Today’s Kipling – King Henry VII and the Shipwrights

(Since I quoted part of it in a comment, I thought I ought to put in the whole thing.)

King Henry VII and the Shipwrights

Rudyard Kipling

HARRY, our King in England, from London town is gone
And comen to Hamull on the Hoke in the Countie of Suthampton.
For there lay the Mary of the Tower, his ship of war so strong,
And he would discover, certaynely, if his shipwrights did him wrong.

He told not none of his setting forth, nor yet where he would go,
(But only my Lord of Arundel) and meanly did he show,
In an old jerkin and patched hose that no man might him mark.
With his frieze hood and cloak above, he looked like any clerk.

He was at Hamull on the Hoke about the hour of the tide,
And saw the Mary haled into dock, the winter to abide,
With all her tackle and habilaments which are the King his own;
But then ran on his false shipwrights and stripped her to the bone.

They heaved the main-mast overboard, that was of a trusty tree,
And they wrote down it was spent and lost by force of weather at sea.
But they sawen it into planks and strakes as far as it might go,
To maken beds for their own wives and little children also.

There was a knave called Slingawai, he crope beneath the deck,
Crying: ” Good felawes, come and see! The ship is nigh a wreck!
For the storm that took our tall main-mast, it blew so fierce and fell,
Alack! it hath taken the kettles and pans, and this brass pott as well l”

With that he set the pott on his head and hied him up the hatch,
While all the shipwrights ran below to find what they might snatch;
All except Bob Brygandyne and he was a yeoman good.
He caught Slingawai round the waist and threw him on to the mud.

“I have taken plank and rope and nail, without the King his leave,
After the custom of Portesmouth, but I will not suffer a thief.
Nay, never lift up thy hand at me – there’s no clean hands in the trade.
Steal in measure,” quo’ Brygandyne. ” There’s measure in all things made!”

“Gramercy, yeoman!” said our King. “Thy council liketh me.”
And he pulled a whistle out of his neck and whistled whistles three.
Then came my Lord of Arundel pricking across the down,
And behind him the Mayor and Burgesses of merry Suthampton town.

They drew the naughty shipwrights up, with the kettles in their hands,
And bound them round the forecastle to wait the King’s commands.
But ” Sith ye have made your beds,” said the King, ” ye needs must lie thereon.
For the sake of your wives and little ones – felawes, get you gone!”

When they had beaten Slingawai, out of his own lips
Our King appointed Brygandyne to be Clerk of all his ships.
“Nay, never lift up thy hands to me – there’s no clean hands in the trade.
But steal in measure,” said Harry our King. “There’s measure in all things made!”

God speed the Mary of the Tower, the Sovereign, and Grace Dieu,
The Sweepstakes and the Mary Fortune, and the Henry of Bristol too !
All tall ships that sail on the sea, or in our harbours stand,
That they may keep measure with Harry our King and peace in Engeland !


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Today’s Kipling – The Ballad of Boh Da Thone

(Today I am in the mood for something that is politically, incorrect, a little gory, and funny.  Something like . . . )

The Ballad of Boh Da Thone

Rudyard Kipling

This is the ballad of Boh Da Thone,
Erst a Pretender to Theebaw’s throne,
Who harried the district of Alalone:
How he met with his fate and the V.P.P.*
At the hand of Harendra Mukerji,
Senior Gomashta, G.B.T.**

Boh Da Thone was a warrior bold:
His sword and his rifle were bossed with gold,

And the Peacock Banner his henchmen bore
Was stiff with bullion, but stiffer with gore.

He shot at the strong and he slashed at the weak
From the Salween scrub to the Chindwin teak:

He crucified noble, he sacrificed mean,
He filled old ladies with kerosene:

While over the water the papers cried,
“The patriot fights for his countryside!”

But little they cared for the Native Press,
The worn white soldiers in Khaki dress,

Who tramped through the jungle and camped in the byre,
Who died in the swamp and were tombed in the mire,

Who gave up their lives, at the Queen’s Command,
For the Pride of their Race and the Peace of the Land.

Now, first of the foemen of Boh Da Thone
Was Captain O’Neil of the Black Tyrone,

And his was a Company, seventy strong,
Who hustled that dissolute Chief along.

There were lads from Galway and Louth and Meath
Who went to their death with a joke in their teeth,

And worshipped with fluency, fervour, and zeal
The mud on the boot-heels of “Crook” O’Neil.

But ever a blight on their labours lay,
And ever their quarry would vanish away,

Till the sun-dried boys of the Black Tyrone
Took a brotherly interest in Boh Da Thone:

And, sooth, if pursuit in possession ends,
The Boh and his trackers were best of friends.

The word of a scout — a march by night —
A rush through the mist — a scattering fight —

A volley from cover — a corpse in the clearing —
The glimpse of a loin-cloth and heavy jade earring —

The flare of a village — the tally of slain —
And. . .the Boh was abroad on the raid again!

They cursed their luck, as the Irish will,
They gave him credit for cunning and skill,

They buried their dead, they bolted their beef,
And started anew on the track of the thief

Till, in place of the “Kalends of Greece”, men said,
“When Crook and his darlings come back with the head.”

They had hunted the Boh from the hills to the plain —
He doubled and broke for the hills again:

They had crippled his power for rapine and raid,
They had routed him out of his pet stockade,

And at last, they came, when the Daystar tired,
To a camp deserted — a village fired.

A black cross blistered the morning-gold,
And the body upon it was stark and cold.

The wind of the dawn went merrily past,
The high grass bowed her plumes to the blast.

And out of the grass, on a sudden, broke
A spirtle of fire, a whorl of smoke —

And Captain O’Neil of the Black Tyrone
Was blessed with a slug in the ulnar-bone —
The gift of his enemy Boh Da Thone.

(Now a slug that is hammered from telegraph-wire
Is a thorn in the flesh and a rankling fire.)

. . . . .

The shot-wound festered — as shot-wounds may
In a steaming barrack at Mandalay.

The left arm throbbed, and the Captain swore,
“I’d like to be after the Boh once more!”

The fever held him — the Captain said,
“I’d give a hundred to look at his head!”

The Hospital punkahs creaked and whirred,
But Babu Harendra (Gomashta) heard.

He thought of the cane-brake, green and dank,
That girdled his home by the Dacca tank.

He thought of his wife and his High School son,
He thought — but abandoned the thought — of a gun.

His sleep was broken by visions dread
Of a shining Boh with a silver head.

He kept his counsel and went his way,
And swindled the cartmen of half their pay.

. . . . .

And the months went on, as the worst must do,
And the Boh returned to the raid anew.

But the Captain had quitted the long-drawn strife,
And in far Simoorie had taken a wife;

And she was a damsel of delicate mould,
With hair like the sunshine and heart of gold,

And little she knew the arms that embraced
Had cloven a man from the brow to the waist:

And little she knew that the loving lips
Had ordered a quivering life’s eclipse,

Or the eye that lit at her lightest breath
Had glared unawed in the Gates of Death.

(For these be matters a man would hide,
As a general rule, from an innocent Bride.)

And little the Captain thought of the past,
And, of all men, Babu Harendra last.

. . . . .

But slow, in the sludge of the Kathun road,
The Government Bullock Train toted its load.

Speckless and spotless and shining with ghi,
In the rearmost cart sat the Babu-jee.

And ever a phantom before him fled
Of a scowling Boh with a silver head.

Then the lead-cart stuck, though the coolies slaved,
And the cartmen flogged and the escort raved;

And out of the jungle, with yells and squeals,
Pranced Boh Da Thone, and his gang at his heels!

Then belching blunderbuss answered back
The Snider’s snarl and the carbine’s crack,

And the blithe revolver began to sing
To the blade that twanged on the locking-ring,

And the brown flesh blued where the bay’net kissed,
As the steel shot back with a wrench and a twist,

And the great white oxen with onyx eyes
Watched the souls of the dead arise,

And over the smoke of the fusillade
The Peacock Banner staggered and swayed.

Oh, gayest of scrimmages man may see
Is a well-worked rush on the G.B.T.!

The Babu shook at the horrible sight,
And girded his ponderous loins for flight,

But Fate had ordained that the Boh should start
On a lone-hand raid of the rearmost cart,

And out of that cart, with a bellow of woe,
The Babu fell — flat on the top of the Boh!

For years had Harendra served the State,
To the growth of his purse and the girth of his pêt.

There were twenty stone, as the tally-man knows,
On the broad of the chest of this best of Bohs.

And twenty stone from a height discharged
Are bad for a Boh with a spleen enlarged.

Oh, short was the struggle — severe was the shock —
He dropped like a bullock — he lay like a block;

And the Babu above him, convulsed with fear,
Heard the labouring life-breath hissed out in his ear.

And thus in a fashion undignified
The princely pest of the Chindwin died.

. . . . .

Turn now to Simoorie where, lapped in his ease,
The Captain is petting the Bride on his knees,

Where the whit of the bullet, the wounded man’s scream
Are mixed as the mist of some devilish dream —

Forgotten, forgotten the sweat of the shambles
Where the hill-daisy blooms and the gray monkey gambols,

From the sword-belt set free and released from the steel,
The Peace of the Lord is on Captain O’Neil.

. . . . .

Up the hill to Simoorie — most patient of drudges —
The bags on his shoulder, the mail-runner trudges.

“For Captain O’Neil, Sahib. One hundred and ten
Rupees to collect on delivery.”
Then

(Their breakfast was stopped while the screw-jack and hammer
Tore waxcloth, split teak-wood, and chipped out the dammer;)

Open-eyed, open-mouthed, on the napery’s snow,
With a crash and a thud, rolled — the Head of the Boh!

And gummed to the scalp was a letter which ran: —
“IN FIELDING FORCE SERVICE.
Encampment,
10th Jan.

“Dear Sir, — I have honour to send, as you said,
For final approval (see under) Boh’s Head;

“Was took by myself in most bloody affair.
By High Education brought pressure to bear.

“Now violate Liberty, time being bad,
To mail V.P.P. (rupees hundred) Please add

“Whatever Your Honour can pass. Price of Blood
Much cheap at one hundred, and children want food;

“So trusting Your Honour will somewhat retain
True love and affection for Govt. Bullock Train,

“And show awful kindness to satisfy me,
I am,
Graceful Master,
Your
H. MUKERJI.”

. . . . .

As the rabbit is drawn to the rattlesnake’s power,
As the smoker’s eye fills at the opium hour,

As a horse reaches up to the manger above,
As the waiting ear yearns for the whisper of love,

From the arms of the Bride, iron-visaged and slow,
The Captain bent down to the Head of the Boh.

And e’en as he looked on the Thing where It lay
‘Twixt the winking new spoons and the napkins’ array,

The freed mind fled back to the long-ago days —
The hand-to-hand scuffle — the smoke and the blaze —

The forced march at night and the quick rush at dawn —
The banjo at twilight, the burial ere morn —

The stench of the marshes — the raw, piercing smell
When the overhand stabbing-cut silenced the yell —

The oaths of his Irish that surged when they stood
Where the black crosses hung o’er the Kuttamow flood.

As a derelict ship drifts away with the tide
The Captain went out on the Past from his Bride,

Back, back, through the springs to the chill of the year,
When he hunted the Boh from Maloon to Tsaleer.

As the shape of a corpse dimmers up through deep water,
In his eye lit the passionless passion of slaughter,

And men who had fought with O’Neil for the life
Had gazed on his face with less dread than his wife.

For she who had held him so long could not hold him —
Though a four-month Eternity should have controlled him —

But watched the twin Terror — the head turned to head —
The scowling, scarred Black, and the flushed savage Red —

The spirit that changed from her knowing and flew to
Some grim hidden Past she had never a clue to.

But It knew as It grinned, for he touched it unfearing,
And muttered aloud, “So you kept that jade earring!”

Then nodded, and kindly, as friend nods to friend,
“Old man, you fought well, but you lost in the end.”

. . . . .

The visions departed, and Shame followed Passion: —
“He took what I said in this horrible fashion,

“I’ll write to Harendra!” With language unsainted
The Captain came back to the Bride. . .who had fainted.

. . . . .

And this is a fiction? No. Go to Simoorie
And look at their baby, a twelve-month old Houri,

A pert little, Irish-eyed Kathleen Mavournin —
She’s always about on the Mall of a mornin’ —

And you’ll see, if her right shoulder-strap is displaced,
This: Gules upon argent, a Boh’s Head, erased!

– – – – – – – – – –

* V.P.P. Value Payable Parcels Post, collect on delivery.
** G.B.T. Government Bullock Train.
ghi butter
pêt stomach
dammer sealing wax.


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Today’s Kipling – The Camel’s Hump

(I recently got into a discussion with some relatives about what happens when you lack any meaningful work. We all agreed that life gets real old fast when that happens. Which reminded me of this poem, which comes from Kipling’s Just So Stories.)

The Camel’s Hump

Rudyard Kipling

The Camel’s hump is an ugly lump
Which well you may see at the Zoo;
But uglier yet is the hump we get
From having too little to do.

Kiddies and grown-ups too-oo-oo,
If we haven’t enough to do-oo-oo,
We get the hump —
Cameelious hump —
The hump that is black and blue!

We climb out of bed with a frouzly head,
And a snarly-yarly voice.
We shiver and scowl and we grunt and we growl
At our bath and our boots and our toys;

And there ought to be a corner for me
(And I know’ there is one for you)
When we get the hump —
Cameelious hump —
The hump that is black and blue!

The cure for this ill is not to sit still,
Or frowst with a book by the fire;
But to take a large hoe and a shovel also,
And dig till you gently perspire;

And then you will find that the sun and the wind,
And the Djinn of the Garden too,
Have lifted the hump —
The horrible hump —
The hump that is black and blue!

I get it as well as you-oo-oo —
If I haven’t enough to do-oo-oo!
We all get hump —
Cameelious hump —
Kiddies and grown-ups too!
From How the Camel Got His Hump


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Today’s Kipling – Philadelphia

(A poem that captures the delights of Pennsylvania past and present. This is another poem that accompanied one of Kipling’s short stories. While some aspects of “modern” Philadelphia are dated – does the Limited still run? – the things that truly last are all still in Pennsylvania this morning.)

Philadelphia

Rudyard Kipling

“Brother Square-Toes”Rewards and Fairies.

If you’re off to Philadelphia in the morning,
You mustn’t take my stories for a guide.
There’s little left, indeed, of the city you will read of,
And all the folk I write about have died.
Now few will understand if you mention Talleyrand,
Or remember what his cunning and his skill did;
And the cabmen at the wharf do not know Count Zinzendorf,
Nor the Church in Philadelphia he builded.

It is gone, gone, gone with lost Atlantis,
(Never say I didn’t give you warning).
In Seventeen Ninety-three ’twas there for all to see,
But it’s not in Philadelphia this morning.

If you’re off to Philadelphia in the morning,
You mustn’t go by anything I’ve said.
Bob Bicknell’s Southern Stages have been laid aside for ages,
But the Limited will take you there instead.
Toby Hirte can’t be seen at One Hundred and Eighteen
North Second Street–no matter when you call;
And I fear you’ll search in vain for the wash-house down the lane
Where Pharaoh played the fiddle at the ball.

It is gone, gone, gone with Thebes the Golden,
(Never say I didn’t give you warning).
In Seventeen Ninety-four ’twas a famous dancing floor–
But it’s not in Philadelphia this morning.

If you’re off to Philadelphia in the morning,
You must telegraph for rooms at some Hotel.
You needn’t try your luck at Epply’s or “The Buck,”
Though the Father of his Country liked them well.
It is not the slightest use to inquire for Adam Goos,
Or to ask where Pastor Meder has removed–so
You must treat as out of date the story I relate
Of the Church in Philadelphia he loved so.

He is gone, gone, gone with Martin Luther
(Never say I didn’t give you warning)
In Seventeen Ninety-five he was, ( rest his soul! ) alive.
But he’s not in Philadelphia this morning.

If you’re off to Philadelphia this morning,
And wish to prove the truth of what I say,
I pledge my word you’ll find the pleasant land behind
Unaltered since Red Jacket rode that way.
Still the pine-woods scent the noon; still the catbird sings his
tune;
Still autumn sets the maple-forest blazing;
Still the grape-vine through the dusk flings her soul-compelling
musk;
Still the fire-flies in the corn make night amazing!
They are there, there, there with Earth immortal
( Citizens, I give you friendly warning ). .
The thins that truly last when men and times have passed,
They are all in Pennsylvania this morning!


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Today’s Kipling – The City of Brass

Kipling could be full of warning. Few of his poems were as cautionary as this one. When he wrote it, it was a warning about what a welfare state would do to Britain. It seems as relevant today.

“The City of Brass”

Rudyard Kipling

1909

“Here was a people whom after their works
thou shalt see wept over for their lost dominion:
and in this palace is the last information
respecting lords collected in the dust.” –
The Arabian Nights.

In a land that the sand overlays – the ways to her gates are untrod –
A multitude ended their days whose gates were made splendid by God,
Till they grew drunk and were smitten with madness and went to their fall,
And of these is a story written: but Allah Alone knoweth all!

When the wine stirred in their heart their bosoms dilated.
They rose to suppose themselves kings over all things created –
To decree a new earth at a birth without labour or sorrow –
To declare: “We prepare it to-day and inherit to-morrow.”
They chose themselves prophets and priests of minute understanding,
Men swift to see done, and outrun, their extremest commanding –
Of the tribe which describe with a jibe the perversions of Justice –
Panders avowed to the crowd whatsoever its lust is.

Swiftly these pulled down the walls that their fathers had made them –
The impregnable ramparts of old, they razed and relaid them
As playgrounds of pleasure and leisure, with limitless entries,
And havens of rest for the wastrels where once walked the sentries;
And because there was need of more pay for the shouters and marchers,
They disbanded in face of their foemen their yeomen and archers.
They replied to their well-wishers’ fears – to their enemies laughter,
Saying: “Peace! We have fashioned a God Which shall save us hereafter.
We ascribe all dominion to man in his factions conferring,
And have given to numbers the Name of the Wisdom unerring.”

They said: “Who has hate in his soul? Who has envied his neighbour?
Let him arise and control both that man and his labour.”
They said: “Who is eaten by sloth? Whose unthrift has destroyed him?
He shall levy a tribute from all because none have employed him.”
They said: “Who hath toiled, who hath striven, and gathered possession?
Let him be spoiled. He hath given full proof of transgression.”
They said: “Who is irked by the Law? Though we may not remove it.
If he lend us his aid in this raid, we will set him above it!
So the robber did judgment again upon such as displeased him,
The slayer, too, boasted his slain, and the judges released him.

As for their kinsmen far off, on the skirts of the nation,
They harried all earth to make sure none escaped reprobation.
They awakened unrest for a jest in their newly-won borders,
And jeered at the blood of their brethren betrayed by their orders.
They instructed the ruled to rebel, their rulers to aid them;
And, since such as obeyed them not fell, their Viceroys obeyed them.
When the riotous set them at naught they said: “Praise the upheaval!
For the show and the world and the thought of Dominion is evil!”
They unwound and flung from them with rage, as a rag that defied them,
The imperial gains of the age which their forefathers piled them.
They ran panting in haste to lay waste and embitter for ever
The wellsprings of Wisdom and Strengths which are Faith and Endeavour.
They nosed out and digged up and dragged forth and exposed to derision
All doctrine of purpose and worth and restraint and prevision:

And it ceased, and God granted them all things for which they had striven,
And the heart of a beast in the place of a man’s heart was given. . . .

. . . . . . . .

When they were fullest of wine and most flagrant in error,
Out of the sea rose a sign – out of Heaven a terror.
Then they saw, then they heard, then they knew – for none troubled to hide it,
A host had prepared their destruction, but still they denied it.
They denied what they dared not abide if it came to the trail;
But the Sward that was forged while they lied did not heed their denial.
It drove home, and no time was allowed to the crowd that was driven.
The preposterous-minded were cowed – they thought time would be given.
There was no need of a steed nor a lance to pursue them;
It was decreed their own deed, and not a chance, should undo them.
The tares they had laughingly sown were ripe to the reaping.
The trust they had leagued to disown was removed from their keeping.
The eaters of other men’s bread, the exempted from hardship,
The excusers of impotence fled, abdicating their wardship,
For the hate they had taught through the State brought the State no defender,
And it passed from the roll of the Nations in headlong surrender!


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Today’s Kipling – MacDonough’s Song

Kipling wrote science fiction. The book A Diversity of Creatures contained the story ” As Easy as A.B.C.”, set in 2065, when a universal government ruled the world. The story centers around the singing of a forbidden song, Macdonough’s Song, presented in full at the end of the story, and reproduced below. Read it now, while you can. If Kipling’s prediction is correct, it will be banned before the next 50 years.

MacDonough’s Song

 As Easy as A.B.C.
(1912)

 Rudyard Kipling

Whether the State can loose and bind
In Heaven as well as on Earth:
If it be wiser to kill mankind
Before or after the birth–
These are matters of high concern
Where State-kept schoolmen are;
But Holy State (we have lived to learn)
Endeth in Holy War.

Whether The People be led by the Lord,
Or lured by the loudest throat:
If it be quicker to die by the sword
Or cheaper to die by vote–
These are the things we have dealt with once,
(And they will not rise from their grave)
For Holy People, however it runs,
Endeth in wholly Slave.

Whatsoever, for any cause,
Seeketh to take or give,
Power above or beyond the Laws,
Suffer it not to live!
Holy State or Holy King–
Or Holy People’s Will–
Have no truck with the senseless thing.
Order the guns and kill!
Saying–after–me:–

Once there was The People–Terror gave it birth;
Once there was The People and it made a Hell of Earth.
Earth arose and crushed it. Listen, O ye slain!
Once there was The People–it shall never be again!


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Today’s Kipling – The Explorer

Another favorite Kipling poem. I first encountered this in my teens, reading a science fiction novel whose title I now forget. One of the characters recited it.

I have occasionally amused myself trying to find out where the unnamed explorer in the poem started from. Since the poem was written in 1898 South Africa and the Cape Colonies would be a good bet. The geography does not fit, though. It does not seem to be Australia, either. The western US might be a better geographic match, but not culturally. I have concluded that the place existed only in Kipling’s mind, but as with so much of his poetry he gives it a reality.

The Explorer

1898

Rudyard Kipling

There’s no sense in going further — it’s the edge of cultivation,”
So they said, and I believed it — broke my land and sowed my crop —
Built my barns and strung my fences in the little border station
Tucked away below the foothills where the trails run out and stop:

Till a voice, as bad as Conscience, rang interminable changes
On one everlasting Whisper day and night repeated — so:
“Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges —
“Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and wating for you. Go!”

So I went, worn out of patience; never told my nearest neighbours —
Stole away with pack and ponies — left ’em drinking in the town;
And the faith that moveth mountains didn’t seem to help my labours
As I faced the sheer main-ranges, whipping up and leading down.

March by march I puzzled through ’em, turning flanks and dodging shoulders,
Hurried on in hope of water, headed back for lack of grass;
Till I camped above the tree-line — drifted snow and naked boulders —
Felt free air astir to windward — knew I’d stumbled on the Pass.

‘Thought to name it for the finder: but that night the Norther found me —
Froze and killed the plains-bred ponies; so I called the camp Despair
(It’s the Railway Gap to-day, though). Then my Whisper waked to hound me: —
“Something lost behind the Ranges. Over yonder! Go you there!”

Then I knew, the while I doubted — knew His Hand was certain o’er me.
Still — it might be self-delusion — scores of better men had died —
I could reach the township living, but….e knows what terror tore me…
But I didn’t… but I didn’t. I went down the other side.

Till the snow ran out in flowers, and the flowers turned to aloes,
And the aloes sprung to thickets and a brimming stream ran by;
But the thickets dwined to thorn-scrub, and the water drained to shallows,
And I dropped again on desert — blasted earth, and blasting sky….

I remember lighting fires; I remember sitting by ’em;
I remember seeing faces, hearing voices, through the smoke;
I remember they were fancy — for I threw a stone to try ’em.
“Something lost behind the Ranges” was the only word they spoke.

I remember going crazy. I remember that I knew it
When I heard myself hallooing to the funny folk I saw.
‘Very full of dreams that desert, but my two legs took me through it…
And I used to watch ’em moving with the toes all black and raw.

But at last the country altered — White Man’s country past disputing —
Rolling grass and open timber, with a hint of hills behind —
There I found me food and water, and I lay a week recruiting.
Got my strength and lost my nightmares. Then I entered on my find.

Thence I ran my first rough survey — chose my trees and blazed and ringed ’em —
Week by week I pried and sampled — week by week my findings grew.
Saul he went to look for donkeys, and by God he found a kingdom!
But by God, who sent His Whisper, I had struck the worth of two!

Up along the hostile mountains, where the hair-poised snowslide shivers —
Down and through the big fat marshes that the virgin ore-bed stains,
Till I heard the mile-wide mutterings of unimagined rivers,
And beyond the nameless timber saw illimitable plains!

‘Plotted sites of future cities, traced the easy grades between ’em;
Watched unharnessed rapids wasting fifty thousand head an hour;
Counted leagues of water-frontage through the axe-ripe woods that screen ’em —
Saw the plant to feed a people — up and waiting for the power!

Well, I know who’ll take the credit — all the clever chaps that followed —
Came, a dozen men together — never knew my desert-fears;
Tracked me by the camps I’d quitted, used the water-holes I hollowed.
They’ll go back and do the talking. They’ll be called the Pioneers!

They will find my sites of townships — not the cities that I set there.
They will rediscover rivers — not my rivers heard at night.
By my own old marks and bearings they will show me how to get there,
By the lonely cairns I builded they will guide my feet aright.

Have I named one single river? Have I claimed one single acre?
Have I kept one single nugget — (barring samples)? No, not I!
Because my price was paid me ten times over by my Maker.
But you wouldn’t understand it. You go up and occupy.

Ores you’ll find there; wood and cattle; water-transit sure and steady
(That should keep the railway rates down), coal and iron at your doors.
God took care to hide that country till He judged His people ready,
Then He chose me for His Whisper, and I’ve found it, and it’s yours!

Yes, your “Never-never country” — yes, your “edge of cultivation”
And “no sense in going further” — till I crossed the range to see.
God forgive me! No, I didn’t. It’s God’s present to our nation.
Anybody might have found it, but — His Whisper came to Me!


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Today’s Kipling – Song of Diego Valdez

(Note: Diego Valdez appears to be a fictional creation of Kipling. He seems real, but I cannot find any Spanish admiral from the Great Age of Sail with that name. It is another example of Rudyard Kipling bringing a character to life through the power of his words. This poem is one of my favorites. It speaks of the burdens of success.)

Song of Diego Valdez

1902

Rudyard Kipling

The God of Fair Beginnings
Hath prospered here my hand —
The cargoes of my lading,
And the keels of my command.
For out of many ventures
That sailed with hope as high,
My own have made the better trade,
And Admiral am I.

To me my King’s much honour,
To me my people’s love —
To me the pride of Princes
And power all pride above;
To me the shouting cities,
To me the mob’s refrain: —
“Who knows not noble Valdez
“Hath never heard of Spain.”

But I remember comrades —
Old playmates on new seas —
Whenas we traded orpiment
Among the savages —
A thousand leagues to south’ard
And thirty years removed —
They knew nor noble Valdez,
But me they knew and loved.

Then they that found good liquor,
They drank it not alone,
And they that found fair plunder,
They told us every one,
About our chosen islands
Or secret shoals between,
When, weary from far voyage,
We gathered to careen.

There burned our breaming-fagots
All pale along the shore:
There rose our worn pavilions —
A sail above an oar:
As flashed each yeaming anchor
Through mellow seas afire,
So swift our careless captains
Rowed each to his desire.

Where lay our loosened harness?
Where turned our naked feet?
Whose tavern ‘mid the palm-trees?
What quenchings of what heat?
Oh, fountain in the desert!
Oh, cistern in the waste!
Oh, bread we ate in secret!
Oh, cup we spilled in haste!

The youth new-taught of longing,
The widow curbed and wan,
The goodwife proud at season,
And the maid aware of man —
All souls unslaked, consuming,
Defrauded in delays,
Desire not more their quittance
Than I those forfeit days!

I dreamed to wait my pleasure
Unchanged my spring would bide:
Wherefore, to wait my pleasure,
I put my spring aside
Till, first in face of Fortune,
And last in mazed disdain,
I made Diego Valdez
High Admiral of Spain.

Then walked no wind ‘neath Heaven
Nor surge that did not aid —
I dared extreme occasion,
Nor ever one betrayed.
They wrought a deeper treason —
(Led seas that served my needs!)
They sold Diego Valdez
To bondage of great deeds.

The tempest flung me seaward,
And pinned and bade me hold
The course I might not alter —
And men esteemed me bold!
The calms embayed my quarry,
The fog-wreath sealed his eyes;
The dawn-wind brought my topsails —
And men esteemed me wise!

Yet, ‘spite my tyrant triumphs,
Bewildered, dispossessed —
My dream held I beore me
My vision of my rest;
But, crowned by Fleet and People,
And bound by King and Pope —
Stands here Diego Valdez
To rob me of my hope.

No prayer of mine shall move him.
No word of his set free
The Lord of Sixty Pennants
And the Steward of the Sea.
His will can loose ten thousand
To seek their loves again —
But not Diego Valdez,
High Admiral of Spain.

There walks no wind ‘neath Heaven
Nor wave that shall restore
The old careening riot
And the clamorous, crowded shore —
The fountain in the desert,
The cistern in the waste,
The bread we ate in secret,
The cup we spilled in haste.

Now call I to my Captains —
For council fly the sign —
Now leap their zealous galleys,
Twelve-oared, across the brine.
To me the straiter prison,
To me the heavier chain —
To me Diego Valdez,
High Admiral of Spain!


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Today’s Kipling – Mulholland’s Contract

Mulholland’s Contract

Rudyard Kipling

The fear was on the cattle, for the gale was on the sea,
An’ the pens broke up on the lower deck an’ let the creatures free —
An’ the lights went out on the lower deck, an’ no one near but me.

I had been singin’ to them to keep ’em quiet there,
For the lower deck is the dangerousest, requirin’ constant care,
An’ give to me as the strongest man, though used to drink and swear.

I see my chance was certain of bein’ horned or trod,
For the lower deck was packed with steers thicker’n peas in a pod,
An’ more pens broke at every roll — so I made a Contract with God.

An’ by the terms of the Contract, as I have read the same,
If He got me to port alive I would exalt His Name,
An’ praise His Holy Majesty till further orders came.

He saved me from the cattle an’ He saved me from the sea,
For they found me ‘tween two drownded ones where the roll had landed me —
An’ a four-inch crack on top of my head, as crazy as could be.

But that were done by a stanchion, an’ not by a bullock at all,
An’ I lay still for seven weeks convalessing of the fall,
An’ readin’ the shiny Scripture texts in the Seaman’s Hospital.

An’ I spoke to God of our Contract, an’ He says to my prayer:
“I never puts on My ministers no more than they can bear.
So back you go to the cattle-boats an’ preach My Gospel there.

“For human life is chancy at any kind of trade,
But most of all, as well you know, when the steers are mad-afraid;
So you go back to the cattle-boats an’ preach ’em as I’ve said.

“They must quit drinkin’ an’ swearin’, they mustn’t knife on a blow,
They must quit gamblin’ their wages, and you must preach it so;
For now those boats are more like Hell than anything else I know.”

I didn’t want to do it, for I knew what I should get,
An’ I wanted to preach Religion, handsome an’ out of the wet,
But the Word of the Lord were lain on me, an’ I done what I was set.

I have been smit an’ bruis’ed, as warned would be the case,
An’ turned my cheek to the smiter exactly as Scripture says;
But following that, I knocked him down an’ led him up to Grace.

An’ we have preaching on Sundays whenever the sea is calm,
An’ I use no knife or pistol an’ I never take no harm,
For the Lord abideth back of me to guide my fighting arm.

An’ I sign for four-pound-ten a month and save the money clear,
An’ I am in charge of the lower deck, an’ I never lose a steer;
An’ I believe in Almighty God an’ preach His Gospel here.

The skippers say I’m crazy, but I can prove ’em wrong,
For I am in charge of the lower deck with all that doth belong —
Which they would not give to a lunatic, and the competition so strong!


Another of his poems of men and the sea, the world as seen through the eyes of a common (or perhaps very uncommon) seaman.


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Today’s Kipling: The Ballad of Minepit Shaw

This is one of my favorites – just the right mix of humor and retribution. (Note: a Pharisee is a “fairy” – as in a magical being.)

The Ballad of Minepit Shaw

Rudyard Kipling

“The Tree of Justice” in Rewards and Fairies

About the time that taverns shut
And men can buy no beer,
Two lads went up to the keepers’ hut
To steal Lord Pelham’s deer.

Night and the liquor was in their heads –
They laughed and talked no bounds,
Till they waked the keepers on their beds
And the keepers loosed the hounds.

They had killed a hart, they had killed a hind,
Ready to carry away,
When they heard a whimper down the wind
And they heard a bloodhound bay.

They took and ran across the fern,
Their crossbows in their hand,
Till they met a man with a green lantern
That called and bade ’em stand.

“What are ye doing, O Flesh and Blood,
And what’s your foolish will,
That you must break into Minepit Wood
And wake the Folk of the Hill?”

“Oh, we’ve broke into Lord Pelham’s park,
And killed Lord Pelham’s deer,
And if ever you heard a little dog bark
You’ll know why we come here.

“We ask you let us go our way,
As fast as we can flee,
For if ever you heard a bloodhound bay
You’ll know how pressed we be.”

“Oh, lay your crossbows on the bank
And drop the knives from your hand,
And though the hounds be at your flank
I’ll save you where you stand!”

They laid their crossbows on the bank,
They threw their knives in the wood,
And the ground before them opened and sank
And saved ’em where they stood.

“Oh, what’s the roaring in our ears
That strikes us well-nigh dumb?”
“Oh, that is just how things appears
According as they come.”

“What are the stars before our eyes
That strike us well-nigh blind?”
“Oh, that is just how things arise
According as you find.”

“And why’s our bed so hard to the bones
Excepting where it’s cold?”
“Oh, that’s because it is precious stones
Excepting where ’tis gold.

“Think it over as you stand,
For I tell you without fail,
If you haven’t got into Fairyland
You’re not in Lewes Gaol.”

All night long they thought of it,
And, come the dawn, they saw
They’d tumbled into a great old pit,
At the bottom of Minepit Shaw.

And the keeper’s hound had followed ’em close,
And broke her neck in the fall;
So they picked up their knives and their crossbows
And buried the dog. That’s all.

B ut whether the man was a poacher too
Or a Pharisee so bold –
I reckon there’s more things told than are true.
And more things true than are told.


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