Verses on fruit plates

1889


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


the poem
[August 16th 2020]

Source

The originals of these verses painted on fruitplates are in the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.

Background

On his way back from India to England, having crossed the United States on his own, Kipling rejoined Mrs Edmonia Hill and her husband in her home town of Beaver, Pennsylvania. She later wrote:
Beaver, August. I've been painting a set of dessert plates with a design of our wild flowers to take back to India. One day Mr Kipling, who has seemed unusually preoccupied, demanded china and paint. We wondered what project was being evolved in that fertile brain and now we know, for he has put upon six fruit plates some clever verses, about ten lines each, which he painted directly on the china without any notes. His subjects are Plums, Peach, Berries, Water-melon, Apples, Grapes. I'll copy the verses soon. They are rather badly painted in dark blue, as he was not accustomed to china paints and did not know how to use the turpentine. We tried to help, but he was too speedy for us.
[The Young Kipling, Atlantic Monthly Vol.clvii, April 1936, p. 415. and Harold Orel vol. 1. p. 106.]
Thirty years afterwards Kipling could not recall painting them, but Edmonia and her sister Caroline gave firm testimony to his authorship.[Kipling Papers at U.Sussex 23/11]

The poems are also to be found in Rutherford (p. 458) and Pinney (p. 1955).

The Poems

Most are written in the English of the early seventeenth century or earlier to give an archaic effect, for instance using 'ye' for 'the' and adding an extra 'e' on the end of many words. He often did this at school, imitating early poets - see for instance "Waytinge", written in 1881; also more recently "Ye Printer's Devil, Verie Wyse" of Christmas 1886.


Notes on the text


[BERRIES] >

gamins mischievous little street-boys (French).

[APPLES]

Eden lost In the Old Testament it is told that God put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. They might eat the fruit of every tree, except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Eve, tempted by ye Snake, pluckt the fruit, they both ate it and in punishment were driven forth. The Bible does not actually specify that the fruit was an apple, but this is a long standing tradition in England and elsewhere. (Genesis 3, verses 2-6 and 23-4)

[GRAPES]

Gallia's pride Gallia (Gaul) was the Roman name for France. Since Roman times France had been famed for its wines.


[P.H.]

©Philip Holberton 2020 All rights reserved