(notes by John Radcliffe)


The first publication of this poem was in Schoolboy Lyrics, published in Lahore in 1881 (when Kipling was fifteen) in an edition of around fifty for private circulation arranged by his mother Alice. This was the year before his arrival in the city to work as a journalist. It is listed in ORG as No 25. This was one of the thirty-two poems, only eight of which were published, bound by Kipling in a manuscript book entitled Sundry Phantasies, dated 1882. See ORG p. 5029.

Collected 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. Rutherford, p. 97
  • Cambridge Edition (2013 Ed. Pinney) p. 1205

The poem

The young Kipling, bent on becoming a published poet, was already conscious of the perils of the literary world, the fragility of reputation, the risks of failure, the elusive moments when success is possible. He evidently felt equally insecure in his love for Flo Garrard. This well-turned Schoolboy Lyric seems to express such anxieties.


After his unhappy years at Southsea, Kipling was sent to United Services College at Westward Ho! in Devon at the age of twelve, in 1878. Because of his poor eyesight he was no good at games, and the Head, Cormell Price, gave him the freedom of his library, where he read voraciously. See Stalky & Co. pp. 217-8). He was soon writing himself, experimenting with styles and language and themes, borrowing from many other writers, finding his voice, determined to become a published poet. ‘ After my second year at school, the tide of writing set in. ‘ (Something of Myself (p. 33):

See “Envy, Hatred, and Malice”, and “Two Sides of the Medal” for Kipling’s sense of the perils of the literary – and wider – world.

See Ann Weygandt for the influence of Kipling’s reading on his verse.

Kipling and Flo Garrard

Kipling had encountered the beautiful Flo Garrard in the summer of 1880, and fallen in love with her. He was fourteen, and she two years older. There is little evidence that his feelings were reciprocated and from time to time she made him feel inadequate. See “The Lesson”, “Credat Judaeus”, “Solus cum Sola”,and “Roses” .

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