A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Just So
Saturday, October 31, 2009

This is just a picture of the Elephant’s Child going to pull bananas off a banana-tree after he had got his fine new long trunk. I don’t think it is a very nice picture; but I couldn’t make it any better, because elephants and bananas are hard to draw. The streaky things behind the Elephant’s Child mean squoggy marchy country somewhere in Africa. The Elephant’s Child made most of his mud-cakes out of the mud that he found there. I think it would look better if you painted the banana-tree green and the Elephant’s Child red.

Rudyard Kipling, Just So Stories – For Little Children Illustrated by the Author

On Thursday I wrote a blog that was based on my finding a quatrain by Fernando Pessoa in Andrea Camilleri’s, Salvo Montalbano novel, August Heat. I wanted to make sure I understood exactly what the author (Camilleri via his protagonist Montalbano) meant by a quatrain. I also wanted to know what the equivalent in Spanish was. I wasn’t too sure that cuarteto was the right word. So I looked it up in an on-line English Spanish dictionary. Read below:

I was struck by the example of a quatrain in the definition. It was a quatrain by Rudyard Kipling. I was wowed momentarily. I left it there, wrote my blog and went to bed.

This afternoon my daughter Ale called me from Lillooet. I was prepared for a lengthy (always interesting) meandering stream of consciousness. That was the case but she peppered her meanderings with praise on how my wife and I had brought her up and educated her. It seems she was transferring some of this knowledge to her second graders. I am unable to accommodate praise so I attempted to change the subject. But Ale kept on and mentioned the words what and why. Bells began to ring loudly in my head. While I was listening to her I racked my brain as to where I had read those two words and more. Finally I resorted to multi-tasking and I went to my Google bar’s History and looked up the websites I had opened yesterday. I found this. Suddenly Rudyard Kipling came back to my memory and I searched in in my Collected Verse of Rudyard Kipling (Toronto The Copp Clark Co., Limited – 1910). I purchased the book at my local Safeway’s book bin for $0.50 a few years back. I could not find the quatrain there. I Googled (while talking to Ale on the phone) and found this reference:

Poem by Rudyard Kipling
following the story "Elephant's Child" in "Just So Stories"

I told Ale about it and repeated the quatrain and where it came from. “Papi,” she told me, “My padrino Andrew (that's Ale, age 7 or 8 and Andrew Taylor in picture below) gave me Just So when I was little girl. You have it in your library bound in read leather.” I looked for it. I found it. I went to the Elephant’s Child and at the end, sure enough, was the quatrain and the rest of the poem:

I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where 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!

And would you believe that Ale initiated a discussion as to what Kipling meant by honest serving men. That was interesting, too!


Previous Posts
Saxena's Prison

That Pessoa Blonde

The Gun

A Postcard To That Renaissance Man

English Elegance & Margaret Merrill Say Goodbye

That Profane Urbanist's Home

A Catharsis At The Miracle Worker

Crazy Borders & Latent Images Revisited

Tongue Fluttering, A Pork Pie Hat & A Handy New Y...

NIna's Dainty Footware Part II

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