by his family to England when he was five years old. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907.
Of the city where he was born—Bombay— he wrote:
Mother of Cities to me,
For I was born in her gate,
Between the palms and the sea,
Where the world-end steamers wait.
It is to be noted that Bombay is presently called Mumbai.
According to Bernice M. Murphy, “Kipling’s parents considered themselves ‘Anglo-Indians’ (a term used in the 19th century for people of British origin living in India) and so too would their son, though he spent the bulk of his life elsewhere. Complex issues of identity and national allegiance would become prominent features in his fiction.”
Kipling referred to such conflicts; for example: “In the afternoon heats before we took our sleep, she (the Portuguese ayah or nanny) or Meeta (the Hindu bearer, or male attendant) would tell us stories and Indian nursery songs all unforgotten, and we were sent into the dining-room after we had been dressed, with the caution ‘Speak English now to Papa and Mamma.’ So one spoke ‘English’, haltingly translated out of the vernacular idiom that one thought and dreamed in”.
Before I finish this story of Kipling’s honest serving men, I would like to include an interesting aspect of the life of this remarkable writer. It is related to his use of the Nazi swastika.
Many older editions of Rudyard Kipling’s books have a swastika printed on their covers associated with a picture of an elephant carrying a lotus flower. Since the 1930s this has raised the suspicion of Kipling being a Nazi-sympathizer, which is not true at all. Kipling used the swastika as it was an Indian sun symbol conferring good luck and well-being. He used the swastika symbol in both right—and left-facing orientations, and it was in general use at the time. Even before the Nazis came to power, Kipling ordered the engraver to remove it from the printing block so that he should not be thought of as supporting them.
And now you know the story behind the “six honest serving men” of Rudyard Kipling. Adieu!