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


There is a Holograph (handwritten by Kipling) version in Notebook 1 with title “Woking Necropolis”, dated 7 June [1882]. Rutherford notes that this is presumably a slip of the pen for ‘7 July’, since the poem follows “A Voyage”, dated 6 July, and is followed immediately by “What the Young Man’s Heart Said to Him”, dated 9 July; also that here is another holograph version in Notebook 3, with the title “Severance” and that the Notebook 1 version does not have ‘Love’ at the end of lines 5,6 and 7 in the first and second stanzas. 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. 158, and Pinney p. 1671.

The Poem

‘Severance’ simply means ‘separation’, or ‘parting’. The poet addresses his dead love. He tells her to forget everything that they shared, but if it is possible, to pray that (they) meet again. The poem is presumably addressed to Flo Garrard, with whom the young Kipling had been infatuated since the summer of 1880, using death as a metaphor for their coming separation. Kipling sailed for India two months after this poem was written.

The place

Woking Necropolis, better known as Brookwood Cemetery, was the largest cemetery in the world when Kipling wrote. (It is still the largest in the UK.) About 30 km out of London, it had its own train service and railway stations. A necropolis is a city of the dead.


©Philip Holberton 2019 All rights reserved