The City of the Heart

(notes by John McGivering and John Radcliffe)



First published in Echoes by Two Writers in Lahore in August 1884, when Kipling. then aged 18, had been in India for nearly two years. It is listed in ORG as No 128.

Collected in

  • The Outward Bound Edition vol xvii (1900)
  • Edition de Luxe vol xviii (1900)
  • The Sussex Edition vol xxxv (1939)
  • The Burwash Edition vol xxviii (1941)
  • Early Verse by Rudyard Kipling (1986) Ed. Rutherford, p. 224
  • Cambridge Edition (2013 Ed. Pinney) p. 1216

The poem

A man rides through bleak threatening streets, assailed by dangers, which he beats aside, and by strength of will is able to ignore. It is a vivid metaphor for the writer’s struggles with his own heart-felt emotions, so as to master them.

The poem has a sub-heading “Longfellow”


Kipling left United Services College in July 1882, and in October became Assistant Editor of the Civil and Military Gazette in Lahore. Two years later he published Echoes there with his sister ‘Trix’. See our notes on “A Vision of India” for an account of his experiences and state of mind at that time.

Kipling and Flo Garrard

As a schoolboy of fourteen Rudyard fell in love with the beautiful Florence Garrard, though his feelings do not seem to have been reciprocated.

A number of his early poems reflect his relationship with Flo: see
“Caret” ,
“The Lesson” ,
“Credat Judaeus” , and
“Solus cum Sola” .

He evidently still regarded himself as engaged to her in the autumn of 1882, when he sailed to India. He must have continued to write to her from Lahore, until, some time before July 1884, she evidently wrote to break off any understanding they might have had. See
Angus Wilson (p. 153). .
Harry Ricketts (p. 65) sees this as an ‘echo’ with a heavily disguised biographical underlayer:

Echoes not only allowed Rud to recycle older work as intentionally parodic, but provided him with a ready-made mask for his private emotions. “The City of the Heart” was probably the clearest example. Ostensibly a parody of Longfellow, the last two quatrains in fact portrayed the current state of Rud’s feelings for Flo, and his rather desperate attempts to keep them buttoned down. Here the ‘echoes’ were quite as much personal as literary.

Kipling and Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) was Professor of Modern Languages at Harvard. His many poems include “Excelsior”, “The Building of the Ship”, “Hiawatha”, “The Ride of Paul Revere”, and “The Discovery of the North Cape”.

Aome of his work was much loved by Kipling.
See “The Finest Story i the World” (Many Inventions ( p. 102) and “The Knights of the Joyous Venture” (Puck of Pook’s Hill p. 69). See also Kipling’s later parody of Longfellow in “Contradictions”, in the first series of “The Muse among the Motors” (1904).

Ann Weygandt sees Kipling as more critical of Longfellow (pp. 152/3):

There is no doubt that he perceives Longfellow’s faults as clearly as his abilities in the way of marshalling ‘valiant words’. His parodies, “The City of the Heart” and
“Contradictions” both comment on the tendency to draw a moral apparent in “The Village Blacksmith” and “Sea-Weed,” and both, the first especially, exhibit the commonplaceness of thought and diction that makes the lesser Longfellow such dull reading.


Notes on the Text

[Verse 2]

athwart usually meaning ‘at right-angles to the fore-and-aft line of a vessel’, or ‘across’, but here simply meaning ‘through’. Here somewhat ill-chosen.

[Verse 3]

gully Echoes has ‘alley’, changed to ‘gully’ when collected.

bay in this context to howl like a dog or a wolf.

[Verse 4]

beasts Echoes has ‘things’, changed to ‘beasts’ when collected.

©John McGivering and John Radcliffe 2017 All rights reserved