Rudyard Kipling

The Appeal by Rudyard Kipling

In ‘The Appeal’ Kipling explores themes of the afterlife, the supernatural, and privacy. The speaker, who is certainly Rudyard Kipling, addresses these lines to anyone who has any interest in him and his written works.

The Appeal by Rudyard Kipling


Summary of The Appeal 

The Appeal’ by Rudyard Kipling is a short but memorable poem that addresses the poet’s desire not to be contacted after his death. 

In ‘The Appeal’ Kipling appeals to all those who cared for him and his works not to try to use clairvoyants to speak with him once he was dead and buried. It was his desire that he be left alone to sleep in peace in the quiet, dark night. Rather than turn to supernatural means to learn more about the poet those who care for him should look to the books he left behind as he intended them to.


Structure of The Appeal 

‘The Appeal’ by Rudyard Kipling is a two stanza poem that is separated into sets of four lines, known as quatrains. These quatrains follow a rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD. They are fairly simple in their use of language and visually similar in the number of words and the use of line breaks. 

The lines follow two different metrical patterns. The odd-numbered lines conform to iambic tetrameter. This means that each contains four sets of two beats, the first of which is unstressed and the second stressed. The even-numbered lines use the same pattern of stresses but there are only three sets of two beats per line. 


Poetic Techniques in The Appeal 

Kipling made use of several poetic techniques in ‘The Appeal’. These include but are not limited to alliteration, enjambment, and allusion. The first of these, alliteration, occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same sound. For example “delight” and “done” in the first and second lines of the first stanza and “books” and “behind” in the last line of the second stanza. 

Another important technique commonly used in poetry is enjambment. It occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. Enjambment forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. For example, the transition between lines one and two in the first stanza as well as that between lines three and four of that same stanza. 

An allusion is an expression that’s meant to call something specific to the mind without directly stating it. In the case of this poem, the lines are alluding to a larger desire in the poet’s life to maintain privacy before and after his death. 


Analysis of The Appeal 

Stanza One 

If I have given you delight

By aught that I have done,

Let me lie quiet in that night

Which shall be yours anon:

In the first stanza of ‘The Appeal’ the speaker, who is most certainly Kipling, makes an appeal to the reader. He asks them if he has pleased them in any way during his life then to consider what he has to say next. He uses alliteration with “delight” and “done” at the ends of lines one and two. There is also an example of half-rhyme in the words, “lie,” “quiet” and “night” in the third line. 

The third line is a metaphor for death. It alludes to the future when the poet is dead and he has no control over what happens in the living world. It should be a place of rest and peace, a long and quiet night. He hopes that he will be left alone to “lie” within that night without anyone disturbing him. He’s mostly concerned about the possibility that clairvoyants are going to disturb his peace in the afterlife. 

His main argument for resting in peace is that the quiet night will be “yours anon,” or shortly. “You,” the one who is thinking about trying to contact him after he’s dead, are going to be dead soon too. 


Stanza Two 

And for the little, little, span

The dead are borne in mind,

Seek not to question other than

The books I leave behind.

The second stanza is slightly more complex than the first. It suggests that rather than seeking out the poet after death that it is better to look into his books. These are the things that he chose to leave behind and should, therefore, be all that inquiring minds have access to.

Kipling was concerned during his lifetime that things he didn’t want to be known or shared about himself would become public knowledge. Additionally, he did not want unfinished works to see the light of day. His family helped keep this from occurring. 

This poem is a plea of a different kind, a very personal request that his soul is left to whatever the afterlife brings. His belief in the kind of communication, from the living to the dead, was genuine and something he clearly wanted to avoid. 

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Emma Baldwin Poetry Expert
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.
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