"Credat Judaeus"

1881

(notes by John McGivering
and John Radcliffe)


the poem


[June 8th 2017]

Publication

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 17.

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. 60
  • Cambridge Edition (2013 Ed. Pinney) p. 1202.
The poem

Three couples are out in the lane, all vowing love to each other in their different ways. The poet expresses his scepticism in the title, drawn from Horace, the Roman poet much revered by Kipling; 'Credat Judaeus', 'the Jew may believe it, not I.' See also "Donec Gratus Eram", a direct rendering of an ode by Horace.

Andrew Rutherford (p. 60) notes that an early version, with a head-note 'Sketched from life in Lovers Lane Kensington', and an end-note 'and so on until the end of the world', was sent to Edith Macdonald, his mother's youngest sister, with a letter tentatively dated January 1881:
Dear Auntie
I promised to send you some more of my scribblings as soon as I had written them. Here is the latest batch. Please give me your opinion on them as soon as possible. I've got one on hand now, and your verdict on these will have a great deal to do with it.

[Thomas Pinney (Ed.) Letters vol 1 p. 8]
Rudyard also included another poem which was later included in Schoolboy Lyrics, "Requiescat in Pace".

A critical comment

Harry Ricketts writes (pp. 41-42):
Schoolboy Lyrics was a distinctly accomplished collection, notably for its tight rhythmic and verbal control and particularly for a very evident reaching after objectivity. One poem at least, "Credat Judaeus" was dauntingly good for a fifteen-year old ...

As the couples insisted in turn on the uniqueness of their love, each spoke in a carefully differentiated idiom (upper-class, middle-class, working-class). Their identical claims progressively undermned one another, while the shifts in the rhyme scheme unobtrusively underlined the changes in register. In a final ironic twist, 'the writer' no less triumphantly asserted (and undermined) the uniqueness of his own passion. 'For love that is real was given to me'.
Background

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.

He was introduced to the classics in class, in particular Virgil and Horace, by W.C.Crofts, the original of 'King' in Stalky & Co. At that time and well into the twentieth Century, Latin was a staple of secondary education in Britain, Of Crofts he writes in Something of Myself (pp. 32/33):
I wish I could have presented him as he blazed forth once on the great Cleopatra Ode—the 27th of the Third Book. I had detonated him by a very vile construe of the first few lines. Having slain me, he charged over my corpse and delivered an interpretation of the rest of the Ode unequalled for power and insight. He held even the Army Class breathless ... C—— taught me to loathe Horace for two years; to forget him for twenty, and then to love him for the rest of my days and through many sleepless nights.

After my second year at school, the tide of writing set in.
See Ann Weygandt for the influence of Kipling's reading on his verse.


Notes on the text


[Title]

Credat Judaeus Andrew Rutherford (p. 60) directs the reader to Horace, Satires, i. 5: 'credit Judaeus Apella, / non ego. ' 'Apellus the Jew may believe it, not I.'

[First couple]

the lane 'Lovers Lane' is an old expression for a quiet place where lovers can wander. There are no streets in London actually called 'Lovers Lane'

[Third couple]

Missus is mad 'Cos she says I gad out at night The young woman is a maid servant, probably living in her mistress's house, and the mistress does not approve of her going out in the evening. Her words are an early example of Kipling's rendering of ungrammatical working-class language and accent; 'them walks' for 'those walks', ' 'Cos' for 'because'.


©John McGivering and John Radcliffe 2017 All rights reserved