Solus cum Sola

(notes by John Radcliffe)


The first publication of this poem was in Schoolboy Lyrics, published in Lahore in 1881 (when Kipling was fifteen) in an edition of around fifty for private circulation arranged by his mother Alice. This was the year before his arrival in the city to work as a journalist. It is listed in ORG as No 31. This was one of the thirty-two poems, only eight of which were published, bound by Kipling in a manuscript book entitled Sundry Phantasies, dated 1882. See ORG p. 5029.

Collected in:

  • The Outward Bound Edition vol xvii (1900)
  • Edition de Luxe vol xviii (1900)
  • The Sussex Edition vol xxxv (1939)
  • The Burwash Edition vol xxviii (1941)
  • Early Verse by Rudyard Kipling (1986) Ed. Rutherford, p. 96
  • Cambridge Edition (2013 Ed. Pinney) p. 1204.

The poem

Two young lovers walk on a beach, in a world of their own. When they part they think only of their next time together. But in the enigmatic title “Solus cum Sola” (he alone with her alone) there is a hint that all may not be well between them.


After his unhappy years at Southsea, Kipling was sent to United Services College at Westward Ho! in Devon at the age of twelve, in 1878. Because of his poor eyesight he was no good at games, and the Head, Cormell Price, gave him the freedom of his library, where he read voraciously. See Stalky & Co. pp. 217-8). He was soon writing himself, experimenting with styles and language and themes, borrowing from many other writers, finding his voice, determined to become a published poet. ‘After my second year at school, the tide of writing set in. ‘ (Something of Myself (p. 33):

See Ann Weygandt for the influence of Kipling’s reading on his verse.

Kipling had encountered the beautiful Flo Garrard in the summer of 1880, and fallen in love with her. He was fourteen, and she a year older. There is little evidence that his feelings were reciprocated and from time to time she made him feel inadequate. See “The Lesson”, “Credat Judaeus”, and “Roses” . See also the relationship between Dick Heldar and Maisie in The Light that Failed, including the early scene on the beach, and Andrew Lycett pp. 72-4.

©John Radcliffe 2017 All rights reserved