The Quest


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


There are versions handwritten by Kipling in Notebooks 1 and 3, dated 5 March 1882. In Notebook 3 the poem figures as one of a sequence of four sonnets, the others being “In the Beginning” [A Creed], “A Tryst” [The Tryst in Summer], and “The Attainment” [Escaped]. (Andrew Rutherford p. 120). See Rutherford p. 24-28 for details of the Notebooks.

The poem was never collected by Kipling, but is to be found in Rutherford p. 120, and Pinney p. 1628. It should not be confused with the later poem of the same name written in 1896.

The Poem

Many years ago, the poet and his Lady vowed to live together in a fairy castle. But he has not seen her for a long time and he is on a quest to find her or to find her grave. He asks whether she is still alive. The theme is like that of Kipling’s slightly earlier poem “A Question”, though there he asks whether his love is still alive, rather than the beloved lady.

Rutherford notes that in line 6 Notebook 3 has ‘days’, but Notebook 1 ‘years’ which the rhyme scheme requires.


©Philip Holberton 2019 All rights reserved