In Spring Time

(notes edited by John McGivering)

Publication history

ORG Volume 8, page 5074 records first publication in the Pioneer of 20 March 1885 (Verse No. 132.) Mentioned in a letter on October 29th 1888 to Cormell Price, his Headmaster at the United Services College. (See ORG Volume 3, page 1280)

See David Richards p. 12 for further details of publication.

Collected in:

  • Departmental Ditties and Other Verses (1885)
  • Inclusive Verse (1919)
  • Definitive Verse (1940)
  • Sussex Edition Volume 32, p. 156
  • Burwash Edition, Volume 25
  • The Works of Rudyard Kipling (Wordsworth Poetry Library)


Charles Allen (p. 177) prints the piece in full, describing it as:

… a bitter-sweet poem written as an Indian homage to Robert Browning’s famous lamentation of the Englishman in exile, “Home Thoughts from Abroad:
Oh, to be in England
Now that April’s there,

Lyrical and confident in metre, “In Springtime” was arguably the best thing he had written since “Ave Imperatrix”..

Looking at the luxuriant growth in his Indian garden, full of unfamiliar sights and sounds where English roses do not thrive, the poet wishes, like Browning, to be back in England. The returned soldier in “Mandalay”, however, takes the opposite view as he does not like the climate of London and wishes to be back in Burma:

…in a cleaner, greener land

And the other returned soldier in “Chant–Pagan” wonders

‘Ow can I ever take on
With awful old England again
‘An ‘ouses both sides of the street,
And ‘edges two sides of the lane.

This sentiment is repeated in other prose and verse.

Kipling’s verse in Browning’s manner includes “One Viceroy Resigns” and “The Beginner” in “The Muse Among the Motors.” See Ann Weygandt (pp. 103-109) for a discussion of Kipling’s debt to Browning.

See also Kipling’s verses “The Flowers”, and “Our Fathers of Old.”

Notes on the Text

[Verse 1]

koil (the spelling varies) Eudynamys orientalis, the Indian cuckoo. See Hobson-Jobson p. 490.

squirrel a bushy-tailed rodent of family Sciuridae mostly living in trees.

blue jay a crow-like bird of genus Garrulug found in Asia and the Americas.

sat-bhai defined by a footnote as ‘Indian Starlings’.

the seven brothers – a species of thrush, so-called from the birds being gregarious and generally congregating in groups of seven.

[Verse 2]

pines evergreen resinous trees of the genus Pinus of which there are 70-100 species.

loam fertile soil.

hawk a medium-sized bird of prey of the family Accipitridae.

jackdaw a bird of the crow family Corvus monedula found in Europe and Asia.

siris Acacia, one of a large group of shrubs and trees of the genus Acacia which includes the thorn trees of Africa and Asia.

knell the call of the koil (see above) reminds the poet of the tolling bell at a funeral.

aught anything


[J McG.]

©John McGivering 2011 All rights reserved