A Dominant Power

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


There are versions in Kipling’s handwriting in Notebooks I and 3, both dated 16 February 1882.
See Andrew Rutherford pp. 24-28 for details of the Notebooks and Sundry Phansies.

The poem was never collected by Kipling, but is to be found in Rutherford p. 118, and Pinney p. 1624.

The poem

The poem has the fourteen lines of a sonnet, but the rhyme scheme is irregular. It describes a powerful man who, though unarmed, can overcome anyone anywhere, and from whom it is impossible to hide. In the last couplet he is revealed to be a god. Is he perhaps, the God of Love ?

For over 2000 years poets have claimed Love to be all-powerful, ever since Virgil wrote in his Eclogues in 37 B.C. that “Omnia vincit Amor” Love conquers all. It was a theme that greatly preccupied the young Kipling in his teenage years.

Notes on the Text

[Line 6] there be none so strong to lay him low: there is no-one strong enough to overcome him.

[Line 14] fleeting: an interesting choice of adjective. It can mean “gliding swiftly away”, but more often carries the meaning “brief, transient”, appropriate to an unhappy love affair.


©Philip Holberton 2019 All rights reserved