Today’s Kipling: That Day

Not all of Kipling’s war poetry was heroic. Some of it revealed the grimmer side of human conduct.

That Day

Rudyard Kipling

T got beyond all orders an’ it got beyond all ’ope;
It got to shammin’ wounded an’ retirin’ from the ’alt.
’Ole companies was lookin’ for the nearest road to slope;
It were just a bloomin’ knock-out—an’ our fault!

Now there ain’t no chorus ’ere to give, 
Nor there ain’t no band to play;
An’ I wish I was dead ’fore I done what I did,
Or seen what I seed that day!

We was sick o’ bein’ punished, an’ we let ’em know it, too;
An’ a company-commander up an’ ’it us with a sword,
An’ some one shouted “’Ook it!” an’ it come to sove-ki-poo,
An’ we chucked our rifles from us—O my Gawd!

There was thirty dead an’ wounded on the ground we wouldn’t keep—
No, there wasn’t more than twenty when the front begun to go—
But, Christ! along the line o’ flight they cut us up like sheep,
An’ that was all we gained by doin’ so!

I ’eard the knives be’ind me, but I dursn’t face my man,
Nor I don’t know where I went to, ’cause I didn’t ’alt to see,
Till I ’eard a beggar squealin’ out for quarter as ’e ran,
An’ I thought I knew the voice an’—it was me!

We was ’idin’ under bedsteads more than ’arf a march away:
We was lyin’ up like rabbits all about the country-side;
An’ the Major cursed ’is Maker ’cause ’e’d lived to see that day,
An’ the Colonel broke ’is sword acrost, an’ cried.

We was rotten ’fore we started—we was never disciplined;
We made it out a favour if an order was obeyed.
Yes, every little drummer ’ad ’is rights an’ wrongs to mind,
So we had to pay for teachin’—an’ we paid!

The papers ’id it ’andsome, but you know the Army knows;
We was put to groomin’ camels till the regiments withdrew,
An’ they gave us each a medal for subduin’ England’s foes,
An’ I ’ope you like my song—because it’s true!

An there ain’t no chorus ’ere to give,
Nor there ain’t no band to play;
But I wish I was dead ’fore I done what I did, 
Or seen what I seed that day


2 thoughts on “Today’s Kipling: That Day”

  1. I wasn’t sure Until I looked it up which battle  this referred to.  Sheesh!  It’s amazing after the Brits’ debacle that anybody ever went into Afghanistan again.

    And now we’re mired in it.


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