Through a reflective and introspective tone, Kipling emphasizes the importance of finding meaning and purpose beyond worldly achievements and highlights the value of emotional connections and human relationships.
The poem encourages readers to contemplate their own lives and legacies and to focus on the things that truly matter in life. As such, ‘L’Envoi’ is a powerful meditation on the meaning and purpose of human existence.
L'Envoi (1881) Rudyard KiplingRhymes, or of grief or of sorrow Pass and are not,Rhymes of today—tomorrow Lie forgot.I that am writer of verses— What is my prize?— Palm crowns and gold filled purses, Honour that dies As the year flies,As the multitude breaks and dispersesAnd the new Generations arise—?If through these rhymes in their reading Thy blood should beQuickened one moment conceding Homage to me—l have got me a prize far exceeding All prizes that be.
‘L’Envoi’ by Rudyard Kipling explores poetry and the fleeting nature of fame and fortune.
The speaker reflects on the limited impact of his verses, which may momentarily touch the emotions of readers but ultimately fade into obscurity. He questions the value of literary prizes and fame, which are short-lived and quickly forgotten as time passes and new generations emerge.
Despite this, the speaker finds solace in the idea that his words may have the power to move readers and evoke emotions, which he considers a prize far more valuable than any material reward.
The Title: “L’Envoi”
The title of the poem, ‘L’Envoi,’ is a French term that means “a sending” or “a message.” In the literary sense, an envoi is a short stanza or poem at the end of a longer work that serves as a conclusion or farewell to the reader.
The poem reflects on the meaning of fame and the uncertain legacy of the poet’s words. The poet wonders what reward he will receive for his efforts and concludes that the true prize is not wealth or fame but the ability to connect with the reader and stir their emotions.
In this sense, the title suggests that the poem is a message from the poet to his readers, a final reflection on the ephemeral nature of poetry and its place in the world.
This poem touches on several important themes, including the transience of fame and success, the value of emotional connections, and the search for meaning and purpose in life. The poem suggests that the true value of poetry lies not in achieving fame or fortune but in its ability to connect with readers on an emotional level.
Kipling also acknowledges the impermanence of human achievements, highlighting the importance of finding meaning and purpose beyond worldly success.
The poem’s reflective and introspective tone encourages readers to contemplate their own lives and legacies, emphasizing the importance of focusing on the things that truly matter, such as human connections and emotional fulfillment.
Structure and Form
‘L’Envoi’ by Rudyard Kipling is a three-stanza poem that is divided into uneven stanzas. The first has four lines, the second: seven, and the third: six. The poem follows a simple rhyme scheme in each stanza. The first rhymes: ABAB, the second: ABABCCCA, and the third: ABABAB. The poet chose to repeat many of the end sounds in multiple lines.
In this poem, the poet makes use of a few different literary devices. These include:
- Repetition: The repeated use of the word “Rhymes” at the beginning of the first line of stanza one and the third line of the same stanza. This is a literary device that’s also known as anaphora.
- Enjambment: This can be seen when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point. For example, “Pass and are not, / Rhymes of today—tomorrow / Lie forgot” in the first stanza.
- Personification: this can be seen when the poet imbues something in-human with human qualities or characteristics, as in “as the year flies” in the second stanza.
- Hyperbole: this is seen when the poet chooses to use exaggeration for emphasis, as in “All prizes that be” in the third stanza.
Rhymes, or of grief or of sorrow
Pass and are not,
Rhymes of today—tomorrow
The first stanza of Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘L’Envoi’ presents the idea that poems that evoke feelings of grief or sorrow are temporary and will ultimately be forgotten. The use of the word “rhymes” is a reference to poetry, which is often characterized by the use of rhyming words.
Kipling suggests that even poems that are filled with powerful emotions and are well-written will eventually fade into obscurity and be “not” remembered.
The second line of the stanza emphasizes the impermanence of poems, suggesting that they are fleeting and do not last. The third line highlights the way the public’s interests change by stating that even the poems that are popular today will be forgotten “tomorrow.” The use of the word “tomorrow” emphasizes the quick passage of time and the fleeting nature of fame.
I that am writer of verses—
What is my prize?—
Palm crowns and gold filled purses,
Honour that dies
As the year flies,
As the multitude breaks and disperses
And the new Generations arise—?
The second stanza of ‘L’Envoi’ reflects on the personal reward of writing poetry and questions its value. The speaker, who is presumably a poet, asks himself what his prize is for writing verses. The use of the first-person pronoun “I” emphasizes the personal elements of this reflection and underscores the speaker’s search for meaning.
The following line mentions palm crowns and gold-filled purses, which represent material rewards that poets may receive for their work. These rewards are temporary and fleeting, however, as the next lines emphasize. The honor that comes with such prizes is also ephemeral, “dies” as time passes, and is forgotten as new generations emerge.
The multitude, or the public, will eventually break apart and disperse, while new generations will arise, bringing new values and interests that will overshadow the poet’s work. The use of the word “arise” suggests that new generations will inevitably replace the old and that the poet’s work will eventually become irrelevant.
If through these rhymes in their reading
Thy blood should be
Quickened one moment conceding
Homage to me—
l have got me a prize far exceeding
All prizes that be.
The third stanza of ‘L’Envoi’ introduces a different perspective on the value of poetry, emphasizing its ability to affect readers in a meaningful way. The speaker suggests that if a reader’s “blood” is quickened, or if they are emotionally moved, even for a moment, then the poet has achieved a prize far greater than any material reward.
The use of the word “homage” suggests that the reader has been deeply affected by the poet’s work and may even hold the poet in high regard. The speaker finds greater value in this emotional impact than in any prize or honor that may be bestowed upon him.
The final line of the stanza emphasizes the importance of emotional impact, suggesting that this is the true goal of poetry. The use of the phrase “far exceeding all prizes that be” underscores the idea that emotional resonance is the most valuable reward a poet can receive.
‘L’Envoi’ is a reflective poem in which the poet considers the uncertain legacy of his words and the changing elements of fame. The poem reflects on the poet’s own struggles and uncertainties, as well as the broader human experience of seeking meaning and purpose in a world that is ultimately impermanent and fleeting.
Rudyard Kipling is known for many poems, stories, and novels, but perhaps his most celebrated poem is ‘If—.’ It was first published in 1895 as part of a collection of poems.
The tone of the poem is reflective and introspective. The poem is characterized by a sense of melancholy and resignation as the poet contemplates the uncertain legacy of his words and the fleeting nature of fame.
This is an important poem because it considers the uncertain legacy of a poet’s words and suggests that the true value of poetry lies not in its ability to achieve fame or fortune but rather in its ability to connect with readers on an emotional level.
Readers who enjoyed this poem should also consider reading some other Rudyard Kipling poems. For example:
- ‘A Child’s Garden’ – is a heartbreaking poem that is written from the perspective of a sick boy dreaming of escaping his confining and frightening life.
- ‘The Sea and the Hills‘ – is a poem that describes the ocean, its waves, and its incredible danger.
- ‘Boots‘ – is a poem that describes the struggles soldiers face while marching.