After the promise

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


There are versions handwritten by Kipling in Notebooks 1 and 3, dated 29 March 1882. See Rutherford p. 24 for details of the Notebooks.

The poem

The poem celebrates, in rollicking, rather cliché-ridden lines, the delight of a young man in winning the heart of his lady-love. It was never published by Kipling as a complete poem, but the first three stanzas and the last are used, with minor variations, in “The Finest Story in the World” (Many Inventions, 1893), as an example of the bad verse Charlie Mears writes after he has lost his heart to a young woman, and is no longer inspired by memories of his previous lives.

This use of the poem, originally written in his tortured schooldays, may reflect Kipling’s own later sense of the perils of allowing his intimate personal feelings to dominate his imagination and obtrude into his poetry. See “Two Lives”.

The complete poem is to be found in Rutherford p. 138, and Pinney p. 1644.

Notes on the Text

[Final couplet] This reads Over the heart of one in later revision in Notebook 1. Notebook 3 has And of this life to one, and Many Inventions Over the soul of one. In Notebook 1 the lines originally read:

For I am as a God, and a sovereign Lord —
Over the soul of one.


©John Radcliffe 2019 All rights reserved