Learn English Language skills through our AI based learning portal with the support of our Academic Experts!

Learn more


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!

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!
The machines address the human world first by narrating their origin story as to how they were extracted and given form. The second stanza consists of details about what they require to function properly from the material world. It is not just enough that the machines are made; instead, some efforts need to be put into work efficiently. The machines that are mentioned in the poem are the ones that are capable of performing high functions, such as in factories and industries. Even in the case of human beings, one needs some kind of fuel in the form of food and water to go about the routine tasks.
Machines need fuel to go on and perform tasks. Different machines have different requirements. But predominantly, the fuel that runs them is coal, water, or oil. Coal is mostly used in high-end machines such as water carters, cement productions etc. Although it seems like a very common element, water is essential for even the working of trains, flights, cars, power stations etc. Oil helps in the flexibility of the machines. The machines say that if they are given the requirements, they would only move their parts a thousandth of an inch, meaning it would only take a short time to work quickly. And with all this, they are set to a task, and they can even work twenty-four hours a day.
Cement production from coal
The machines then explain the various tasks that they are capable of performing. They can perform high-end jobs that men cannot easily do, such as lifting heavy objects, pushing, pulling and driving huge objects like tanks. They can print papers, plough fields, weave clothes, which is impossible for humans. They can transport people to places with bikes, cars, flights, ships, as can they race, swim, fly and dive. Machines have also aided in academics to a great level, such that a normal person would take time to do calculations and accounts, compared to a calculator. They have also aided in all human activities such as reading, writing, hearing etc.
Crane lifting heavy objects
Words with difficult meaning:
CoalA black mineral that is dug from underneath
ThousandthA fraction of a thousand
HaulPull or drag with effort or force
PloughTo turn over the soil using a tractor
WeaveTo make cloths using threads
DiveThe act of jumping from a height
State Council of Educational Research and Training 2019. Term 1 English Standard - 10. The Secret of the Machines - Rudyard Kipling (pp. 148-152). Published by the Tamil Nadu Textbook and Educational Services Corporation.