A Locked Way

(notes by John Radcliffe and John McGivering)


Andrew Rutherford notes that this poem figures in manuscript in Kipling’s Notebook 1, dated 26 March 1882. with the sub-title ‘After long years’. A note dated February 1884 reads: ‘Where did I get the notion from. Reads like a Ros[s]etti-cum-clean Swinburne crib.’ The poem is also included in Notebooks 2 and 3 with the same date. See Rutherford p. 23 for an account of the Notebooks;

The poem was first published in Echoes by Two Writers in Lahore in August 1884. It is listed in ORG as No 117.

It is collected, with the original sub-title, in:

  • The Outward Bound Edition vol xvii (1900)
  • Edition de Luxe vol xviii (1900)
  • The Sussex Edition vol xxxv (1939)
  • The Burwash Edition vol xxviii (1941)
  • Early Verse by Rudyard Kipling (1986) Ed. Andrew Rutherford, p. 136
  • Cambridge Edition (2013) Ed. Thomas Pinney, p. 1253.

The poem

After many years, and a long journey, a man arrives at a gate at dawn, to find it barred against him. The lady of the house, an old love, refuses to open to him, rejecting his protestations and accusing him of lying to her. She has locked the door, and let the key rust. What has she to do with an old youthful love ? In the end she relents, but out of pity rather than love.

Here he may be expressing his fear of failure as a poet, or his frustration at his unsuccessful love affair with ‘Flo’ Garrard. He does not suggest a debt to any other poet, beyond the enigmatic subtitle, ‘After long years.’

The dawn was always an evocative and magical time for Kipling, a time of hope, and newness.

See “How the Day Broke”,
“The Dawn Wind”.
“The City of Dreadful Night” (Life’s Handicap p.379).
“Aunt Ellen” (Limits and Renewals p.146). and
Kim (p. 103).


Rudyard had entered United Services College in January 1878, at the age of twelve. He was very short-sighted, and no good at games, and the Head gave him the run of his library, where he read voraciously and soon started to write poems for himself, determined to become a published poet. He sent poems to various confidants, including his mother Alice, who published twenty-three of them in Lahore in December 1881, under the title Schoolboy Lyrics .

He had fallen in love with the beautiful ‘Flo Garrard’ the previous summer, and had written many poems for her. His feelings do not seem to have been reciprocated, and this was clearly a source of frustration, creating a sense of failure.

He left school in July 1882, and soon after sailed for India for a new life as a journalist in Lahore.


His routine work as Assistant Editor at the Civil and Military Gazette was demanding and unremitting. He was sustained by his home life with his parents, and – from December 1883 – by a happy partnership with his young sister ‘Trix’ with whom he played word games and other literary inventions, and wrote parodies.

Several of these were published in Echoes by Two Writers. This poem was clearly Kipling’s own work, dating from two years before. He does not claim it as an ‘echo’ of any other poet.
Harry Ricketts (p. 65) points out that several of the ‘echoes’ expressed long-standing pre-occupations:

Echoes not only allowed Rud to recycle older work as intentionally parodic, but provided him with a ready-made mask for his private emotions.

©John Radcliffe and John McGivering2017 All rights reserved