Diana of Ephesus

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


This poem was published in the Englishman on 18 March 1887, with the signature ‘G.L.’ This was one of over fifty pseudonyms used by Kipling; see the article on the subject by Thomas Pinney in KJ340 for March 2011. It was collected in the 3rd edition of Departmental Ditties in 1888, but not included in subsequent editions.
It was not collected thereafter until the Sussex and Burwash Editions. It may be that Kipling felt that “Diana” was too recognisable as a figure on the Simla social scene.
He had already used the six lines beginning ‘And the years went on, as the years must do’ as the heading to “Venus Annodomini” in the CMG in December 1886, a story of which the plot echoes the poem. Andrew Lycett in his Rudyard Kipling (p. 144), says the adorable Venus Annodomini was a Mrs. Parry-Lambert, wife of a colonel in the Public Works Department.

The poem is also to be found in Rutherford (p. 368) and Pinney (p. 58), as well as on this site.

The Poem

The great Temple of Diana at Ephesus in Asia Minor was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It contained a wooden image of the Goddess which was said to have fallen from Heaven. See Acts 19, 23-35 in the New Testament, which describes riots in Ephesus when Paul denounced the worship of the goddess. To the Romans Diana was the goddess of hunting, and of the Underworld. To the Greeks she was Artemis, daughter of Zeus and sister of Apollo.

It is clear from the opening verse that Ephesus stands for Simla, where once a year folk flee from the glare and the dust of the Plains. The present Diana is an ageless beauty who captivates all men. In the course of time she suddenly grows old and dies, and another Diana takes her place. Although everyone knows that Diana is mortal, and she realises this herself, there is always one Diana alive to be obeyed and worshipped in the city.

A chiton is a simple Greek dress.

Revisions to the text

For the 3rd edition of Departmental Ditties in 1888 Kipling made a number of alterations in the text from the version originally printed in the Englishman:

pride for hearts

thundered for maddened

quavered for ceased as

call for prayer

after a season for after a while, in a year or ten

by the Temple gates for past

See also the article by Roger Ayers on the poem in KJ321 for March 2007, pp. 29-32.


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