For a Picture

Venus Meretrix


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


Holograph [handwritten by Kipling] version in Notebook 3 with title “Venus Meretrix”, dated 30 September 1881, with a note ‘time 4 A.M.’ Another holograph version in Sundry Phansies, with the title “For a Picture.” (Andrew Rutherford p. 73) Sundry Phansies is a handwritten notebook presented by Kipling to Flo Garrard, the beautiful art student with whom he fell in love when he was 14.

(See Rutherford pp. 24-28 for details of the Notebooks.)

The poem was never collected by Kipling, but is to be found in Rutherford (p. 73), and Pinney p. 1583.

The Poem

The poet knows that his lover will be unfaithful to him, but still thinks it worthwhile to cling to her. Verse 4 looks to the time when she will die and pass away to the grave — ‘another house silent and funeral’ and that will be the end of all love— ‘our Love will go from us.’ (Instead of this last phrase, Notebook 3 has the reading ‘our days will pass from us’.)

The first title “Venus Meretrix”, signifies “the beautiful harlot”, suggesting rather bitterly that the lady’s motives are venal rather than amorous. He changed it to “For a Picture” when sending the poem to Flo Garrard.

See also “Waytinge”, “To You”, “Caret”, and
“Solus cum Sola”.


©Philip Holberton 2019 All rights reserved