After the Fever

(notes by Philip Holberton and John Radcliffe, drawing on the research of Andrew Rutherford and Thomas Pinney)


Rutherford (p. 146) notes that there is a version in Kipling’s hand of the first verse of this poem in Notebook 1, with the subheading 2 A.M. It is undated but occurs between two quite different poems, both titled “His Consolation”, one dated 21 May 1882 and the other 26 May. The second verse, also handwritten, appears in the same Notebook between “The Tryst in Summer”, dated 27 May, and “Escaped!” dated 28 May. It appears to be the continuation of the same poem: the first stanza is written at the foot of a right-hand page, the second at the top of the next left-hand page but one, suggesting that Kipling turned over two pages by mistake. Kipling re-used the title for his later poem “After the Fever, or Natural Philosophy in a Doolie.” See Rutherford pp. 24-28 for details of the Notebooks.

The poem was never collected by Kipling, but is to be found in Rutherford p. 146, and Pinney p. 1655.

The Poem

This is one of many love poems that Kipling wrote around this time, addressed to Flo Garrard, the beautiful young art student with whom he had become infatuated in the summer of 1880, when he was fourteen, and she a year older.

This one looks forward to the end of life, praying that the lovers will still be together at death as he has loved her best. The title is probably a reminiscence of “Prayer in the Evening” from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, originally taken from one of the sermons of Cardinal Newman (1801-1890):

May the Lord support us all the day long, Till the shades lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done.

As a child Rudyard was unhappily fostered for five years, from the age of nearly six, at Lorne Lodge in Southsea, by Mrs Holloway, a strongly evangelical Christian, where he made a close acquaintance with many prayers and biblical texts. (See also his poem “Job’s Wife” , written in 1880.)


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