A Craven

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


There are versions handwritten by Kipling in Notebook 1, dated 20 June 1882, and Notebook 3, undated.

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. 155, and Pinney p. 1666.

The poem

A ‘craven’ is a coward. This is another sad poem spoken in the person of a King who has lost his crown and treasure — perhaps because he shrank (from) the pain (verse 4 line 3) – and begs to have them back again with his old life. It could be an expression of Kipling’s reluctance to leave to take up his new life as a journalist in India, or more specifically of his sense of loss in leaving Flo Garrard, to whom, when he sailed away, he supposed himself to be engaged to her (Charles Carrington p. 41, on the authority of Kipling’s sister ‘Trix’).


©Philip Holberton 2019 All rights reserved