There is a version handwritten by Kipling, undated, probably autumn 1883, in the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York.
It was never collected by Kipling but appears in Rutherford (p. 195) and Pinney p. 1704.
The poem forms the main part of a thank-you letter to Mrs. James Walker, at whose home in Simla he spent his first hill leave a few weeks before. James Walker was one of the proprietors of the Civil and Military Gazette (CMG) where Kipling worked as Assistant Editor in Lahore.
Kipling described his leave in a letter to his aunt Edith Macdonald, dated 14 August 1883:
The Walkers with whom I was staying are angels without wings and did their level best to make things comfortable for their guests. The month was a round of picnics, dances,theatricals and so on – and I flirted with the bottled up energy of a year on my lips.
The poem contrasts his time on leave with his life since he returned to work. As Pinney notes (p. 2246) Kipling has appropriated both the title and the stanza form of Tennyson’s poem.
I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all…
Notes on the Text
I tilt and tumble at the ring tilting was a mediaeval knightly sport, where a ring was hung up and the rider tried to carry it off on the point of his spear. Here, young Kipling was just riding, and implying that he wasn’t very good at it.
cheroots Indian cigars.
Adlard W. Adlard & Co., Civil and Military Tailors in Lahore.
and promptly – file he puts his tailor’s bill away rather than paying it.
Annandyllic a pun on ‘idyllic’ and ‘Annandale’ – the racecourse and wooded glen near Simla.
Jhampan a kind of sedan-chair for ladies.
Peliti’s (left) was a famous cafe and confectioners in Simla, well known to Mrs Hauksbee and Mrs Mallow and other fashionable ladies.
Federico Peliti was a well-known figure who also had a celebrated cafe in Calcutta.
‘Rickshaw a light 2-wheeled vehicle pulled by hand. Short for ginrickshaw.
Jakko a mountain above Simla, encircled by a road which made a favourite evening ride.
Combermere Combermere Bridge connected Simla with the area known as Chota-Simla.
chick screen for a window or door.
that raineth every day the refrain of Feste’s song that closes Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”:
…And the rain it raineth every day
M-ss O’M-R-A a Miss O’Meara is mentioned in a report of a fancy dress ball at Simla in the CMG for 18 September 1883.
presses the CMG printing-presses.
chaprassi office messenger.
lotos eating In Homer’s Odyssey Odysseus on his voyage home from Troy encounters the Lotus Eaters, whose food induces luxurious but dangerous forgetfulness. Tennyson also wrote of them:
A land where all things always seem’d the same!
And round about the keel with faces pale,
Dark faces pale against that rosy flame,
The mild-eyed melancholy Lotos-eaters came.
Solan beer there was a brewery at Solan, some 50 km South of Simla.
Henry Clays a high-class brand of cigar, contrasted with the ‘cheroots’ of verse 3.
which Byron wrote the line ‘A change came o’er the spirit of my dream’ opens each section of “The Dream” by Lord Byron (1788-1824). In Simla away from his office routine, Kipling seems to have been very aware of the poets he had discovered in the Head’s library at school.
thermantidote a device to cool rooms by driving a current of air through wet screens fixed over the windows. An early example of evaporative cooling.
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