Originally published in The Day’s Work, Macmillan, London, 1898
Macmillan, London, 1936, illus Lionel Edwards
Doubleday, Doran & Co, New York, 1936, illus Lionel Edwards, 91 pp.
The Lambourn Press, 1989, foreword Major Ronald Ferguson, illus Lionel Edwards, 63 pp.
The Vanguard Book of Ponies and Riding, Collins, 1966, 1972
For copyright reasons, I don’t use pictures by Lionel Edwards.
Many thanks to Susan Bourgeau for the following piece on the book:
“How can you describe this one? In brief, it’s just a short story about a polo match, told from the ponies’ point of view. Honestly, you might as well say Watership Down is about a lot of bunny-rabbits. In Kipling’s hands, the polo grounds come to life, and you’re on the field, chasing the ball, with the dust in your nostrils, the cry of the crowds in your ears.
The match is the final of the Upper India Free-For-All Cup, and the Cat’s team, the Skidars, a rag-tag lot matched against the bluest blood that ever flowed through a polo ponies veins, have their work cut out for them. I say “the Cat’s Team” advisedly … because, while his rider might be captain of the human members of the team, the Cat is the leader of the ponies … and what a leader. With a fervent love of the Game he was born to play, the Cat coaches his team with passion, insight, philosophy and an abundance of knowledge, not only of the Game, but of the men and ponies that play it … he is, as Kipling puts it, the Past Pluperfect Prestissimo Player of the Game.
Published originally in Kipling’s short story collection “The Day’s Work” in 1898, and reprinted in many, many pony short story collections since then: the version everyone wants, of course, is the 1936 stand-alone edition published by Macmillan and illustrated by Lionel Edwards. But to hold off on reading this to have a particular edition is to deny yourself the brilliance of Kipling’s prose, to hold off meeting The Maltese Cat and Kittiwynk, Polaris and Benami, and all the others. Tomorrow is uncertain … read the good stuff today.