My New–Cut Ashlar

(L’Envoi to Life’s Handicap)


(notes by John McGivering)


Publication history

Martindell (p. 43) records the first appearance of these verses in the National Observer of December 6 1890 as “Twilight in the Abbey.”

This version is collected in the Burwash and Sussex Editions, and, with variations, in Definitive Verse, Inclusive Verse and Songs from Books, under the title “My New-Cut Ashlar”.

As he developed as a writer, Kipling increasingly explored the possibilities of linking poems with stories, and with collections. ORG (Verse, Volume 1, p. 5042) has a list of eight poems which share this title. Another “Envoi” (“L’Envoi to Sundry Phansies”, beginning: ‘Rhymes, or of grief or of sorrow’) is to be found in Early Verse (Ed. Andrew Rutherford), pp. 110-111.)

See also the “Envoi” to Departmental Ditties, beginning: ‘The smoke upon your Altar dies’, which, together with “My New-Cut Ashlar”, is included in T.S.Eliot’s A Choice of Kipling’s Verse (Faber & Faber, 1941).

Notes on the Text

[Title] ‘L’Envoi’ was, in old French poetry, a ‘conclusion’ or ‘result’, and also verses at the end of a literary composition to point a moral or dedicate the poem to a particular person. See Chapter 7 of R. M. Alden’s English Verse (Henry Holt & Co. N.Y. (1903)

[Line 1] ashlar cut and dressed stone used in fine masonry, as in churches or great houses.

[Line 5] If there be good in what I wrought etc Andrew Lycett (p. 254) refers to Something of Myself (p. 208) where Kipling explains how he would stand back and allow his Daemon, the mysterious spirit of his creativity, to inspire his writing.

[line 21] One stone the more swings to her place From the Middle Ages and probably earlier, stonemasons used cranes to place stones that were too heavy for a man to lift. See “A Truthful Song” for Kipling’s sense of the continuity of building techniques across the centuries.

[Line 25] ken in this context, as far as one can understand or see.

[J H McG]

©John McGivering 2006 All rights reserved