Today’s Kipling – The King

Since we have recently been getting all misty about days past, I thought this poem appropriate. It is a reminder that nostalgia has always been a “thing.” What I find especially amusing is its last two verses. Today steam locomotives are the stuff of romance. When Kipling wrote this poem, boarding the 9:15 was about as exciting as boarding a jet from Houston to St. Louis.

The King

Rudyard Kipling

“Farewell, Romance!” the Cave-men said;
“With bone well carved He went away,
Flint arms the ignoble arrowhead,
And jasper tips the spear to-day.
Changed are the Gods of Hunt and Dance,
And He with these. Farewell, Romance!”

“Farewell, Romance!” the Lake-folk sighed;
“We lift the weight of flatling years;
The caverns of the mountain-side
Hold him who scorns our hutted piers.
Lost hills whereby we dare not dwell,
Guard ye his rest. Romance, farewell!”

“Farewell, Romance!” the Soldier spoke;
“By sleight of sword we may not win,
But scuffle ‘mid uncleanly smoke
Of arquebus and culverin.
Honour is lost, and none may tell
Who paid good blows. Romance, farewell!”

“Farewell, Romance!” the Traders cried;
“Our keels have lain with every sea;
The dull-returning wind and tide
Heave up the wharf where we would be;
The known and noted breezes swell
Our trudging sails. Romance, farewell!”

“Good-bye, Romance!” the Skipper said;
“He vanished with the coal we burn.
Our dial marks full-steam ahead,
Our speed is timed to half a turn.
Sure as the ferried barge we ply
‘Twixt port and port. Romance, good-bye!”

“Romance!” the season-tickets mourn,
“He never ran to catch His train,
But passed with coach and guard and horn —
And left the local — late again!”
Confound Romance!… And all unseen
Romance brought up the nine-fifteen.

His hand was on the lever laid,
His oil-can soothed the worrying cranks,
His whistle waked the snowbound grade,
His fog-horn cut the reeking Banks;
By dock and deep and mine and mill
The Boy-god reckless laboured still!

Robed, crowned and throned, He wove His spell,
Where heart-blood beat or hearth-smoke curled,
With unconsidered miracle,
Hedged in a backward-gazing world;
Then taught His chosen bard to say:
“Our King was with us — yesterday!”

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One thought on “Today’s Kipling – The King”

  1. Oh, it’s  too much, @seawriter!  Thank you for this! Was there ever a poet like Kipling?  truly he’s right up there with Shakespeare in the Anglophone pantheon!  And people dismiss him because of one phrase he wrote. ( you know which…)  Tragic.

    The prophetic poem Recessional  comes to my mind often when I’m traveling:

    “Far-called our navies drift away,

    On dune and headland sinks the fire,

    And all our pomp  of yesterday

    Is one with Nineveh and Tyre.”

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