Pro Tem

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


Holograph [handwritten by Kipling] version in Notebook 3, dated 13 October 1881.
A second copy 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.

(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. 74), and Pinney p. 1585.

The Poem

The title means “For the Time Being” (abbreviated from the Latin “Pro Tempore”). The poem describes a passionate but very brief love-affair, likening it to a blazing fire by which the couple spend a night. In the second part, when dawn comes, all is ashes, charred wood, burnt flowers; nothing precious remains.

In the last line of Verse 8 (‘Our fierce and driving fire’) Notebook 3 reads ‘Our fierce eternal fire’.

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


©Philip Holberton 2019 All rights reserved