What if you do the right thing for the wrong reason?
I closed and drew for my love’s sake
That now is false to me,
And I slew the Reiver of Tarrant Moss
And set Dumeny free.
Somehow, recent statements by Democrats on the impossibility of civility in the political sphere and their calls for their constituents to commit acts of violence brought this poem to mind. It is one of my favorites. Back in the day when FreeRepublic was just starting (and before it began becoming a little nuts), my handle was taken from this poem: No Truce With Kings.
October 9, 1899
(Outbreak of Boer War)
Here is nothing new nor aught unproven,” say the Trumpets,
“Many feet have worn it and the road is old indeed.
“It is the King–the King we schooled aforetime! “
(Trumpets in the marshes -in the eyot at Runnymede!)
“Here is neither haste, nor hate, nor anger,” peal the Trumpets,
“Pardon for his penitence or pity for his fall.
“It is the King!”–inexorable Trumpets–
(Trumpets round the scaffold af the dawning by Whitehall!)
. . . . . . .
“He hath veiled the Crown And hid the Scepter,” warn the Trumpets,
“He hath changed the fashion of the lies that cloak his will.
“Hard die the Kings–ah hard–dooms hard!” declare the Trumpets,
Trumpets at the gang-plank where the brawling troop-decks fill!
Ancient and Unteachable, abide–abide the Trumpets!
Once again the Trumpets, for the shuddering ground-swell brings
Clamour over ocean of the harsh, pursuing Trumpets–
Trumpets of the Vanguard that have sworn no truce with Kings!
All we have of freedom, all we use or know–
This our fathers bought for us long and long ago.
Ancient Right unnoticed as the breath we draw–
Leave to live by no man’s leave, underneath the Law.
Lance and torch and tumult, steel and grey-goose wing
Wrenched it, inch and ell and all, slowly from the king.
Till our fathers ‘stablished, after bloody years,
How our King is one with us, first among his peers.
So they bought us freedom-not at little cost–
Wherefore must we watch the King, lest our gain be lost.
Over all things certain, this is sure indeed,
Suffer not the old King: for we know the breed.
Give no ear to bondsmen bidding us endure.
Whining “He is weak and far”; crying “Time will cure.”
(Time himself is witness, till the battle joins,
Deeper strikes the rottenness in the people’s loins.)
Give no heed to bondsmen masking war with peace.
Suffer not the old King here or overseas.
They that beg us barter–wait his yielding mood–
Pledge the years we hold in trust-pawn our brother’s blood–
Howso’ great their clamour, whatsoe’er their claim,
Suffer not the old King under any name!
Here is naught unproven–here is naught to learn.
It is written what shall fall if the King return.
He shall mark our goings, question whence we came,
Set his guards about us, as in Freedom’s name.
He shall take a tribute, toll of all our ware;
He shall change our gold for arms–arms we may not bear.
He shall break his Judges if they cross his word;
He shall rule above the Law calling on the Lord.
He shall peep and mutter; and the night shall bring
Watchers ‘neath our window, lest we mock the King —
Hate and all division; hosts of hurrying spies;
Money poured in secret, carrion breeding flies.
Strangers of his counsel, hirelings of his pay,
These shall deal our Justice: sell-deny-delay.
We shall drink dishonour, we shall eat abuse
For the Land we look to–for the Tongue we use.
We shall take our station, dirt beneath his feet,
While his hired captains jeer us in the street.
Cruel in the shadow, crafty in the sun,
Far beyond his borders shall his teachings run.
Sloven, sullen, savage, secret, uncontrolled,
Laying on a new land evil of the old–
Long-forgotten bondage, dwarfing heart and brain–
All our fathers died to loose he shall bind again.
Here is nought at venture, random nor untrue
Swings the wheel full-circle, brims the cup anew.
Here is naught unproven, here is nothing hid:
Step for step and word for word–so the old Kings did!
Step by step, and word by word: who is ruled may read.
Suffer not the old Kings: for we know the breed–
All the right they promise–all the wrong they bring.
Stewards of the Judgment, suffer not this King !
For some reason the Kavanaugh confirmation brought this poem to mind. Especially since you could slip in “Democrats” for Little Folks” without disturbing the rhythm . . .
It just seems to fit.
(‘The Winged Hats’ — Puck of Pook’s Hill)
Rome never looks where she treads.
Always her heavy hooves fall
On our stomachs, our hearts or our heads;
And Rome never heeds when we bawl.
Her sentries pass on—that is all,
And we gather behind them in hordes,
And plot to reconquer the Wall,
With only our tongues for our swords.
We are the Little Folk—we!
Too little to love or to hate.
Leave us alone and you’ll see
How we can drag down the State!
We are the worm in the wood!
We are the rot at the root!
We are the taint in the blood!
We are the thorn in the foot!
Mistletoe killing an oak—
Rats gnawing cables in two—
Moths making holes in a cloak—
How they must love what they do!
Yes—and we Little Folk too,
We are busy as they—
Working our works out of view—
Watch, and you’ll see it some day!
No indeed! We are not strong,
But we know Peoples that are.
Yes, and we’ll guide them along
To smash and destroy you in War!
We shall be slaves just the same?
Yes, we have always been slaves,
But you—you will die of the shame,
And then we shall dance on your graves!
We are the Little Folk, we, etc.
Is there a more famous poem by Kipling than Gunga Din? Possibly the Ballad of East and West – possibly. Even poems more frequently quoted today (The Gods of the Copybook Headings or Recessional) are not as recognizable.
The poem is frequently mocked today – and easy to mock. Yet at its core it is a refutation of racial superiority. Its ultimate message is each individual must be measured by their actions – not the condition of their birth or the color of their skin.
You may talk o’ gin and beer
When you’re quartered safe out ‘ere,
An’ you’re sent to penny-fights an’ Aldershot it;
But when it comes to slaughter
You will do your work on water,
An’ you’ll lick the bloomin’ boots of ‘im that’s got it.
Now in Injia’s sunny clime,
Where I used to spend my time
A-servin’ of ‘Er Majesty the Queen,
Of all them blackfaced crew
The finest man I knew
Was our regimental bhisti, Gunga Din.
He was “Din! Din! Din!
You limpin’ lump o’ brick-dust, Gunga Din!
Hi! Slippy hitherao!
Water, get it! Panee lao! [Bring water swiftly.]
You squidgy-nosed old idol, Gunga Din.”
The uniform ‘e wore
Was nothin’ much before,
An’ rather less than ‘arf o’ that be’ind,
For a piece o’ twisty rag
An’ a goatskin water-bag
Was all the field-equipment ‘e could find.
When the sweatin’ troop-train lay
In a sidin’ through the day,
Where the ‘eat would make your bloomin’ eyebrows crawl,
We shouted “Harry By!” [Mr. Atkins’s equivalent for “O brother.”]
Till our throats were bricky-dry,
Then we wopped ‘im ’cause ‘e couldn’t serve us all.
It was “Din! Din! Din!
You ‘eathen, where the mischief ‘ave you been?
You put some juldee in it [Be quick.]
Or I’ll marrow you this minute [Hit you.]
If you don’t fill up my helmet, Gunga Din!”
‘E would dot an’ carry one
Till the longest day was done;
An’ ‘e didn’t seem to know the use o’ fear.
If we charged or broke or cut,
You could bet your bloomin’ nut,
‘E’d be waitin’ fifty paces right flank rear.
With ‘is mussick on ‘is back, [Water-skin.]
‘E would skip with our attack,
An’ watch us till the bugles made “Retire”,
An’ for all ‘is dirty ‘ide
‘E was white, clear white, inside
When ‘e went to tend the wounded under fire!
It was “Din! Din! Din!”
With the bullets kickin’ dust-spots on the green.
When the cartridges ran out,
You could hear the front-ranks shout,
“Hi! ammunition-mules an’ Gunga Din!”
I shan’t forgit the night
When I dropped be’ind the fight
With a bullet where my belt-plate should ‘a’ been.
I was chokin’ mad with thirst,
An’ the man that spied me first
Was our good old grinnin’, gruntin’ Gunga Din.
‘E lifted up my ‘ead,
An’ he plugged me where I bled,
An’ ‘e guv me ‘arf-a-pint o’ water-green:
It was crawlin’ and it stunk,
But of all the drinks I’ve drunk,
I’m gratefullest to one from Gunga Din.
It was “Din! Din! Din!
‘Ere’s a beggar with a bullet through ‘is spleen;
‘E’s chawin’ up the ground,
An’ ‘e’s kickin’ all around:
For Gawd’s sake git the water, Gunga Din!”
‘E carried me away
To where a dooli lay,
An’ a bullet come an’ drilled the beggar clean.
‘E put me safe inside,
An’ just before ‘e died,
“I ‘ope you liked your drink”, sez Gunga Din.
So I’ll meet ‘im later on
At the place where ‘e is gone —
Where it’s always double drill and no canteen.
‘E’ll be squattin’ on the coals
Givin’ drink to poor damned souls,
An’ I’ll get a swig in hell from Gunga Din!
Yes, Din! Din! Din!
You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din!
Though I’ve belted you and flayed you,
By the livin’ Gawd that made you,
You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!
This is one of Kipling’s better known poems – likely because of the truth it contains. It will hit its century mark next year.
As I pass through my incarnations in every age and race,
I Make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market-Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.
We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.
We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market-Place.
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.
With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings.
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.
When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Heading said: “Stick to the Devil you know.”
On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”
In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”
Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew,
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four —
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.
* * * * *
As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man —
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began —
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire —
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!
It is the oldest game in history – shaking down a neighbor for tribute. Kipling wrote about it in this short poem. Which certain Presidents (Democrats all) never read.
It is always a temptation to an armed and agile nation
To call upon a neighbour and to say: —
“We invaded you last night–we are quite prepared to fight,
Unless you pay us cash to go away.”
And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
And the people who ask it explain
That you’ve only to pay ’em the Dane-geld
And then you’ll get rid of the Dane!
It is always a temptation for a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say: —
“Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
We will therefore pay you cash to go away.”
And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we’ve proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane.
It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
For fear they should succumb and go astray;
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say: —
“We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that pays it is lost!
Not all of Kipling’s war poetry was heroic. Some of it revealed the grimmer side of human conduct.
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
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.
“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!”
If you have read much of Jerry Pournelle’s fiction, especially his Codominium series, you will recognize this poem.
I’ve a head like a concertina: I’ve a tongue like a button-stick,
I’ve a mouth like an old potato, and I’m more than a little sick,
But I’ve had my fun o’ the Corp’ral’s Guard: I’ve made the cinders fly,
And I’m here in the Clink for a thundering drink and blacking the Corporal’s eye.
With a second-hand overcoat under my head,
And a beautiful view of the yard,
O it’s pack-drill for me and a fortnight’s C.B.
For “drunk and resisting the Guard!”
Mad drunk and resisting the Guard —
‘Strewth, but I socked it them hard!
So it’s pack-drill for me and a fortnight’s C.B.
For “drunk and resisting the Guard.”
I started o’ canteen porter, I finished o’ canteen beer,
But a dose o’ gin that a mate slipped in, it was that that brought me here.
‘Twas that and an extry double Guard that rubbed my nose in the dirt —
But I fell away with the Corp’ral’s stock and the best of the Corp’ral’s shirt.
I left my cap in a public-house, my boots in the public road,
And Lord knows where — and I don’t care — my belt and my tunic goed;
They’ll stop my pay, they’ll cut away the stripes I used to wear,
But I left my mark on the Corp’ral’s face, and I think he’ll keep it there!
My wife she cries on the barrack-gate, my kid in the barrack-yard,
It ain’t that I mind the Ord’ly room — it’s that that cuts so hard.
I’ll take my oath before them both that I will sure abstain,
But as soon as I’m in with a mate and gin, I know I’ll do it again!
With a second-hand overcoat under my head,
And a beautiful view of the yard,
Yes, it’s pack-drill for me and a fortnight’s C.B.
For “drunk and resisting the Guard!”
Mad drunk and resisting the Guard —
‘Strewth, but I socked it them hard!
So it’s pack-drill for me and a fortnight’s C.B.
For “drunk and resisting the Guard.”
It’s been a while (for a variety of reasons) since I’ve posted one of these, but since we were discussing four-legged chairs on another thread, I thought this would particularly appropriate today.
Parliaments of Henry III., 1265
There are four good legs to my Father’s Chair–
Priests and People and Lords and Crown.
I sits on all of ’em fair and square,
And that is reason it don’t break down.
I won’t trust one leg, nor two, nor three,
To carry my weight when I sets me down.
I wants all four of ’em under me–
Priests and People and Lords and Crown.
I sits on all four and favours none–
Priests, nor People, nor Lords, nor Crown:
And I never tilts in my chair, my son,
And that is the reason it don’t break down.
When your time comes to sit in my Chair,
Remember your Father’s habits and rules,
Sit on all four legs, fair and square,
And never be tempted by one-legged stools!
(Last time I featured The Mary Gloster. McAndrew’s Hymn is its companion, with a man poorer, but as respected and more content than Sir Anthony Gloster of the previous poem. I often describe Kipling as the poet laureate of engineers and engineering.This poem is one reason why. It was one I often read to my sons when they were little.)
Lord, Thou hast made this world below the shadow of a dream,
An’, taught by time, I tak’ it so—exceptin’ always Steam.
From coupler-flange to spindle-guide I see Thy Hand, O God—
Predestination in the stride o’ yon connectin’-rod.
John Calvin might ha’ forged the same—enorrmous, certain, slow—
Ay, wrought it in the furnace-flame—my “Institutio.”
I cannot get my sleep to-night; old bones are hard to please;
I’ll stand the middle watch up here—alone wi’ God an’ these
My engines, after ninety days o’ rase an’ rack an’ strain
Through all the seas of all Thy world, slam-bangin’ home again.
Slam-bang too much—they knock a wee—the crosshead-gibs are loose,
But thirty thousand mile o’ sea has gied them fair excuse….
Fine, clear an’dark—a full-draught breeze, wi’ Ushant out o’ sight,
An’ Ferguson relievin’ Hay. Old girl, ye’ll walk to-night!
His wife’s at Plymouth…. Seventy—One—Two—Three since he began—
Three turns for Mistress Ferguson… and who’s to blame the man?
There’s none at any port for me, by drivin’ fast or slow,
Since Elsie Campbell went to Thee, Lord, thirty years ago.
(The year the Sarah Sands was burned. Oh roads we used to tread,
Fra’ Maryhill to Pollokshaws–fra’ Govan to Parkhead!)
Not but that they’re ceevil on the Board. Ye’ll hear Sir Kenneth say:
“Good morn, McAndrew! Back again? An’ how’s your bilge to-day?”
Miscallin’ technicalities but handin’ me my chair
To drink Madeira wi’ three Earls—the auld Fleet Engineer
That started as a boiler-whelp—when steam and he were low.
I mind the time we used to serve a broken pipe wi’ tow!
Ten pound was all the pressure then—Eh! Eh!—a man wad drive;
An’ here, our workin’ gauges give one hunder sixty-five!
We’re creepin’ on wi’ each new rig—less weight an’ larger power;
There’ll be the loco-boiler next an’ thirty miles an hour!
Thirty an’ more. What I ha’ seen since ocean-steam began
Leaves me na doot for the machine: but what about the man?
The man that counts, wi’ all his runs, one million mile o’ sea:
Four time the span from Earth to Moon…. How far, O Lord from thee
That wast beside him night an’ day? Ye mind my first typhoon?
It scoughed the skipper on his way to jock wi’ the saloon.
Three feet were on the stokehold-floor—just slappin’ to an’ fro—
An’ cast me on a furnace-door. I have the marks to show.
Marks! I ha’ marks o’ more than burns—deep in my soul an’ black,
An’ times like this, when things go smooth, my wickudness comes back.
The sins o’ four an’ forty years, all up an’ down the seas.
Clack an’ repeat like valves half-fed…. Forgie’s our trespasses!
Nights when I’d come on to deck to mark, wi’ envy in my gaze,
The couples kittlin’ in the dark between the funnel-stays;
Years when I raked the Ports wi’ pride to fill my cup o’ wrong—
Judge not, O Lord, my steps aside at Gay Street in Hong-Kong!
Blot out the wastrel hours of mine in sin when I abode—
Jane Harrigan’s an’ Number Nine, The Reddick an’ Grant Road!
An’ waur than all—my crownin’ sin—rank blasphemy an’ wild.
I was not four and twenty then—Ye wadna judge a child?
I’d seen the Tropics first that run—new fruit, new smells, new air—
How could I tell—blinf-fou wi’ sun— the Deil was lurkin’ there?
By day like playhouse-scenes the shore slid past our sleepy eyes;
By night thos soft, lasceevious stars leered from those velvet skies,
In port (we used no cargo-steam) I’d daunder down the streets—
An ijjit grinnin’ in a dream—for shells an’ parrakeets,
An’ walkin’-sticks o’ carved bamboo an’ blowfish stuffed an’ dried—
Fillin’ my bunk wi’ rubbishry the Cheif put overside.
Till, off Sambawa Head, Ye mind, I heard a land-breeze ca’,
Milk-warm wi’ breath o’ spice an’ bloom: “McAndrew, Come awa’!”
Firm, clear an’ low—no haste, no hate—the ghostly whisper went,
Just statin’ eevidential facts beyon’ all argument:
“Your mither’s god’s a graspin’ deil, the shadow o’ yoursel’,
“Got out o’ books by meenisters clean daft on Heaven an’ Hell.
“They mak’ him in the Broomielaw, o’ Glasgie cold an’ dirt,
“A jealous, pridefu’ fetich, lad, that’s only strong to hurt.
“Ye’ll not go back to Him again an’ kiss His red-hot rod,
“But come wi’ Us” (Now who were They?) “an’ know the Leevin’ God,
“That does not kipper souls for sport or break a life in jest,
“But swells the ripenin’ cocoanuts an’ ripes the woman’s breast.”
An’ there it stopped: cut off: no more; that quiet, certain voice—
For me, six months o’ twenty-four, to leave or take at choice.
‘Twas on me like a thunderclap—it racked me through an’ through—
Temptation past the show o’ speech, unnameable an’ new—
The Sin against the Holy Ghost?… An’ under all, our screw.
That storm blew by but left behind her anchor-shiftin’ swell.
thou knowest all my heart an’ mind, Thou knowest, Lord, I fell—
Third on the Mary Gloster then, and first that night in Hell!
Yet was Thy Hand beneath my head, about my feet Thy Care—
Fra’ Deli clear to Torres Strait, the trial o’ despair,
But when we touched the Barrier Reef Thy answer to my prayer!…
We wared na run that sea by night but lay an’ held our fire,
An’ I was drowsin’ on the hatch—sick—sick wi’ doubt an’ tire:
“Better the sight of eyes that see than wanderin’ o’ desire!”
Ye mind that word? Clear as gongs—again, an’ once again,
When rippin’ down through coral-trash ran out our moorin’-chain:
An’, by Thy Grace, I had the light to see my duty plain.
Light on the engine-room—no more—bright as our carbons burn.
I’ve lost it since a thousand times, but never past return!
Obsairve! Per annum we’ll have here two thousand souls aboard—
Think not I dare to justify myself before the Lord,
But—average fifteen hunder souls safe-born fra’ port to port—
I am o’ service to my kind. Ye wadna blame the thought?
Maybe they steam from Grace to Wrath—to sin by folly led—
It isna mine to judge their path—their lives are on my head.
Mine at the last—when all is done it all comes back to me,
The fault that leaves six thousand ton a log upon the sea.
We’ll tak’ one stretch—three weeks an odd by ony road ye steer—
Fra’ Cape Town east to Wellington—ye need an engineer.
Fail there—ye’ve time to weld your shaft—ay, eat it, ere ye’re spoke;
Or make Kergueen under sail—three jiggers burned wi’ smoke!
An’ home again—the Rio run: it’s no child’s play to go
Steamin’ to bell for fourteen days o’ snow an’ floe an’ blow.
The beergs like kelpies oversde that girn an’ turn an’ shift
Whaur, grindin’ like the Mills o’ God, goes by the big South drift.
(Hail, Snow and Ice that praise the Lord. I’ve met them at their work,
An wished we had anither route or they another kirk.)
Yon’s strain, hard strain, o’ head an’ hand, for though Thy Power brings
All skill to naught, Ye’ll underatand a man must think o’ things.
Then, at the last, we’ll get to port an’ hoist their baggage clear—
The passengers, wi’ gloves an’ canes—an’ this is what I’ll hear:
“Well, thank ye for a pleasant voyage. The tender’s comin’ now.”
While I go testin’ follower-bolts an’ watch the skipper bow.
They’ve words for every one but me—shake hands wi’ half the crew,
Except the dour Scots engineer, the man they never knew.
An’ yet I like the wark for all we’ve dam’ few pickin’s here—
No pension, an’ the most we’ll earn’s four hunder pound a year.
Better myself abroad? Maybe. I’d sooner starve than sail
Wi’ such as call a snifter-rod ross…. French for nightingale.
Commeesion on my stores? Some do; but I cannot afford
To lie like stewards wi’ patty-pans. I’m older than the Board.
A bonus on the coal I save? Ou ay, the Scots are close,
But when I grudge the strength Ye gave I’ll grudge their food to those.
(There’s bricks that I might recommend—an’ clink the firebars cruel.
No! Welsh—Wangarti at the worst—an’ damn all patent fuel!)
Inventions? Ye must stay in port to mak’ a patent pay.
My Deeferential Valve-Gear taught me how that business lay.
I blame no chaps wi’ clearer heads for aught they make or sell.
I found that I could not invent an’ look to these as well.
So, wrestled wi’ Apollyon—Nah!—fretted like a bairn—
But burned the workin’-plans last run, wi’ all I hoped to earn.
Ye know how hard an Idol dies, an’ what that meant to me—
E’en tak’ it for a sacrifice acceptable to Thee….
Below there! Oiler! What’s your wark? Ye find it runnin’ hard?
Ye needn’t swill the cup wi’ oil—this isn’t the Cunard!
Ye thought? Ye are not paid to think. Go, sweat that off again!
Tck! Tck! It’s deeficult to sweer nor tak’ The Name in vain!
Men, ay an’ women, call me stern. Wi’ these to oversee,
Ye’ll note I’ve little time to burn on social repartee.
The bairns see what their elders miss; they’ll hunt me to an’ fro,
Till for the sake of—well, a kiss—I tak’ ’em down below.
That minds me of our Viscount loon—Sir Kenneth’s kin—the chap
Wi’ Russia leather tennis-shoon an’ spar-decked yachtin’-cap.
I showed him round last week, o’er all—an’ at the last says he:
“Mister McAndrew, Don’t you think steam spoils romance at sea?”
Damned ijjit! I’d been doon that morn to see what ailed the throws,
Manholin’, on my back—the cranks three inches off my nose.
Romance! Those first-class passengers they like it very well,
Printed an’ bound in little books; but why don’t poets tell?
I’m sick of all their quirks an’ turns—the loves an’ doves they dream—
Lord, send a man like Robbie Burns to sing the Song o’ Steam!
To match wi’ Scotia’s noblest speech yon orchestra sublime
Whaurto—uplifted like the Just—the tail-rods mark the time.
The crank-throws give the double-bass, the feed-pump sobs an’ heaves,
An’ now the main eccentrics start their quarrel on the sheaves:
Her time, her own appointed time, the rocking link-head bides,
Till—hear that note?—the rod’s return whings glimmerin’ through the guides.
They’re all awa’! True beat, full power, the clangin’ chorus goes
Clear to the tunnel where they sit, my purrin’ dynamos.
Interdependence absolute, forseen, ordained, decreed,
To work, Ye’ll note, at ony tilt an’ every rate o’ speed.
Fra’ Skylight-lift to furnace-bars, backed, bolted, braced an’ stayed.
An’ singin’ like the Mornin’ Stars for joy that they are made;
While, out o’ touch o’ vanity, the sweatin’ thrust-block says:
“Not unto us the praise, or man—not unto us the praise!”
Now, a’ together, hear them lift their lesson—theirs an’ mine:
“Law, Orrder, Duty an’ Restraint, Obedience, Discipline!”
Mill, forge an’ try-pit taught them that when roarin’ they arose,
An’ whiles I wonder if a soul was gied them wi’ the blows.
Oh for a man to weld it then, in one trip-hammer strain,
Till even first-class passengers could tell the meanin’ plain!
But no one cares except mysel’ that serve an’ understand
My seven thousand horse-power here. Eh Lord! They’re grand—they’re grand!
Uplift am I? When first in store the new-made beasties stood,
Were Ye cast down that breathed the Word declarin’ all things good?
Not so! O’ that warld-liftin’ joy no after-fall could vex,
Ye’ve left a glimmer still to cheer the Man—the Arrtifex!
That holds, in spite o’ knock and scale, o’ friction, waste an’ slip,
An’ by that light—now, mark my word—we’ll build the Perfect Ship.
I’ll never last to judge her lines, or take her curve—not I.
But I ha’ lived an’ I ha’ worked. Be thanks to Thee, Most High!
An’ I ha’ done what I ha’ done—judge Thou if ill or well—
Always Thy grace preventin’ me….
Losh! Yon’s the “Stand-by” bell.
Pilot so soon? His flare it is. The mornin’-watch is set.
Well, God be thanked, as I was sayin’, I’m no Pelagian yet.
Now, I’ll tak’ on….
‘Morrn, Ferguson. Man, have ye ever thought
What your good leddy costs in coal?… I’ll burn ’em down to port.
(This is one of Kipling’s longest poems – and one of his best. It is linked to another long poem, McAndrew’s Hymn, but only through the characters in each. This one is a haunting poem.)
I’ve paid for your sickest fancies; I’ve humoured your crackedest whim –
Dick, it’s your daddy, dying; you’ve got to listen to him!
Good for a fortnight, am I? The doctor told you? He lied.
I shall go under by morning, and – Put that nurse outside.
‘Never seen death yet, Dickie? Well, now is your time to learn,
And you’ll wish you held my record before it comes to your turn.
Not counting the Line and the Foundry, the yards and the village, too,
I’ve made myself and a million; but I’m damned if I made you.
Master at two-and-twenty, and married at twenty-three –
Ten thousand men on the pay-roll, and forty freighters at sea !
Fifty years between’ em, and every year of it fight,
And now I’m Sir Anthony Gloster, dying, a baronite:
For I lunched with his Royal ‘Ighness – what was it the papers had ?
“Not the least of our merchant-princes.” Dickie, that’s me, your dad!
I didn’t begin with askings. I took my job and I stuck;
I took the chances they wouldn’t, an’ now they’re calling it luck.
Lord, what boats I’ve handled – rotten and leaky and old –
Ran ’em, or – opened the bilge-cock, precisely as I was told.
Grub that ‘ud bind you crazy, and crews that ‘ud turn you grey,
And a big fat lump of insurance to cover the risk on the way.
The others they dursn’t do it; they said they valued their life
(They’ve served me since as skippers). I went, and I took my wife.
Over the world I drove ’em, married at twenty-three,
And your mother saving the money and making a man of me.
I was content to be master, but she said there was better behind;
She took the chances I wouldn’t, and I followed your mother blind.
She egged me to borrow the money, an’ she helped me to clear the loan,
When we bougnt half-shares in a cheap ‘un and hoisted a flag of our own.
Patching and coaling on credit, and living the Lord knew how,
We started the Red Ox freighters – we’ve eight-and-thirty now.
And those were the days of clippers, and the freights were clipper-freights,
And we knew we were making our fortune, but she died in Macassar Straits –
By the Little Patemosters, as you come to the Union Bank –
And we dropped her in fourteen fathom: I pricked it off where she sank.
Owners we were, full owners, and the boat was christened for her,
And she died in the Mary Gloster. My heart; how young we were!
So I went on a spree round Java and well-nigh ran her ashore,
But your mother came and warned me and I would’t liquor no more:
Strict I stuck to my business, afraid to stop or I’d think,
Saving the money (she warned me), and letting the other men drink.
And I met M’Cullough in London (I’d saved five ‘undred then),
And ‘tween us we started the Foundry – three forges and twenty men.
Cheap repairs for the cheap ‘uns. It paid, and the business grew;
For I bought me a steam-lathe patent, and that was a gold mine too.
“Cheaper to build ’em than buy ’em;” I said, but M’Cullough he shied,
And we wasted a year in talking before we moved to the Clyde.
And the Lines were all beginning, and we all of us started fair,
Building our engines like houses and staying the boilers square.
But M’Cullough ‘e wanted cabins with marble and maple and all,
And Brussels an’ Utrecht velvet, and baths and a Social Hall,
And pipes for closets all over, and cutting the frames too light,
But M’Cullough he died in the Sixties, and – Well, I’m dying to-night…
I knew – I knew what was coming, when we bid on the Byfleet’s keel –
They piddled and piffled with iron, I’d given my orders for steel!
Steel and the first expansions. It paid, I tell you, it paid,
When we came with our nine-knot freighters and collared the long-run trade!
And they asked me how I did it; and I gave ’em the Scripture text,
“You keep your light so shining a little in front o’ the next!”
They copied all they could follow, but they couldn’t copy my mind,
And I left ’em sweating and stealing a year and a half behind.
Then came the armour-contracts, but that was M’Cullough’s side;
He was always best in the Foundry, but better, perhaps, he died.
I went through his private papers; the notes was plainer than print;
And I’m no fool to finish if a man’ll give me a hint.
(I remember his widow was angry.) So I saw what his drawings meant;
And I started the six-inch rollers, and it paid me sixty per cent.
Sixty per cent with failures, and more than twice we could do,
And a quarter-million to credit, and I saved it all for you!
I thought – it doesn’t matter – you seemed to favour your ma,
But you’re nearer forty than thirty, and I know the kind you are.
Harrer an’ Trinity College! I ought to ha’ sent you to sea –
But I stood you an education, an’ what have you done for me?
The things I knew was proper you wouldn’t thank me to give,
And the things I knew was rotten you said was the way to live.
For you muddled with books and pictures, an’ china an’ etchin’s an’ fans.
And your rooms at college was beastly – more like a whore’s than a man’s;
Till you married that thin-flanked woman, as white and as stale as a bone,
An’ she gave you your social nonsense; but where’s that kid o’ your own?
I’ve seen your carriages blocking the half o’ the Cromwell Road,
But never the doctor’s brougham to help the missus unload.
(So there isn’t even a grandchild, an’ the Gloster family’s done.)
Not like your mother, she isn’t. She carried her freight each run.
But they died, the pore little beggars! At sea she had ’em – they died.
Only you, an’ you stood it. You haven’t stood much beside.
Weak, a liar, and idle, and mean as a collier’s whelp
Nosing for scraps in the galley. No help – my son was no help!
So he gets three ‘undred thousand, in trust and the interest paid.
I wouldn’t give it you, Dickie – you see, I made it in trade.
You’re saved from soiling your fingers, and if you have no child,
It all comes back to the business. ‘Gad, won’t your wife be wild!
‘Calls and calls in her carriage, her ‘andkerchief up to ‘er eye:
“Daddy! dear daddy’s dyin’!” and doing her best to cry.
Grateful? Oh, yes, I’m grateful, but keep her away from here.
Your mother ‘ud never ha’ stood ‘er, and, anyhow, women are queer.
There’s women will say I’ve married a second time. Not quite!
But give pore Aggie a hundred, and tell her your lawyers’ll fight.
She was the best o’ the boiling – you’ll meet her before it ends.
I’m in for a row with the mother – I’ll leave you settle my friends.
For a man he must go with a woman, which women don’t understand –
Or the sort that say they can see it they aren’t the marrying brand.
But I wanted to speak o’ your mother that’s Lady Gloster still;
I’m going to up and see her, without its hurting the will.
Here! Take your hand off the bell-pull. Five thousand’s waiting for you,
If you’ll only listen a minute, and do as I bid you do.
They’ll try to prove me crazy, and, if you bungle, they can;
And I’ve only you to trust to! (O God, why ain’t it a man?)
There’s some waste money on marbles, the same as M’Cullough tried –
Marbles and mausoleums – but I call that sinful pride.
There’s some ship bodies for burial – we’ve carried ’em, soldered and packed,
Down in their wills they wrote it, and nobody called them cracked.
But me – I’ve too much money, and people might . . . All my fault:
It come o’ hoping for grandsons and buying that Wokin’ vault…
I’m sick o’ the ‘ole dam’ business. I’m going back where I came.
Dick, you’re the son o’ my body, and you’ll take charge o’ the same!
I want to lie by your mother, ten thousand mile away,
And they’ll want to send me to Woking; and that’s where you’ll earn your pay.
I’ve thought it out on the quiet, the same as it ought to be done –
Quiet, and decent, and proper – an’ here’s your orders, my son.
You know the Line? You don’t, though. You write to the Board, and tell
Your father’s death has upset you an’ you’re going to cruise for a spell,
An’ you’d like the Mary Gloster – I’ve held her ready for this –
They’ll put her in working order and you’ll take her out as she is.
Yes, it was money idle when I patched her and laid her aside
(Thank God, I can pay for my fancies!) – the boat where your mother died,
By the Little Paternosters, as you come to the Union Bank,
We dropped her – I think I told you – and I pricked it off where she sank.
[‘Tiny she looked on the grating – that oily, treacly sea -]
‘Hundred and Eighteen East, remember, and South just Three.
Easy bearings to carry – Three South-Three to the dot;
But I gave McAndrew a copy in case of dying – or not.
And so you’ll write to McAndrew, he’s Chief of the Maori Line
They’Il give him leave, if you ask ’em and say it’s business o’ mine.
I built three boats for the Maoris, an’ very well pleased they were,
An I’ve known Mac since the Fifties, and Mac knew me – and her.
After the first stroke warned me I sent him the money to keep
Against the time you’d claim it, committin’ your dad to the deep;
For you are the son o’ my body, and Mac was my oldest friend,
I’ve never asked ‘im to dinner, but he’ll see it out to the end.
Stiff-necked Glasgow beggar! I’ve heard he’s prayed for my soul,
But he couldn’t lie if you paid him, and he’d starve before he stole.
He’ll take the Mary in ballast – you’ll find her a lively ship;
And you’ll take Sir Anthony Gloster, that goes on ‘is wedding-trip,
Lashed in our old deck-cabin with all three port-holes wide,
The kick o’ the screw beneath him and the round blue seas outside!
Sir Anthony Gloster’s carriage – our ‘ouse-flag flyin’ free –
Ten thousand men on the pay-roll and forty freighters at sea!
He made himself and a million, but this world is a fleetin’ show,
And he’ll go to the wife of ‘is bosom the same as he ought to go –
By the heel of the Paternosters – there isn’t a chance to mistake –
And Mac’ll pay you the money as soon as the bubbles break!
Five thousand for six weeks’ cruising, the staunchest freighter afloat,
And Mac he’ll give you your bonus the minute I’m out o’ the boat!
He’ll take you round to Macassar, and you’ll come back alone;
He knows what I want o’ the Mary . . . . I’ll do what I please with my own.
Your mother ‘ud call it wasteful, but I’ve seven-and-thirty more;
I’ll come in my private carriage and bid it wait at the door…
For my son ‘e was never a credit: ‘e muddled with books and art,
And e’ lived on Sir Anthony’s money and ‘e broke Sir Anthony’s heart.
There isn’t even a grandchild, and the Gloster family’s done –
The only one you left me – O mother, the only one!
Harrer and Trinity College – me slavin’ early an’ late –
An’ he thinks I’m dying crazy, and you’re in Macassar Strait!
Flesh o’ my flesh, my dearie, for ever an’ ever amen,
That first stroke come for a warning. I ought to ha’ gone to you then.
But – cheap repairs for a cheap ‘un – the doctor said I’d do.
Mary, why didn’t you warn me? I’ve allus heeded to you,
Excep’ – I know – about women; but you are a spirit now;
An’, wife, they was only women, and I was a man. That’s how.
An’ a man ‘e must go with a woman, as you could not understand;
But I never talked ’em secrets. I paid ’em out o’ hand.
Thank Gawd, I can pay for my fancies! Now what’s five thousand to me,
For a berth off the Paternosters in the haven where I would be?
I believe in the Resurrection, if I read my Bible plain,
But I wouldn’t trust ’em at Wokin’; we’re safer at sea again.
For the heart it shall go with the treasure – go down to the sea in ships.
I’m sick of the hired women. I’ll kiss my girl on her lips!
I’ll be content with my fountain. I’ll drink from my own well,
And the wife of my youth shall charm me – an’ the rest can go to Hell!
(Dickie, he will, that’s certain.) I’ll lie in our standin’-bed,
An’ Mac’ll take her in ballast – an’ she trims best by the head…
Down by the head an’ sinkin’, her fires are drawn and cold,
And the water’s splashin’ hollow on the skin of the empty hold –
Churning an’ choking and chuckling, quiet and scummy and dark –
Full to her lower hatches and risin’ steady. Hark!
That was the after-bulkhead. . . . She’s flooded from stem to stern…
‘Never seen death yet, Dickie? . . . Well, now is your time to learn!
(Since I quoted part of it in a comment, I thought I ought to put in the whole thing.)
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 !
(Today I am in the mood for something that is politically, incorrect, a little gory, and funny. Something like . . . )
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.”
(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.
“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,
. . . . .
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.
dammer sealing wax.
(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 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