"The Front Door"

1881

(notes by John McGivering
and John Radcliffe)


the poem


[April 25 2017]

Publication

Its first publication was in Schoolboy Lyrics in Lahore in 1881, in an edition of around fifty arranged by his mother the year before Rudyard's arrival in the city at the age of sixteen, to work as a journalist. It is listed in ORG as No 15.

Collected in: The poem

This is an early excursion by the young Kipling into the supernatural. A front door remembers those it admits to the house, not only the life flowing back and forth and glimpsed through the door, but the souls of the dead returning, rather like Old Mother Laidinwool in a poem of 1906, who revisits her village to see that all is well with her family and friends.

This is a darker piece, which has unquiet ghosts coming back on All Hallows night to their old homes, rustling the curtains in the chill air as they pass, before returning as we all must to the other world. The poet muses in sombre mood on the mysteries of Life and Death.

Background

As a budding author Kipling was well aware of the possibilities of ghost stories:
‘You remember Mrs. Oliphant’s Beleaguered City that you lent me last term?’ said Beetle.... ‘I got the notion out of that. Only, instead of a city, I made it the Coll. in a fog—besieged by ghosts of dead boys, who hauled chaps out of their beds in the dormitory. All the names are quite real. You tell it in a whisper, you know—with the names ... none of ’em have ever let me finish it. It gets just awful at the end part.’
(Stalky & Co. p. 123)
And in various later tales he explores aspects of the supernatural, see "The Phantom Rickshaw", "At the End of the Passage", "They", and "The Dog Hervey".

Throughout his life, Kipling was very sensitive to the atmosphere of houses. Describing their first glimpse of Bateman's, the house the Kiplings lived in for over thirty years, he writes:
At very first sight the Committee of Ways and Means (Kipling and his wife) said; ‘That’s her! The Only She! Make an honest woman of her—quick!’ We entered and felt her Spirit—her Feng Shui—to be good. We went through every room and found no shadow of ancient regrets, stifled miseries, nor any menace, though the ‘new’ end of her was three hundred years old...
(Something of Myself p. 178.)



©John McGivering and John Radcliffe 2017 All rights reserved