Topic outline

    • The Secret of the Machines (Poem by Rudyard Kipling)

      About the poem

      A.  Read to understand

      Answer the following questions.

           1.   Rewrite this paragraph to show the correct process of the formation of machines.

      Metals are extracted from their ores through heating. The shaped metals are used to make tools and machines. The extracted metals are purified. The ores are extracted through mining. The purified metals are shaped through moulding and hammering. The extracted ores are purified.

      Ans. The ores are extracted through mining. The extracted ores are purified. Metals are extracted from their ores through heating. The extracted metals are purified. The purified metals are shaped through moulding and hammering. The shaped metals are used to make tools and machines.


           2.   What is the ‘nine-decked city’? Why is it described as ‘monstrous’?

            Ans. The ‘nine-decked city’ is referred to Mauretania, a high-speed luxury passenger ship, launched in 1906. It is described as ‘monstrous’ because it was the world’s biggest passenger ship at that time.


           3.   What do you understand by the line ‘shall we pipe aloft and bring you water down’?

            Ans. The line means that the machines can go up to a great height and bring water down where human beings live.

           4.   Which stanza shows us that the machines have mastered almost all the common human activities?

            Ans. We can pull and haul and push and lift and drive,

         We can print and plough and weave and heat and light,

         We can run and race and swim and fly and dive,

         We can see and hear and count and read and write!


           5.   What actions are the machines incapable of doing?

            Ans. Machine cannot detect lie. Besides, machines are not built to love or hate its owner or anyone. Thus, machines are emotionless and have no feelings and can be dangerous if not handled properly.


           6.   What is the warning issued by the machines?

            Ans. We must accept the fact that our dependency on machines are increasing day by day. A time is about to come when people will depend on a machine to wake them from sleep and then to put them back to sleep, walk and eat. If this really happens, life will be different – without feelings, sympathy, pity, forgiveness and love.


           7.   Which lines tell us that for every little input, the machines are able to provide constant, daily service to humans?

            Ans. Some water, coal, and oil is all we ask,

             And a thousandth of an inch to give us play:  

         And now, if you will set us to our task,

             We will serve you four and twenty hours a day!.


           8.   Which two opposing claims do the machines make in the poem?

            Ans. We are everything on earth—except The Gods!

        We are nothing more than children of your brain!


           9.   Which lines tell us that the all-powerful nature of the machines is only an illusion?

            Ans. We are greater than the Peoples or the Kings—

              Be humble, as you crawl beneath our rods!-

         Our touch can alter all created things,

              We are everything on earth—except The Gods!

      B.  Discuss

      Written in the early decades of the twentieth century, this poem looks back at the scientific and technological advancements that had taken place over the past two centuries.

      1. Look up the internet and make a chronological note of the major advancements that took place in science, medicine, and technology between 1700 and 1900. Share and discuss the collected information in class.



      Science and Technology

      Jan 1, 1764

      Spinning jenny

      Jan 1, 1969

      Steam Engine

      Jan 1, 1775

      Indoor Plumbing

      Jan 1, 1784

      Cheap Iron

      Jan 1, 1989


      Jan 1, 1793

      Cotton Gin

      Jan 1, 1800


      Jan 1, 1837

      Electric Telegraph

      Jan 1, 1839


      Jan 1, 1846

      Sewing Machine

      Jan 1, 1851

      Interchangeable Parts

      Jan 1, 1867


      Jan 1, 1868

      Traffic Light

      Jan 1, 1876


      Jan 1, 1879

      Electric Light

      Jan 1, 1886

      Dishwashing Machine

      Jan 1, 1887


      Jan 1, 1893


      Jan 1, 1895

      Motion Picture Camera





      Giacomo Pylarini gives the first smallpox inoculations       


      James Lind publishes his Treatise of the Scurvy stating that citrus fruits prevent scurvy


      Claudius Aymand performs the first successful appendectomy


      Edward Jenner develops the process of vaccination for smallpox, the first vaccine for any disease


      Sir Humphry Davy discovers the anesthetic properties of nitrous oxide       


      Rene Laennec invents the stethoscope


      James Blundell performs the first successful transfusion of human blood


      Crawford W. Long uses ether as a general anesthetic       


      Dr. Horace Wells uses nitrous oxide as an anesthetic


      William Morton, a dentist, is the first to publish the process of using anesthetic properties of nitrous oxide


      Elizabeth Blackwell is the first woman to gain a medical degree from Geneva Medical College in New York


      Ignaz Semmelweis discovers how to the prevent the transmission of puerperal fever


      Charles Gabriel Pravaz and Alexander Wood develop the syringe


      Louis Pasteur identifies germs as cause of disease


      Joseph Lister develops the use of antiseptic surgical methods and publishes Antiseptic Principle of the Practice of Surgery    


      Robert Koch and Louis Pasteur establish the germ theory of disease   


      First vaccine developed for cholera


      First vaccine developed for anthrax by Louis Pasteur


      First vaccine for developed for rabies by Louis Pasteur Koch discovers the TB bacillus


      First contact lenses developed      


      Emil von Behring discovers antioxins and develops tetanus and diphtheria vaccines


      Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen discovers X rays


      First vaccine developed for typhoid fever


      First vaccine developed for Bubonic plague


      Felix Hoffman develops aspirin


      2. Write about any two inventions made during this period and their impact on the lives of the people at the time.

      Ans. Telephone - The telephone has had a big impact on the world. When the telephone was first introduced it could only be afforded by the rich as the materials needed for connection were very expensive (Pool, 1977). The telephone was promoted on the grounds that it would increase wealth, employment and improved means of communication.  The invention of the telephone lead to development of city centers, office buildings and the concept of an urban worker society.  It has led to the creation and destruction of jobs. The need for positions such as messenger boys, telegraphers and, ironically, operators, became virtually unnecessary (Bauer, 1995).  It has changed the pace of business and made the world smaller and more accessible to all.  The telephone has provided security and helped in emergency situations. 


      Bicycles - Bicycles were introduced in the late 19th century in Europe. The bicycle's invention has had an enormous effect on society, both in terms of culture and of advancing modern industrial methods. Several components that eventually played a key role in the development of the automobile were initially invented for use in the bicycle, including ball bearings, pneumatic tires, chain-driven sprockets and tension-spoked wheels. From the beginning and still today, bicycles have been and are employed for many uses. In a utilitarian way, bicycles are used for transportation, bicycle commuting, and utility cycling. It can be used as a 'work horse', used by mail carriers, paramedics, police, messengers, and general delivery services. The bicycle is also used for recreational purposes, such as bicycle touring, mountain biking, physical fitness, and play.

      C.  Read to appreciate

      Stanza forms

      A stanza, as you would know, is a division of a poem consisting of two or more lines arranged together as a unit. You can compare it to a paragraph in a piece of prose writing.

      Some of the most common stanza forms are named according to the number of lines in them.

      Here are the names of some common stanza forms.

      Stanza form

      Number of lines
















      What is the stanzaic pattern of the poem you just read?

      The poem is divided into eight stanzas, of which four consist of eight lines (Octave) and the other four have four lines (quatrain) each.