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Chapter Headings, II

by Rudyard Kipling, 1919


      WE meet in an evil land
      That is near to the gates of hell.
      I wait for thy command
      To serve, to speed or withstand.
      And thou sayest, I do not well?

      Oh Love, the flowers so red
      Are only tongues of flame,
      The earth is full of the dead,
      The new-killed, restless dead.
      There is danger beneath and o’erhead,
      And I guard thy gates in fear
      Of words thou canst not hear,
      Of peril and jeopardy,
      Of signs thou canst not see—
      And thou sayest ’tis ill that I came?
*        *        *        *        *

      This I saw when the rites were done,
      And the lamps were dead and the Gods alone,
      And the grey snake coiled on the altar stone—
      Ere I fled from a Fear that I could not see,
      And the Gods of the East made mouths at me.
*        *        *        *        *

Now it is not good for the Christian’s health to hustle the Aryan brown,
For the Christian riles, and the Aryan smiles and he weareth the Christian down;
And the end of the fight is a tombstone white with the name of the late deceased,
And the epitaph drear: “A Fool lies here who tried to hustle the East.”
*        *        *        *        *

      Beat off in our last fight were we?
      The greater need to seek the sea.
      For Fortune changeth as the moon
      To caravel and picaroon.
      Then Eastward Ho! or Westward Ho!
      Whichever wind may meetest blow.
      Our quarry sails on either sea,
      Fat prey for such bold lads as we,
      And every sun-dried buccaneer
      Must hand and reef and watch and steer,
      And bear great wrath of sea and sky
      Before the plate-ships wallow by.
      Now, as our tall bows take the foam,
      Let no man turn his heart to home,
      Save to desire treasure more,
      And larger warehouse for his store,
      When treasure won from Santos Bay
      Shall make our sea-washed village gay.
*        *        *        *        *

          Because I sought it far from men,
          In deserts and alone,
          I found it burning overhead,
          The jewel of a Throne.

          Because I sought—I sought it so
          And spent my days to find—
          It blazed one moment ere it left
          The blacker night behind.
*        *        *        *        *

          When a lover hies abroad,
          Looking for his love,
          Azrael smiling sheathes his sword,
          Heaven smiles above.
          Earth and sea
          His servants be,
          And to lesser compass round,
          That his love be sooner found!
*        *        *        *        *

        There was a strife ’twixt man and maid—
        Oh that was at the birth of time!
        But what befell ’twixt man and maid,
        Oh that’s beyond the grip of rhyme.
        ’Twas, “Sweet, I must not bide with you,”
        And “Love, I cannot bide alone”;
        For both were young and both were true,
        And both were hard as the nether stone.
*        *        *        *        *

There is pleasure in the wet, wet clay,
When the artist’s hand is potting it;
There is pleasure in the wet, wet lay;
When the poet’s pad is blotting it;
There is pleasure in the shine of your picture on the line
At the Royal Acade-my;
But the pleasure felt in these is as chalk to Cheddar cheese
When it comes to a well-made Lie.—
To a quite unwreckable Lie,
To a most impeccable Lie!
To a water-tight, fire-proof, angle-iron, sunk-hinge, time-lock, steel-faced Lie!
Not a private hansom Lie,
But a pair-and-brougham Lie,
Not a little-place-at-Tooting, but a country-house-with-shooting
And a ring-fence-deer-park Lie.
*        *        *        *        *

          We be the Gods of the East—
              Older than all—
          Masters of Mourning and Feast
              How shall we fall?
*        *        *        *        *

    Will they gape for the husks that ye proffer
        Or yearn to your song?
    And we—have we nothing to offer
        Who ruled them so long—
In the fume of the incense, the clash of the cymbals, the blare of the conch and the gong?

    Over the strife of the schools
        Low the day burns—
    Back with the kine from the pools
        Each one returns
To the life that he knows where the altar-flame glows and the tulsi is trimmed in the urns.


    SO we settled it all when the storm was done
    As comfy as comfy could be;
    And I was to wait in the barn, my dears,
    Because I was only three;
    And Teddy would run to the rainbow’s foot
    Because he was five and a man;
    And that’s how it all began, my dears,
    And that’s how it all began!
*        *        *        *        *

    “If I have taken the common clay
      And wrought it cunningly
    In the shape of a God that was digged a clod,
      The greater honour to me.”
    “If thou hast taken the common clay,
      And thy hands be not free
    From the taint of the soil, thou hast made thy spoil
      The greater shame to thee.”
*        *        *        *        *

The wolf-cub at even lay hid in the corn,
When the smoke of the cooking hung grey:
He knew where the doe made a couch for her fawn,
And he looked to his strength for his prey.
But the moon swept the smoke-wreaths away,
And he turned from his meal in the villager’s close,
And he bayed to the moon as she rose.
*        *        *        *        *

      The lark will make her hymn to God,
      The partridge call her brood,
      While I forget the heath I trod,
      The fields wherein I stood.

      ’Tis dule to know not night from morn,
      But greater dule to know
      I can but hear the hunter’s horn
      That once I used to blow.
*        *        *        *        *

There were three friends that buried the fourth,
The mould in his mouth and the dust in his eyes,
And they went south and east and north—
The strong man fights but the sick man dies.

There were three friends that spoke of the dead—
The strong man fights but the sick man dies—
“And would he were here with us now,” they said,
“The sun in our face and the wind in our eyes.”
*        *        *        *        *

Yet at the last, ere our spearmen had found him,
Yet at the last, ere a sword-thrust could save,
Yet at the last, with his masters around him,
He spoke of the Faith as a master to slave.
Yet at the last, though the Kafirs had maimed him,
Broken by bondage and wrecked by the reiver,
Yet at the last, tho’ the darkness had claimed him,
He called upon Allah, and died a Believer!

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

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