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A Recantation

by Rudyard Kipling, 1919


(To Lyde of the Music Halls)

WHAT boots it on the Gods to call?
  Since, answered or unheard,
We perish with the Gods and all
  Things made—except the Word.

Ere certain Fate had touched a heart
  By fifty years made cold,
I judged thee, Lyde, and thy art
  O’erblown and over-bold.

But he—but he, of whom bereft
  I suffer vacant days—
He on his shield not meanly left—
  He cherished all thy lays.

Witness the magic coffer stocked
  With convoluted runes
Wherein thy very voice was locked
  And linked to circling tunes.

Witness thy portrait, smoke-defiled,
  That decked his shelter-place.
Life seemed more present, wrote the child,
  Beneath thy well-known face.

And when the grudging days restored
  Him for a breath to home,
He, with fresh crowds of youth, adored
  Thee making mirth in Rome.

Therefore, I humble, join the hosts,
  Loyal and loud, who bow
To thee as Queen of Song—and ghosts,
  For I remember how

Never more rampant rose the Hall
  At thy audacious line
Than when the news came in from Gaul
  Thy son had—followed mine.

But thou didst hide it in thy breast
  And, capering, took the brunt
Of blaze and blare, and launched the jest
  That swept next week the front.

Singer to children! Ours possessed
  Sleep before noon—but thee,
Wakeful each midnight for the rest,
  No holocaust shall free!

Yet they who use the Word assigned,
  To hearten and make whole,
Not less than Gods have served mankind,
  Though vultures rend their soul.

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

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