McAndrew's Hymn

Original Text: 
Rudyard Kipling's Verse: Definitive Edition (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1940): 120-27.
2An', taught by time, I tak' it so--exceptin' always Steam.
5John Calvin might ha' forged the same--enorrmous, certain, slow--
6Ay, wrought it in the furnace-flame--my "Institutio."
7I cannot get my sleep to-night; old bones are hard to please;
10Through all the seas of all Thy world, slam-bangin' home again.
14An' Ferguson relievin' Hay. Old girl, ye'll walk to-night!
16Three turns for Mistress Ferguson ... and who's to blame the man?
17There's none at any port for me, by drivin' fast or slow,
23Miscallin' technicalities but handin' me my chair
25That started as a boiler-whelp--when steam and he were low.
28An' here, our workin' gauges give one hunder sixty-five!
31Thirty an' more. What I ha' seen since ocean-steam began
33The man that counts, wi' all his runs, one million mile o' sea:
34Four time the span from earth to moon ... How far, O Lord, from Thee
35That wast beside him night an' day? Ye mind my first typhoon?
38An' cast me on a furnace-door. I have the marks to show.
39Marks! I ha' marks o' more than burns--deep in my soul an' black,
40An' times like this, when things go smooth, my wickudness comes back.
41The sins o' four an' forty years, all up an' down the seas,
43Nights when I'd come on deck to mark, wi' envy in my gaze,
46Judge not, O Lord, my steps aside at Gay Street in Hong-Kong!
47Blot out the wastrel hours of mine in sin when I abode--
51I'd seen the Tropics first that run--new fruit, new smells, new air--
53By day like playhouse-scenes the shore slid past our sleepy eyes;
54By night those soft, lasceevious stars leered from those velvet skies,
57An' walkin'-sticks o' carved bamboo an' blowfish stuffed an' dried--
61Firm, clear an' low--no haste, no hate--the ghostly whisper went,
62Just statin' eevidential facts beyon' all argument:
67"Ye'll not go back to Him again an' kiss His red-hot rod,
70"But swells the ripenin' cocoanuts an' ripes the woman's breast."
71An' there it stopped--cut off--no more--that quiet, certain voice--
72For me, six months o' twenty-four, to leave or take at choice.
73'Twas on me like a thunderclap--it racked me through an' through--
74Temptation past the show o' speech, unnameable an' new--
76That storm blew by but left behind her anchor-shiftin' swell.
77Thou knowest all my heart an' mind, Thou knowest, Lord, I fell--
79Yet was Thy Hand beneath my head, about my feet Thy Care--
82We dared na run that sea by night but lay an' held our fire,
85Ye mind that word? Clear as our gongs--again, an' once again,
86When rippin' down through coral-trash ran out our moorin'-chain:
87An', by Thy Grace, I had the Light to see my duty plain.
89I've lost it since a thousand times, but never past return!
90. . . . . . .
91Obsairve! Per annum we'll have here two thousand souls aboard--
92Think not I dare to justify myself before the Lord,
93But--average fifteen hunder souls safe-borne fra' port to port--
94I am o' service to my kind. Ye wadna blame the thought?
95Maybe they steam from Grace to Wrath--to sin by folly led--
97Mine at the last--when all is done it all comes back to me,
99We'll tak' one stretch--three weeks an' odd by ony road ye steer--
103An' home again--the Rio run: it's no child's play to go
109Yon's strain, hard strain, o' head an' hand, for though Thy Power brings
110All skill to naught, Ye'll understand a man must think o' things.
111Then, at the last, we'll get to port an' hoist their baggage clear--
112The passengers, wi' gloves an' canes--an' this is what I'll hear:
115They've words for every one but me--shake hands wi' half the crew,
116Except the dour Scots engineer, the man they never knew.
117An' yet I like the wark for all we've dam'-few pickin's here--
118No pension, an' the most we'll earn's four hunder pound a year.
119Better myself abroad? Maybe. I'd sooner starve than sail
121Commeesion on my stores? Some do; but I cannot afford
123A bonus on the coal I save? Ou ay, the Scots are close,
124But when I grudge the strength Ye gave I'll grudge their food to those.
127Inventions? Ye must stay in port to mak' a patent pay.
129I blame no chaps wi' clearer heads for aught they make or sell.
130I found that I could not invent an' look to these as well.
132But burned the workin'-plans last run, wi' all I hoped to earn.
133Ye know how hard an Idol dies, an' what that meant to me--
134E'en tak' it for a sacrifice acceptable to Thee ...
135Below there! Oiler! What's your wark? Ye find it runnin' hard?
136Ye needn't swill the cup wi' oil--this isn't the Cunard!
137Ye thought? Ye are not paid to think. Go, sweat that off again!
139Men, ay, an women, call me stern. Wi' these to oversee,
140Ye'll note I've little time to burn on social repartee.
141The bairns see what their elders miss; they'll hunt me to an' fro,
142Till for the sake of--well, a kiss--I tak' 'em down below.
145I showed him round last week, o'er all--an' at the last says he:
146"Mister McAndrew, don't you think steam spoils romance at sea?"
149Romance! Those first-class passengers they like it very well,
150Printed an' bound in little books; but why don't poets tell?
151I'm sick of all their quirks an' turns--the loves an' doves they dream--
159They're all awa'! True beat, full power, the clangin' chorus goes
160Clear to the tunnel where they sit, my purrin' dynamoes.
161Interdependence absolute, foreseen, ordained, decreed,
163Fra' skylight-lift to furnace-bars, backed, bolted, braced an' stayed,
167Now, a' together, hear them lift their lesson--theirs an' mine:
168"Law, Orrder, Duty an' Restraint, Obedience, Discipline!"
172Till even first-class passengers could tell the meanin' plain!
173But no one cares except mysel' that serve an' understand
174My seven thousand horse-power here. Eh, Lord! They're grand--they're grand!
175Uplift am I? When first in store the new-made beasties stood,
177Not so! O' that warld-liftin' joy no after-fall could vex,
180An' by that light--now, mark my word--we'll build the Perfect Ship.
181I'll never last to judge her lines or take her curve--not I.
182But I ha' lived an' I ha' worked. Be thanks to Thee, Most High!
183An' I ha' done what I ha' done--judge Thou if ill or well--
185Pilot so soon? His flare it is. The mornin'-watch is set.


1] Kipling prefaced the first publication of this poem, in Scribner's Magazine (Dec. 1894), with the following note: ."And the night we got in, sat up from twelve to four with the chief engineer, who could not get to sleep either .Àæ said that the engines made him feel quite poetical at time, and told me things about his past life. He seems a pious old bird; but I wish I had known him earlier in the voyage." (Ralph Durand, A Handbook to the Poetry of Rudyard Kipling [London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1914]: 88). Back to Line
3] coupler-flange: likely a plate or link to cover a device that joins two pipes (OED, "flange," n., 4, quotation of 1884, "Flange Coupling, a device for connecting pipes at any angle from 0Żð to 90Żð"), possibly another name for the "connectin'-rod" below. spindle-guide: a device that stabilizes a revolving rod. Back to Line
4] Renaissance German protestant John Calvin described his doctrine of predestination, proposing (in his Christianæ Religionis Institutio) that God from the very beginning fated every creature to a specific end. Back to Line
8] middle watch: midnight to 4 am. Back to Line
9] race: the increasing rotation of the propeller when, in rough seas, the ships pitches up and down and lifts it out of the water for a time (Durand 89). Back to Line
11] A cross-head is "The bar at the end of the piston-rod of a steam-engine, which slides between straight guides, and communicates the motion to the connecting-rod, etc." (OED) , and gibs are the bolts that hold it snug. Back to Line
12] gied: given. Back to Line
13] full-draught: a plentiful draft of fresh air to the engine burners, made possible by a strong wind. Ushant: an island in the English Channel that belongs to Brittany. Back to Line
15] Ferguson increases the engines speed gradually from 70 to 73 so as to get home to his wife the more quickly. Back to Line
18] Elsie Campbell: the maiden name of McAndrew's beloved, by which customarily the Scottish call a dead married woman. Back to Line
19] Sarah Sands: a ship whose powder magazine partly blew up on the way to India in 1857 but that stayed afloat and made her way to port. ."An account of the disaster was contributed by Rudyard Kipline to the 1898 Christmas number of Black and White." (Durand 90). The poem's monologue, then, takes place in 1887. Back to Line
20] Towns surrounding Glasgow. Back to Line
21] ceevil: civil, polite. Back to Line
22] your bilge: Sir Kenneth should say ."bilge-water." (what stabilizes the ship at its very bottom). Back to Line
24] auld: old. Fleet Engineer: ."The chief of all the engineers employed in the company's ships." (Durand 90). Back to Line
26] tow: hemp. Back to Line
27] wad: would. Back to Line
29] rig: type of ship. Back to Line
30] loco-boiler: a locomotive engine is "an engine constructed for movement from place to place by its own power (as opposed to 'stationary' engine), usually by the generation of steam" (OED, "locomotive"). Back to Line
32] na doot: no doubt. Back to Line
36] Perhaps, "It scowed [crippled?] the captain on his way to jockey [take in, cheat] the saloon ["A large cabin in a passenger-boat for the common use of passengers in general or for those paying first-class fares"; see OED, "saloon"]." Cf. OED, "scow," v. 2: ".Àæ in to scow an anchor: on a foul bottom, to bend the cable to the crown and stop it within the ring, so that in weighing the seizing may be broken and the anchor tripped. Hence scowed ppl. a." Back to Line
37] Three feet [of water]. stokehold: the room that holds the ship's boilers. Back to Line
42] Forgie's: forgive us (a part of the Lord's Prayer). Back to Line
44] kittlin': tickling (one another), courting. Back to Line
45] raked: covered, as with gunshot. Back to Line
48] Number Nine: A Japanese port (Durand 91). Back to Line
49] waur: worse. Back to Line
50] wadna: would not. Back to Line
52] blind-fou: blind drunk. Deil: Devil. Back to Line
55] no cargo-steam: no engine to unload the cargo. daunder: stroll. Back to Line
56] ijjit: idiot. Back to Line
58] Chief: Chief Engineer (Durand 91). put overside: put overboard. Back to Line
59] Sambawa Head: ."in the Malay Archipelago." (Durand 91). ca': call. Back to Line
60] awa': away. Back to Line
63] mither's: mother's. Back to Line
64] meenisters: ministers. Back to Line
65] Broomielaw: part of Glasgow's port area. Back to Line
66] fetich: fetish, idol. Back to Line
68] Leevin': Living. Back to Line
69] kipper: cured, like fish, by cleaning, salting, and smoking. Back to Line
75] Matthew 12:24-32 (by interpretation, suicide--an act that in effect denies that the Holy Ghost can save one). Back to Line
78] Third: the third engineer. Back to Line
80] Along the northern coasts of Australia from the Timor sea (south of Dili, Indonesia, and north of Darwin, Australia) to Torres Strait (which separates Papua New Guinea and Turtle Head, Australia). Back to Line
81] Barrier Reef: a shipwreck danger along a thousand miles of Australian Queensland coast. Back to Line
83] tire: fatigue, tiredness. Back to Line
84] "Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire: this is also vanity and vexation of spirit" (Ecclesiastes 6:9). Back to Line
88] carbons: carbon-arc lamps. Back to Line
96] isna: is not. Back to Line
98] As a result, all that would remain of a 6,000-ton ship is a log. Back to Line
100] An unfrequented sea lane at this time (Durand 92). Back to Line
101] your shaft: the shaft of the anchor (OED, "shaft," n.2, 4h). ay, eat it, ere ye're spoke: sure, you have time enough to eat the shaft before another ship signals (speaks to) you. Back to Line
102] jiggers: little sails of little use. Back to Line
104] Steaming to the bell is regulating the engine speed according to orders from the bridge that are conveyed by the ringing of a bell. floe: floating ice. Back to Line
105] bergs: icebergs. kelpies: water spirits. overside: overboard. Girn: snarl (Durand 93). Back to Line
106] Whaur: where. drift: current. Back to Line
107] ."Cf. the passage in the Benedicite, 'O ye Ice and Snow, bless ye the Lord: praise Him and magnify Him for ever'." (Durand 93). Back to Line
108] anither kirk: another church. Back to Line
113] tender: the little boat that ferries passengers, crew, and cargo between a ship and wharfside. Back to Line
114] follower-bolts: if loosened, these lead to engine breakdown (but not found in the OED). Back to Line
120] ross: for the French word ."rossignol.." Back to Line
122] patty-pans: little frying pans. A steward replacing unusable articles at the end of a voyage will sometimes connive with a supplier to cheat the company by paying for more goods than are received and by splitting the surplus charges between them (Durand 94). Back to Line
125] clink the fire-bars: clog the grate "with `clinkers' or unburnable refuse" (Durand 94). Back to Line
126] Wangarti: in New South Wales, Australia. Back to Line
128] Deeferential Valve-Gear: developed by Henry Davey (1843-1928). Back to Line
131] Apollyon: "the destroyer," the Devil. bairn: a child. Back to Line
138] sweer: swear. Back to Line
143] Viscount loon .Àæ Sir Kenneth's kin: unidentified. Back to Line
144] spar-decked: for a "light upper deck in a vessel" (OED). Back to Line
147] throws: cranks. Back to Line
148] Manholin': squeezing down a manhole. Back to Line
152] Robbie Burns: great Scots poet. Back to Line
153] Scotia: Scotland. Back to Line
154] Whaurto: whereto. Back to Line
155] feed-pump: "The engine supplies itself with water by a pump communicating with the hot well, called a feed pump" (OED, "feed," n., 6; quotation from 1839). Back to Line
156] eccentrics: "A circular disc fixed on a revolving shaft, some distance out of centre, working freely in a ring (the eccentric strap), which is attached to a rod called an eccentric rod, by means of which the rotating motion of the shaft is converted into a backward-and-forward motion. Its most frequent use is for working the slide-valve of a steam-engine" (OED, "eccentric," 2). sheaves: grooved wheels. Back to Line
157] link-head: see Alastair Wilson. Back to Line
158] hear that note?: the engineer judges how well his engines are turning over by their sound (Durand 94-95). whings: moves very forcefully. Back to Line
162] at ony tilt: no matter at what angle the ship is pitched by rough seas. Back to Line
164] Mornin' Stars: Job 38:7 (Durand 95). Back to Line
165] thrust-block: "a block supporting a thrust-bearing; the casting or frame carrying or containing the bearings on which the collars of the propeller-shaft press" (OED, "thrust," 8). Back to Line
166] Not unto us the praise: Psalms 115.1 (Durand 95). Back to Line
169] try-pit: "a testing pit for trying new engines" (OED). Back to Line
170] gied: given. Back to Line
171] trip-hammer: "A massive machine-hammer operated by a tripping device, as a wheel with projecting teeth, a cam, or the like, by which it is raised and then allowed to drop; a tilt-hammer" (OED). Back to Line
176] Genesis 1:31 (Durand 95). Back to Line
178] Artifex: maker. Back to Line
179] scale: deposit or incrustation. slip: loss of power, as when the propellers rise out of the water. Back to Line
184] Losh: "Lord!" "Stand-by" bell: a bell that alerts the engineer to be ready to change speed. Back to Line
186] Pelagian" one who believes that "the human will .Àæ is the determining factor in the salvation of the individual" (Durand 96). Back to Line
187] McAndrew takes over. Back to Line
188] your good leddy: Mistress Ferguson. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
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