Back to Index

Chapter Headings, III

by Rudyard Kipling, 1919


THEY killed a child to please the Gods
In earth’s young penitence,
And I have bled in that Babe’s stead
Because of innocence.

I bear the sins of sinful men
That have no sin of my own,
They drive me forth to Heaven’s wrath
Unpastured and alone.

I am the meat of sacrifice,
The ransom of man’s guilt,
For they give my life to the altar-knife
Wherever shrine is built.
The Goat.

Between the waving tufts of jungle-grass,
Up from the river as the twilight falls,
Across the dust-beclouded plain they pass
On to the village walls.

Great is the sword and mighty is the pen,
But over all the labouring ploughman’s blade—
For on its oxen and its husbandmen
An Empire’s strength is laid.
The Oxen.

The torn boughs trailing o’er the tusks aslant,
The saplings reeling in the path he trod,
Declare his might—our lord the Elephant,
Chief of the ways of God.

The black bulk heaving where the oxen pant,
The bowed head toiling where the guns careen,
Declare our might—our slave the Elephant
And servant of the Queen.
The Elephant.

Dark children of the mere and marsh,
Wallow and waste and lea,
Outcaste they wait at the village gate
With folk of low degree.

Their pasture is in no man’s land,
Their food the cattle’s scorn,
Their rest is mire and their desire
The thicket and the thorn.

But woe to those that break their sleep,
And woe to those that dare
To rouse the herd-bull from his keep,
The wild boar from his lair!
Pigs and Buffaloes.

    The beasts are very wise,
    Their mouths are clean of lies,
    They talk one to the other,
    Bullock to bullock’s brother
    Resting after their labours,
    Each in stall with his neighbours.
    But man with goad and whip,
    Breaks up their fellowship,
    Shouts in their silky ears
    Filling their soul with fears.
    When he has ploughed the land,
    He says: “They understand.”
    But the beasts in stall together,
    Freed from the yoke and tether,
    Say as the torn flanks smoke:
    “Nay, ’twas the whip that spoke.”


THE DOORS were wide, the story saith,
Out of the night came the patient wraith.
He might not speak, and he could not stir
A hair of the Baron’s minniver.
Speechless and strengthless, a shadow thin,
He roved the castle to find his kin.
And oh! ’twas a piteous sight to see
The dumb ghost follow his enemy!
The Return of Imray.

Before my Spring I garnered Autumn’s gain,
Out of her time my field was white with grain,
The year gave up her secrets, to my woe.
Forced and deflowered each sick season lay
In mystery of increase and decay;
I saw the sunset ere men see the day,
Who am too wise in all I should not know.
Without Benefit of Clergy.


UNTO whose use the pregnant suns are poised,
With idiot moons and stars retracting stars?
Creep thou between—thy coming’s all unnoised.
Heaven hath her high, as Earth her baser, wars.
Heir to these tumults, this affright, that fray
(By Adam’s, fathers’, own, sin bound alway);
Peer up, draw out thy horoscope and say
Which planet mends thy threadbare fate, or mars.


THERE’S a convict more in the Central Jail,
Behind the old mud wall;
There’s a lifter less on the Border trail,
And the Queen’s Peace over all,
Dear boys,
The Queen’s Peace over all!

For we must bear our leader’s blame,
On us the shame will fall,
If we lift our hand from a fettered land
And the Queen’s Peace over all,
Dear boys,
The Queen’s Peace over all!
The Lost Legion.

’Less you want your toes trod off you’d better get back at once,
For the bullocks are walking two by two,
The byles are walking two by two,
And the elephants bring the guns.
Ho! Yuss!
Great—big—long—black—forty-pounder guns.
Jiggery-jolty to and fro,
Each as big as a launch in tow—
Blind—dumb—broad-breeched—beggars o’ battering-guns.
My Lord the Elephant.

      All the world over, nursing their scars,
      Sit the old fighting-men broke in the wars—
      Sit the old fighting men, surly and grim
      Mocking the lilt of the conquerors’ hymn.

      Dust of the battle o’erwhelmed them and hid,
      Fame never found them for aught that they did.
      Wounded and spent to the lazar they drew,
      Lining the road where the Legions roll through.

      Sons of the Laurel who press to your meed,
      (Worthy God’s pity most—ye who succeed!)
      Ere you go triumphing, crowned, to the stars,
      Pity poor fighting men, broke in the wars!

          PUT forth to watch, unschooled, alone,
            ’Twixt hostile earth and sky;
          The mottled lizard ’neath the stone
            Is wiser here than I.

          What stir across the haze of heat?
            What omen down the wind?
          The buck that break before my feet—
            They know, but I am blind!


FAREWELL and adieu to you, Harwich Ladies,
Farewell and adieu to you, ladies ashore!
For we’ve received orders to work to the eastward
Where we hope in a short time to strafe ’em some more.

We’ll duck and we’ll dive like little tin turtles,
We’ll duck and we’ll dive underneath the North Seas,
Until we strike something that doesn’t expect us,
From here to Cuxhaven it’s go as you please!

The first thing we did was to dock in a minefield,
Which isn’t a place where repairs should be done;
And there we lay doggo in twelve-fathom water
With tri-nitro-toluol hogging our run.

The next thing we did, we rose under a Zeppelin,
With his shiny big belly half blocking the sky.
But what in the—Heavens can you do with six-pounders?
So we fired what we had and we bade him good-bye.
  Farewell and adieu, &c.
Fringes of the Fleet.

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

Any corrections or public domain poems I should have here? Email me at poems (at) this domain.