The Night of Power


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


A uncompleted handwritten draft on diary page for 1 January 1888, in the Library of Congress. Decorated with marginal sketches of a hookah, a Gurkha knife, a railway engine, two profiles, and an Indian scene . The fact that the poem appears on that diary page does not necessarily mean it was written on that date, but it does suggest 1888 as the year of composition.

It was not collected by Kipling, but is to be found in Rutherford (p. 388) and Pinney (p. 2194); Pinney includes it among other incomplete and fragmentary poems.

The Poem

The poem anticipates the theme of “How Fear Came” in The Second Jungle Book (1895). That story tells how Tha, the First of the Elephants, made the Tiger master of the jungle, but deposed him for killing a fellow animal. He replaced him first by the Ape, and then by Man who became Fear for all the jungle creatures. To compensate for his lost authority, the First of the Tigers was allowed one night of power each year, when Man feared him and was his victim.

As Rutherford notes (p. 388), this fragment is of particular interest in giving a view of Kipling in the process of composition. His cancellations are shown here in square brackets, with double square brackets for cancelled variations within cancelled lines. Gaps indicate illegible words. Caetera desunt means ‘the rest is missing’ in Latin.


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