"Requiescat in Pace"



1881

(notes by John Radcliffe)

the poem


[June 22nd 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 28. .

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. 58
  • Cambridge Edition (2013 Ed. Pinney) p. 1206 .
The poem

The grave stands ready. Aspirations, hopes, endeavours, love, are over. In the end there is peace. In writing of love, Kipling expresses a sense of release. "Requiescat in Pace", may he rest in peace. A sombre piece of writing from a schoolboy, who in other Lyrics also dwelt on death from time to time. See "This Side the Styx", "Reading the Will", and "The Front Door". Ann Weygandt notes that the abrupt beginning of the poem preserves Browning's in medias res technique.

'The damp earth, yellow and miry there at the lips of the pit' is an early example of Kipling's talent for macabre and telling detail. One is reminded of "The Other Man" (1884) sitting dead in a tonga in the rain 'with a grin on his face as if he enjoyed the joke of his arrival'; of 'a hand and half an arm held clear of the water in a stiff and horrible flourish' in "Bubbling Well Road", and of the frozen corpses in "A Madonna of the Trenches" (1924) creaking in the frost.

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. ' After my second year at school, the tide of writing set in. ' (Something of Myself (p. 33):

Ann Weygandt notes that the abrupt beginning of the poem preserves Browning's in medias res technique.


Andrew Rutherford (p. 58) reports that Kipling sent an early version of this poem, together with "Credat Judaeus" 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]





ŠJohn Radcliffe 2017 All rights reserved