What the Young Man’s
Heart Said to Him

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


The poem is handwritten by Kipling in Notebook 1, dated 9 July 19882. It is crossed out, but there is no indication when this was done. 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

The first verse is spoken by the young man to his heart, wishing that it would break and let him die because the best of my life is gone by. Verse 2 is his heart’s reply. It assures him that the world is good and he is too young for release. As the months pass his trouble will fade and he will even find love again. In any case his heart cannot stop beating till God commands [it] to rest.

The poem seems to express Kipling’s rather ambivalent feelings on leaving England to start a new life as a journalist in India; in particular with the assurance that he will go again as a Lover, a man capable of love, consoling himself for his imminent parting from Flo Garrard, the beautiful young art student with whom he had long been infatuated. When he sailed, he supposed himself to be engaged to her (Charles Carrington p. 41, on the authority of Kipling’s sister ‘Trix’).


©Philip Holberton 2019 All rights reserved