Concerning a Jawáb

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


This poem was published in the Civil and Military Gazette, 6 August 1887, with the signature ‘E.Y.’ and the heading:

“There was no other man in the case at all. She said she had simply changed her mind—had done so for a long while, but didn’t like to tell me for fear of hurting my feelings. So I gave back the letters and it’s all over.” Extract from a Private Letter.

Pinney comments in his article about Kipling’s pseudonyms in KJ 340 in March 2011 that ‘E.Y.’, only used for this poem, seems to have no particular meaning. He notes that Kipling got his “jawáb” (dismissal) from Florence Garrard in 1884 (Letters vol 1 p. 133.)

Part 2, “After”, is a revised version of “The Attainment” (also known as “Escaped”) of which there is a version in Kipling’s own handwriting in Notebook 1, dated 28 May 1882. (For details of the Notebooks see Rutherford p. 24.) It is included in Kipling’s Scrapbook 3 of his own press cuttings in the Kipling Papers at the University of Sussex Special Collections.

It was not otherwise published by Kipling, but is to be found in Rutherford (p. 383) and Pinney (p. 1862).

The Poem

A jawáb is a reply; specifically a refusal of a proposal of marriage. The two sonnets are spoken by the lady who is breaking off the engagement. “Before”, her love has died, though she has not found Comfort in new Love. As the heading says, ‘there was no other man in the case’. She is held by habit—Long Usage— Cowardice and Pity, from gaining Freedom by telling her fiancée the truth.

“After”, she has told him and is at peace, like someone rescued from drowning, and looking at the Sea while safe on the Beach. Now she can thankfully look to the Future.

The poem is an ironic return to the theme of lost love which Kipling had written much about in sonnets as a schoolboy in the early summer of 1882. See also “The Love that Died” written a few months earlier.


©Philip Holberton 2020 All rights reserved