The Fringes of the Fleet

The Fringes of the Fleet

"The Fringes of the Fleet" is a booklet written in 1916 by Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936). The booklet contains essays and poems that Kipling wrote about nautical subjects in World War I.

It is also the title of a song-cycle written in 1917 with music by the English composer Edward Elgar and lyrics from poems in Kipling's booklet.

Kipling's Booklet

There are six essays in the booklet. [Notes by Alastair Wilson on "The Fringes of the Fleet"]

*1. The Auxiliaries - IThe text opens with a poem which starts with the words "In Lowestoft a boat was laid, / Mark well what I do say!", later given the title "The Lowestoft Boat" and a subtitle "(East Coast Patrols of the War)".
*2. The Auxiliaries - IIThe text opens with a poem which starts "Dawn off the Foreland [The North Foreland and the South Foreland (in Kent) are features of the south-east English coast] - the young flood making / Jumbled and short and steep - ", later titled "Mine Sweepers".
*3. Submarines - IThe text opens with a poem which resembles the shanty "Farewell and adieu to you, Spanish Ladies". The original and final title, "Harwich Ladies", was for security reasons at the time changed to "Greenwich Ladies".
*4. Submarines - IIThe text opens with a very short poem (two verses of four lines) titled "Tin Fish". ["Tin fish" were torpedoes, and submarines were "sardine cans"] The poem starts "The ships destroy us above / And ensnare us beneath."
*5. Patrols - IThe text opens with a poem entitled "A Song in Storm", which starts with the words "Be well assured that on our side / Our challenged oceans fight."
*6. Patrols - IIThe final article begins with a poem later called "The North Sea Patrol".

Elgar's Songs

In January 1916 Lord Charles Beresford requested Elgar to make songs of some of the verses in Kipling's booklet: Elgar chose four of them, and appropriately set them for four men's voices.

Elgar gave different titles to three of the four poems
*The Lowestoft Boat used the words of the poem of the same name
*Fate's Discourtesy - the poem "A Song in Storm"
*Submarines - the poem "Tin Fish"
*The Sweepers, - the poem "Mine Sweepers" ["Mine Sweepers" is in another small booklet and called "Trawlers", published in "Twenty Poems from Rudyard Kipling"]

The work was dedicated by the composer " my friend Admiral Lord Beresford". The first performance was, at Elgar's suggestion, part of a wartime variety show at the London Coliseum on 11 June 1917, and the singers were baritones Charles Mott (following his performance in "The Starlight Express"), Harry Barratt, Frederick Henry and Frederick Stewart. The show ran for four weeks with two performances a day and was a great success. In the production the curtain rose on seaport scene, with the four singers in rough-and-ready merchant-seamen's clothes, seated around a rough table. [Porte, page 201]

*"Inside the Bar" The song "Inside the Bar", with words by Sir Gilbert Parker, was subsequently added to the cycle and performed by the same singers at the same theatre exactly two weeks later. The songs were so popular that later that year Elgar conducted the songs around British provincial music-halls (Stoke, Manchester, Leicester, and Chiswick), with Charles Mott (who had been called up) replaced by George Parker. For reasons which Elgar did not understand at the time, when they returned to the Coliseum at the end of that year, Kipling appeared and objected to his songs being performed: Kipling was still upset by the report that his son was missing. [Moore, pages 705-711]


*Kipling, Rudyard "The Fringes of the Fleet", Macmillan & Co. Ltd, London, 1916
*Kipling, Rudyard "Twenty Poems from Rudyard Kipling", Methuen, London, 1918
*Kennedy, Michael "Portrait of Elgar" (Oxford University Press, 1968) ISBN 0193154145
*Moore, Jerrold N. "Edward Elgar, a creative life" (Oxford University Press, 1984) ISBN 0193154471
*Porte, J. F. "Sir Edward Elgar" (London, Kegan Paul, Trench, Turner & Co. Ltd., 1921)



* [ Songs and Piano Music by Edward Elgar] "The Fringes of the Fleet" performed by Peter Savidge (baritone) with Mark Bamping, William Houghton and Edward Whiffin (chorus), and David Owen Norris (playing on Elgar's 1944 Broadwood piano)

* [ Elgar: War Music] Paul Kenyon, Stephen Godward, Simon Theobald, Russell Watson (baritones), Barry Collett (conductor), Rutland Sinfonia

External links

* [ "The Fringes of the Fleet"] Transcription of the 1916 booklet by David Clark
* [ Sea Warfare - The Fringes of the Fleet] Notes on the text by Alastair Wilson

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