There is a Holograph [handwritten by Kipling] version of this poem in Kipling’s Notebook 3, dated 24 October 1881. There is a second copy in Sundry Phansies, another handwritten notebook, presented by Kipling to ‘Flo’ Garrard, the beautiful art student with whom he had fallen in love after meeting her in the summer of 1880, aged fourteen. (See Rutherford pp. 24-28 for details of the Notebooks.)
The title is Latin for “Beware!” This Editor remembers it (pronounced “Kay Vee”) still in use as a warning call (for instance at the approach of a master) at his prep. (primary) school in the 1940’s. The poem warns against Roses because there is no escape from the love they symbolise and the sorrow it brings. The schoolboy Kipling sent many poems to Florence Garrard, expressing his passion for her, but it does not seem that she reciprocated his feelings.
Notes on the Text
a brand of Cain In the Old Testament story, Cain killed his brother Abel. In punishment, God made him a fugitive and a vagabond, but set a mark upon him ‘lest any finding him should kill him’. (Genesis 4,15)
During his childhood years – not long before – at what he later called “The House of Desolation”, he was in the charge of an authoritarian and highly religious woman, Mrs Holloway, and made close acquaintance with many texts from the Bible which were to do with evil, punishment, and guilt.
See also Kipling’s later poem “Cain and Abel”.
The fruit of the Tree of Knowledge In the Old Testament story, God forbade Adam and Eve to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When they did eat it they were expelled from the Garden of Eden. (Genesis 2 & 3).
Lest they make to fall. In Notebook 3, this line reads ‘Lest ye stumble and fall’.
©Philip Holberton 2019 All rights reserved