A Ballade of Indian Tea

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


A typescript copy in the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. of a poem sent from New York to Julia Taylor, one of the sisters of Mrs Edmonia Hill, with whom Kipling had travelled from India across the ocean to the United States in the Spring of 1889.

It was not collected by Kipling, but is to be found in Rutherford (p. 464) and Pinney (p. 1959).

The Poem

This was written just before Kipling sailed for England on 25 September 1889 on the City of Berlin. He accompanied Mrs Hill, her other sister Caroline and their cousin Edgar. Professor Hill had gone ahead of them.

On 16 September Kipling had written to Mrs Hill from Boston, telling her to rest easy in regard to that tea:

… if all New York holds a single pound of Kangra Valley that will I get for you to cheer you on your weary way across the Atlantic.

On 17 September he reported that he had scoured Boston and secured some Assam tea.

The poem is a classical Ballade, with eight-line verses and an Envoi, traditionally addressed to a Royal patron, with every verse and the Envoi concluding with the same line – or at least, as here, the same phrase.

Notes on the Text

Kulu, Assam, or Palampore Tea-growing districts in Northern India.

Oo Long, Congou varieties of black tea from China.

Tamsui a district in the northern part of Formosa, now Taiwan.

Kangra Valley a tea-producing area near Dalhousie in the foothills of the Himalayas.

These would have been the teas that Mrs Hill, and indeed Kipling, had enjoyed in India.


©Philip Holberton 2020 All rights reserved