Today’s Kipling – The Jacket

It is New Year’s Day, the arrival of which and the day of which is celebrated with drink. (In some cases and appropriately, with strong drink.) So what better way to mark the day with a Kipling poem that celebrates drink and mentions champagne?

(For those wondering, the Arabi they are chasing is Colonel Ahmed ‘Urabi (also spelled Orabi and Arabi) who led a rebellion against Egypt’s Khedive. It started in 1879 and ran until 1882. Foreign troops, including British soldiers were “invited” in. The invitation was accepted by Britain and France in order to protect their investment in the Suez Canal. More about the background of the poem can be found here.)

The Jacket

Rudyard Kipling

Through the Plagues of Egyp’ we was chasin’ Arabi,
Gettin’ down an’ shovin’ in the sun;
An’ you might ‘ave called us dirty, an’ you might ha’ called us dry,
An’ you might ‘ave ‘eard us talkin’ at the gun.
But the Captain ‘ad ‘is jacket, an’ the jacket it was new —
(‘Orse Gunners, listen to my song!)
An’ the wettin’ of the jacket is the proper thing to do,
Nor we didn’t keep ‘im waiting very long.

One day they gave us orders for to shell a sand redoubt,
Loadin’ down the axle-arms with case;
But the Captain knew ‘is dooty, an’ he took the crackers out
An’ he put some proper liquor in its place.
An’ the Captain saw the shrapnel, which is six-an’-thirty clear.
(‘Orse Gunners, listen to my song!)
“Will you draw the weight,” sez ‘e, “or will you draw the beer?”
An’ we didn’t keep ‘im waitin’ very long.
For the Captain, etc.

Then we trotted gentle, not to break the bloomin’ glass,
Though the Arabites ‘ad all their ranges marked;
But we dursn’t ‘ardly gallop, for the most was bottled Bass,
An’ we’d dreamed of it since we was disembarked,
So we fired economic with the shells we ‘ad in ‘and,
(‘Orse Gunners, listen to my song!)
But the beggars under cover ‘ad the impidence to stand,
An’ we couldn’t keep ’em waitin’ very long.
And the Captain, etc.

So we finished ‘arf the liquor (an’ the Captain took champagne),
An’ the Arabites was shootin’ all the while;
An’ we left our wounded ‘appy with the empties on the plain,
An’ we used the bloomin’ guns for projectile!
We limbered up an’ galloped — there were nothin’ else to do —
(‘Orse Gunners, listen to my song!)
An’ the Battery came a-boundin’ like a boundin’ kangaroo,
But they didn’t watch us comin’ very long.
As the Captain, etc.

We was goin’ most extended — we was drivin’ very fine,
An’ the Arabites were loosin’ ‘igh an’ wide,
Till the Captain took the glacis with a rattlin’ “right incline,”
An’ we dropped upon their ‘eads the other side.
Then we give ’em quarter — such as ‘adn’t up and cut,
(‘Orse Gunners, listen to my song!)
An’ the Captain stood a limberful of fizzy somethin’ Brutt,
But we didn’t leave it fizzing very long.
For the Captain, etc.

We might ha’ been court-martialled, but it all come out all right
When they signalled us to join the main command.
There was every round expended, there was every gunner tight,
An’ the Captain waved a corkscrew in ‘is ‘and.
But the Captain ‘ad ‘is jacket, etc.

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