Les Amours de Voyage


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


This is one of a group of poems handwritten by Kipling in Notebook 1, with the heading ‘S.S. Brindisi / Sept. 20th to October 20’. The Brindisi sailed from England on 20 September 1882 and arrived at Bombay on 18 October. The young Kipling, aged sixteen, was on his way to India to work on the Civil and Military Gazette Lahore as Assistant Editor.

See Rutherford pp. 24-28 for details of the Notebooks.

The first poem, numbered 1 and with the separate heading “Amour de Voyage”, was published by Kipling in Echoes (1884). (See our Notes).

The figure 2 is followed by the two verses beginning ‘When the decks were very silent’, then figure 3 and a note which reads ‘Too much waste of time to continue; the subject being a flabby not to say unwholesome one’, and the third stanza ‘But it may be —Since at first…’, which may have been intended as a draft conclusion or a separate poem. The four lines ‘For the devil that was in your heart’, noted by Pinney as written in a different style of handwriting, clearly are a separate poem (characterised by Kipling in a subsequent note as ‘mighty fine but cheap withal’).

The poem was never collected by Kipling, but is to be found in Rutherford p. 174, and Pinney p. 1683.

The Poem

The title (borrowed from Arthur Clough’s poem of 1858) is French for ‘shipboard romance’. Flirtation and romance tended to flourish when passengers were thrown together on a long voyage but the affairs were not expected to survive the journey’s end. (In verse 3 this love might last for a year.)

Kipling treated the same theme in his earlier poem “Les Amours Faciles” (February 1882), and later in “The Lovers’ Litany” published in Departmental Ditties in 1886.

In his story “The Brushwood Boy” (1895), Mrs. Zuleika tries to start an affair with George Cottar on the ship going home on leave, but he (nicknamed “Galahad” by a fellow-officer) is too innocent to realise what is going on. (The Day’s Work p. 384).

In Verse 1 line 5 Rutherford notes that the reading of ‘fires’ is uncertain.


©Philip Holberton 2019 All rights reserved