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Monday, June 30, 2014

The Architect’s Alphabet

Guest Blogger Dept.: We welcome Rudyard Kipling to these e-pages with a piece of doggerel inspired by the architectural work of his cousin. The poem was discovered more than a half-century after Kipling’s death ... but let’s let the London Times take up the tale.


Rudyard Kipling
ARCHITECTS HAVE BEEN the butt of ridicule for longer than Prince Charles might think. We print here a hitherto unpublished poem by Rudyard Kipling, for which we are indebted to the anthologist (and education secretary) Kenneth Baker. He discovered it two weeks ago, when, as he recalls, “I was browsing through the Kipling archives in the Strongroom of the University of Sussex library.” The poem was written in the late 1890s in the margin of a notebook belonging to the architect, Sir Herbert Baker. The Ambo in the last line was the nickname of Kipling’s cousin and close friend, Ambrose Pointer, a modest architect who presumably did a poor job for Kipling. We would be delighted to hear from readers who can shed any further light on this matter. The poem is published with thanks to the National Trust and the University of Sussex library. A donation has been made for the Trust’s Wimpole Hall, the house of Kipling's daughter.

– The Sunday Times, 13 November 1988


A was an Architect: B were his Brains,
C was the Chaos he wrought when he used 'em.
D was the dissolute course of his Drains;
F was the End of the people who used 'em.
F were the Fools who allowed him to build
G his Gehennas of brickbats and lime;
H were his Houses, bacteria-filled,
I am the poet who left them in time.
J were his Joists – but they broke with the rats on 'em,
K his Kements (I adhere to this spelling);
L were his Leadings – you couldn’t swing cats on 'em,
M was the mildew that clove to each dwelling.
N was his Notion of saving expense,
O were the Odds it would cost like all Tophet;
P (please insert for the sake of the sense),
Q were his Quantities, P was his Profit.
R were his Roofs which were waterlogged rafts,
S for they Sagged (S is also his Sinks).
T the Tornadoes he told us were draughts,
U were his Usual Unspecified Stinks.
V was the Vengeance I vowed on the head of him,
W for Wrong and Waiting and Waste;
X is King Xerxes (God knows I have need of him!,
Y and a Yataghan wielded with taste)
Z are Zymotic diseases, a host of 'em,
Ambo’s my architect, I have got most of 'em.

– Rudyard Kipling, c. 1897

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