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Before a Midnight Breaks in Storm

by Rudyard Kipling, 1919


Before a midnight breaks in storm,
  Or herded sea in wrath,
Ye know what wavering gusts inform
  The greater tempest’s path?
    Till the loosed wind
    Drive all from mind,
Except Distress, which, so will prophets cry,
O’ercame them, houseless, from the unhinting sky.

Ere rivers league against the land
  In piratry of flood,
Ye know what waters steal and stand
  Where seldom water stood.
    Yet who will note,
    Till fields afloat,
And washen carcass and the returning well,
Trumpet what these poor heralds strove to tell?

Ye know who use the Crystal Ball
  (To peer by stealth on Doom),
The Shade that, shaping first of all,
  Prepares an empty room.
    Then doth It pass
    Like breath from glass,
But, on the extorted vision bowed intent,
No man considers why It came or went.

Before the years reborn behold
  Themselves with stranger eye,
And the sport-making Gods of old,
  Like Samson slaying, die,
    Many shall hear
    The all-pregnant sphere,
Bow to the birth and sweat, but—speech denied—
Sit dumb or—dealt in part—fall weak and wide.

Yet instant to fore-shadowed need
  The eternal balance swings;
That wingèd men the Fates may breed
  So soon as Fate hath wings.
    These shall possess
    Our littleness,
And in the imperial task (as worthy) lay
Up our lives’ all to piece one giant Day.

Published in Rudyard Kipling's Verse: Inclusive Edition, 1885-1918

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