"His Consolation"



1884


(notes by John Radcliffe)

the poem


[June 28th 2017]

Publication

Published in Echoes by Two Writers in Lahore in August 1884. Listed in ORG as No 103.

. Collected, with the sub-heading (Browning) 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. 145
  • Cambridge Edition (2013) Ed. Pinney, p. 1228 .
The poem

The poet has been rejected by his love, but she must not imagine that this will deter him. She may take other lovers, but he will remain implacably committed. In the end she will turn to him.

In an earlier unpublished version dated 21 May1882 (see Rutherford p. 145) there is a third verse omitted from the published versions:
Know this—I should be doubly beast—
If I turned from the purpose set
Years back—and now when love is least
Toward me, I can linger yet
While others share the feast.
A later comment by Kipling reads: 'A good echo of Browning if I had left out the third verse', as indeed he did in the published versions.

Background

After his unhappy years at Southsea, with an unsympathetic and authoritarian foster-mother, 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 left United Services College in July 1882, and in October became Assistant Editor of the Civil and Military Gazette in Lahore. See our notes on "A Vision of India" for an account of his experiences and state of mind at that time.

Kipling and Flo Garrard

Kipling had encountered the beautiful Flo Garrard in the summer of 1880, and fallen in love with her. He was fourteen, and she two years older. There is little evidence that his feelings were reciprocated and from time to time she made him feel inadequate. See the Schoolboy Lyrics "The Lesson", "Credat Judaeus", "Solus cum Sola",and "Roses" .

However, it appears that when he left for India, aged nearly seventeen, he still believed that he had an understanding with her, and evidently corresponded with her while in India. Some time before the summer of 1884 she seems to have made it clear that she did not wish to continue their relationship. (See Angus Wilson pp. 153-156).

He was still, however, troubled by his strong feelings about her until after his return to England in 1889. See the relationship between Dick Heldar and Maisie in The Light that Failed (1891).

Kipling and Browning

Ann Weygandt (pp. 103-106) writes:
At Southsea he found an old magazine with extracts from Tennyson's poems; both at his aunt's, and in the Head's library, Swinburne was available to him; but, if he does not deliberately mislead us in Stalky & Co., it was [Browning's] Men and Women thrown at his head by "King" that had the first place in his affections.
Ann Weygandt goes on to identify a number of Browning's poems which the young Kipling was attached to, and continues:
"Fra Lippo Lippi," however, means more to Kipling than any of them. He sees a resemblance between his own miserable days at Southsea and the boy Lippo's in Florence and feels that he, as well as the painter, profited in some ways from his misery.
See Thomas Pinney's Introduction (pp. xxx to xxxii) to the Cambridge edition of Something of Myself (1990) for a further account of Kipling's affinity with the 15th century artist-monk, one of the founders of artistic realism.

Weygandt goes on to comment:
It is not difficult to understand Kipling's devotion to Browning. He shares with him a tremendous interest in people, and a liking for reconstructing the life of a former day. He enjoys the flashes of description—"On the neck the small face buoyant, like a bell-flower on its bed"—and the brief aphorismic passages, such as "If you get simple beauty and naught else You get about the best thing God invents."

Admiration soon led to imitation. At least two of the poems in Schoolboy Lyrics are deliberate parody, and many more show unmistakable signs of Browning's influence. "Overheard" and "The Jam-Pot" have both caught Browning's jerky, exclamatory style. The first copies his tendency to employ widely separated rhymewords—the scheme of the opening stanza is abccdbda—as well as his decided leaning toward the introduction of foreign phrases, here exemplified in "Voilŕ tout" and "Entre nous."
Weygandt compares this poem with "The Flight of the Bucket":
"His Consolation" is briefer and more serious in tone. Its stanza is that of "By the Fireside", "Dis Aliter Visum", and many another Browning poem, and the theme has a certain kinship with that of "The Lost Mistress", and "The Last Ride together", though this rejected lover seems rather more sure of himself than the other two.
See also
"The Beginner", one of the splendid array of later parodies in the first series of "The Muse among the Motors" (1904).




[JR.]

©John Radcliffe 2017 All rights reserved