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


Handwritten version signed “J.R.K.” said to be written for Miss Florence Garrard, in the Berg Collection of New York Public Library. (Kipling’s full name was Joseph Rudyard Kipling.)
Undated. ? 1881-2 ( Andrew Rutherford (Ed.) p. 111)

The poem was never collected by Kipling, but is to be found in Rutherford p. 111, and Pinney p. 1613.
Kipling and Flo Garrard.  It should not be confused with the later poem of June 1882  Parting (In the Hall).

The young Kipling had become infatuated with Flo Garrard in the summer of 1880, when he was fourteen, and she a year older. She was staying at Lorne Lodge in Southsea, and had made friends with his sister ‘Trix’. Andrew Lycett (p. 73) writes:

Trix was almost as entranced as her brother, recalling Flo’s ‘beautiful ivory face, the straight slenderness of her figure, and the wonder of her long hair when she brushed it at night’.

We know little of what really passed between Flo and Rudyard, but it is clear that he saw himself as passionately in love with her, though she does not seem to have returned his affections. This did not deter him from writing many love poems about their relationship and sending them to her in Sundry Phansies in 1882. When he left for India in October of that year he saw himself as engaged to her.

The Poem

This poem would fit a date late in 1882, when Kipling knew he was to go out to India or was even on his way. Although “far asunder”, the poet swears that he has been true to his Love, he will remember her till Death, and even if she ceases to love him, his love will not grow cold. He suspects that she will burn the poem, but prays that he alone may bear the. whole weight of their sin.

Kipling knew all about the punishments in store for sinners. His parents were both the children of Wesleyan ministers; as Angus Wilson points out (p.49) the accent of Wesley’s original preaching was much more upon Heaven than upon Hell. But in December 1871, just before his sixth birthday, he was brought home from India and boarded out at Lorne Lodge in Southsea. There he spent six formative years in the care of Mrs. Holloway. Angus Wilson deduces that it is likely that Mrs. Holloway adhered to the Old Calvinist view of unsaved, reprobate children. In any case, in Something of Myself (p. 6) Kipling writes: ‘I had never heard of Hell, so I was introduced to it in all its terrors.’

See also “Baa Baa Black Sheep”.


©Philip Holberton 2019 All rights reserved