I Keep Six Honest Serving Men is a short poem by Rudyard Kipling, that deals with curiosity and the sense of wonder that children have. Asking Questions is all about the focus of this poetry, inserted as a ballad in the children’s storybook Just So Stories of 1902.
This is the second contribution to my Poetry & Management collection. Poetry has always been one of my favourite forms of expressions, probably one of the eclectic sides of my multipotentialite trait. And I will be sharing more of these over time.
I Keep Six Honest Serving Men
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!
Source: Rudyard Kipling, Just So Stories (1902)
A Short Comment
I Keep Six Honest Serving Me talks about curiosity, and the willingness to continuously learn. The Six Honest Serving Men are the questions What, Why, When, How, Where and Who that are constantly asked to ensure understanding. These questions are sent in all directions, touching every topic. But then they are put to rest, and apparently not used at work: I Let them rest from nine till five / For I am busy then. Work, apparently, does not demand curiosity, rather busyness.
However, there is someone who has many more of these serving-men, a small child that asks “millions” of questions, never being allowed any rest. The sense of wonder of a child, and her curiosity, can be seen here from the second she opens her eyes.
The message on the importance of curiosity is clear, but also the realisation that with adulthood we are forced to limit this to only a few parts of our lives. At the same time, the sense of wonder that kids have gets replaced while growing, limiting our capacity to imagine.
What do you think of this poem? Write a Comment below.
Cover Photo Source: Poetry Foundation