In the Beginning

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


There is a holograph [handwritten by Kipling] version in Notebook 1, with the title “A Creed”, dated 2 April 1882, and another holograph version in Notebook 3, with the same date but the title “In the Beginning”. In Notebook 3 the poem figures as one of a sequence of four sonnets, the others being “A Tryst” [The Tryst in Summer], “The Quest” and “The Attainment” [Escaped]. A later note in Notebook 1 reads ‘Commonplace and not too well put together v. l.8 and 9 in particular’. (Rutherford p. 139).

The poem

A grave and worldly-weary piece, which comes strangely from a sixteen-year old schoolboy. Lust is the source of all our woes, but we need not despair, for after sadness will come happiness. It may, of course, reflect the young Rudyard’s feelings about his frustrated passion for Flo Garrard, but it is also a carefully turned exercise in the sonnet form.

It was never collected by Kipling, but is to be found in Rutherford p. 139, and Pinney p. 1646.

Notes on the Text

[Line 2] divers various.

[Line 15] bale suffering, misery.

Rutherford notes that the last line only appears in Notebook 3. It is supernumerary, since strictly a sonnet only has 14 lines. He suggests that it may be intended as an alternative to the previous line.


©Philip Holberton and John Radcliffe 2019 All rights reserved