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 24] nought common: See Acts of the Apostles 10.10-15:, [D.H.]
10 And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance,
11 And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending upon him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth:
12 Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
13 And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.
14 But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.
15 And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
[Line 25] ken: in this context, as far as one can understand or see.
[J H McG]
©John McGivering 2006 All rights reserved
The Ashlar in Freemasonry
Kipling’s membership in Freemasons Lodges goes back to his time in India and pervades a great deal of his work. A key emblematical element of Freemasonry is the building of King Solomon’s Temple. While Kiping undoubtedly had an interest in architecture and construction, due to his father’s profession, the ashlar, in particular, has significant symbolism in Freemasonry. In a Masonic Lodge, two ashlars rest on the Warden’s pedestals for the Brethren to moralise on – a ‘rough ashlar’ representing man in his natural state, ignorant and uncultivated, and a ‘perfect ashlar’ for the Brother who has Masonic knowledge, thus representing the journey of man to enlightenment. The ashlars are intended for the Brethren to try and adjust their tools on, and those tools lie open in the relevant degree when the Lodge is open.[G K]