Two Players


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


There are two holograph (handwritten by Kipling) versions, one in Notebook 3, dated 8 December 1881, with the odd subtitle “Jay’s Mourning Warehouse”; the other in Sundry Phansies, another handwritten notebook presented by Kipling to ‘Flo’ Garrard, the beautiful art student with whom he had fallen in love after meeting her in the summer of 1880, aged fourteen. We have used the Notebook 3 version in this Guide. Sundry Phansies has ‘hopelessness’ for ‘helplessness’ in the fourth line, and ‘are left’ for ‘remain’ in the second-last line of the poem.

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. 83), and Pinney p. 1598.

The poem

The poem is reminiscent of the “Discworld” tales by Terry Pratchett, in which the many Gods play dice against each other, with the humans as their pieces.


©Philip Holberton 2019 All rights reserved