Our Lady of Rest

(notes edited by John McGivering)

Publication history

ORG Volume 8, page 5119 lists this poem as Verse No.185. It was first published in the Civil and Military Gazette of 15 June 1886. See also David Alan Richards, p. 142 for further details of publication. It is collected in:

  • The Edition de Luxe (Early Verse), 1900
  • The Sussex Edition Volume 32, page 93
  • The Burwash Edition, Volume 25
  • Early Verse Edited by Andrew Rutherford. OUP 1986

We have used the text from Rutherford’s edition of Early Verse (p. 324) with the advantage of his notes.

Theme and Background

A sufferer from the heat of the plains of India considers the pleasant, health-giving climate of the Hills with the opportunity of the rest he craves.

The extreme discomfort of the Hot Weather in India is described in “At the End of the Passage” (Life’s Handicap) and other Indian stories, which give a glimpse of life when the primitive hand-operated punkahs and thermantidotes were the only methods of lowering the temperature in the days before air-conditioning.

Our Lady invites the sufferers to come to her in the Hills.

Notes on the Text


Our Lady is usually taken to be the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus, an important figure in Christian belief.

[Verse 1]

pine evergreen resinous trees, of the genus Pinus.

bluebells the harebells (Campanula rotundifolia) or the wild hyacinth (Endyminon nonscriptus).

Hill-daisies probably Bellis perennis with single wtite or pink flowers.

[Verse 2]

Firmament the vault of heaven with clouds and stars – an echo of the Creation of the World described in Chapter 1 of Genesis.

Pit in this context, hell.

levin-lit illuminated by a flash of lightning; levin is an archaic word for lightning, an echo of Kipling’s reading of earlier writers. See Alastair Wilson’s notes on A Fleet in Being p. 34 line 22.

furnace The Book of Daniel, Chapter 3 tells how Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were cast into the burning fiery furnace for refusing to worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s image:

therefore the king commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated … but they were not harmed … nor was an hair of their head singed…

a marvellous palace these lines probably refer to Simla or some other hill-station.

the yoke of our servitude galls us the wooden collar used to attach oxen to the plough or other load was liable to chafe and damage the skin

[Verse 4]

a handful of silver an echo of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas for thirty pieces o silver (Matthew, 26, 15), and Robert Browning’s poem “The Lost Leader” which laments Worsdworth’s abandonment of liberal ideas:

Just for a handful of silver he left us
Just for a riband to stick on his coat…

the Isles of the West the islands which make up the United Kingdom

Himalayan the Himalayas, the great mountain range in Asia, separating the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau. The name is also used more widely of the massive mountain system that includes the Karakoram and the Hindu Kush.

Simla and other places in the foothills of the Himalayas were developed by the British as Hill Stations, refuges from the heat of the Plains, with sanatoria and hospitals, together with a lively social life which is described in Plain Tales from the Hills and many poems of the 1880s. See Mrs Hauksbee & Co. edited by John Whitehead (Hearthstone Publications, 1998)/


[J McG.]

©John McGivering 2011 All rights reserved