There is a holograph [handwritten by Kipling] version in Sundry Phansies, a notebook of poems copied for Flo Garrard, the beautiful art student with whom he had fallen in love after meeting her in the summer of 1880, aged fourteen. (Andrew Rutherford p. 110).
No date, but the poem was inscribed in a copy of Departmental Ditties (1886) presented to Flo Garrard, now in the Berg Collection of New York Public Library, with the heading written in ’81.
“L’envoi” (from French) means the conclusion of a literary work. It was the last poem in Sundry Phansies. Kipling used the expression again several times: for the final poem in Departmental Ditties; for the conclusion of “Barrack Room Ballads, for the conclusion of The Story of the Gadsbys (collected as “The Winners”) and the conclusion to Life’s Handicap, under its first line “My New-cut Ashlar takes the light”.
The poem is clearly addressed to Miss Garrard. The first verse describes how quickly poems are forgotten, and the second how soon the rewards of writing pass away. But if reading these rhymes arouses any emotion in Flo, that will be the young Kipling’s greatest prize.
Flo Garrard had evidently already made it clear to Rudyard by letter in July 1884 that she was not interested in him. (See our notes on “Parting”, and “The Second Wooing”.) When Kipling sent it to her again in 1886, the title – and indeed the poem – must have had a valedictory ring.
Pinney notes that the inscription in Departmental Ditties has a different ending to the final verse, as follows:
If through these rhymes in their reading
Thy blood should be
Quickened one moment conceding
One thought to me—
Have I not thee
As a star and a light for my leading
Through time and eternity.
©Philip Holberton 2019 All rights reserved