Poetry Corner – The Outlaws

Through learned and laborious years 
    They set themselves to find
 Fresh terrors and undreamed-of fears
    To heap upon mankind. 

All that they drew from Heaven above
    Or digged from earth beneath,
 They laid into their treasure-trove
    And arsenals of death: 

While, for well-weighed advantage sake,
    Ruler and ruled alike
 Built up the faith they meant to break
    When the fit hour should strike. 

They traded with the careless earth,
    And good return it gave:
 They plotted by their neighbour’s hearth
    The means to make him slave. 

When all was ready to their hand
    They loosed their hidden sword,
 And utterly laid waste a land
    Their oath was pledged to guard 

Coldly they went about to raise
    To life and make more dread
 Abominations of old days,
    That men believed were dead. 

They paid the price to reach their goal
    Across a world in flame;
 But their own hate slew their own soul
    Before that victory came.

- Rudyard Kipling

Poetry Corner – Harp-Song of the Dane Women

What is a woman that you forsake her,
And the hearth-fire and the home-acre,
To go with the old grey Widow-maker?

She has no house to lay a guest in—
But one chill bed for all to rest in,
That the pale suns and the stray bergs nest in.

She has no strong white arms to fold you,
But the ten-times-fingering weed to hold you—
Out on the rocks where the tide has rolled you.

Yet, when the signs of summer thicken,
And the ice breaks, and the birch-buds quicken,
Yearly you turn from our side, and sicken—

Sicken again for the shouts and the slaughters.
You steal away to the lapping waters,
And look at your ship in her winter-quarters.

You forget our mirth, and talk at the tables,
The kine in the shed and the horse in the stables—
To pitch her sides and go over her cables.

Then you drive out where the storm-clouds swallow,
And the sound of your oar-blades, falling hollow,
Is all we have left through the months to follow.

Ah, what is Woman that you forsake her,
And the hearth-fire and the home-acre,
To go with the old grey Widow-maker ?

- Rudyard Kipling

Poetry Corner – The Song of Seven Cities

 I WAS Lord of Cities very sumptuously builded.
 Seven roaring Cities paid me tribute from afar.
 Ivory their outposts were—the guardrooms of them gilded,
 And garrisoned with Amazons invincible in war. 

All the world went softly when it walked before my Cities—
 Neither King nor Army vexed my peoples at their toil,
 Never horse nor chariot irked or overbore my Cities,
 Never Mob nor Ruler questioned whence they drew their spoil. 

Banded, mailed and arrogant from sunrise unto sunset;
 Singing while they sacked it, they possessed the land at large.
 Yet when men would rob them, they resisted, they made onset
 And pierced the smoke of battle with a thousand-sabred charge. 

 So they warred and trafficked only yesterday, my Cities.
 To-day there is no mark or mound of where my Cities stood.
 For the River rose at midnight and it washed away my Cities.
 They are evened with Atlantis and the towns before the Flood. 

Rain on rain-gorged channels raised the water-levels round them,
 Freshet backed on freshet swelled and swept their world from sight,
 Till the emboldened floods linked arms and, flashing forward, drowned them—
 Drowned my Seven Cities and their peoples in one night! 

Low among the alders lie their derelict foundations,
 The beams wherein they trusted and the plinths whereon they built—
 My rulers and their treasure and their unborn populations,
 Dead, destroyed, aborted, and defiled with mud and silt! 

The Daughters of the Palace whom they cherished in my Cities,
 My silver-tongued Princesses, and the promise of their May—
 Their bridegrooms of the June-tide—all have perished in my Cities,
 With the harsh envenomed virgins that can neither love nor play. 

I was Lord of Cities—I will build anew my Cities,
 Seven, set on rocks, above the wrath of any flood.
 Nor will I rest from search till I have filled anew my Cities
 With peoples undefeated of the dark, enduring blood. 

To the sound of trumpets shall their seed restore my Cities
 Wealthy and well-weaponed, that once more may I behold
 All the world go softly when it walks before my Cities,
 And the horses and the chariots fleeing from them as of old! 
- Rudyard Kipling

Poetry Corner – White Horses

 Where run your colts at pasture?
   Where hide your mares to breed?
 'Mid bergs about the Ice-cap
   Or wove Sargasso weed;
 By chartless reef and channel,
   Or crafty coastwise bars,
 But most the ocean-meadows
   All purple to the stars!

 Who holds the rein upon you?
   The latest gale let free.
 What meat is in your mangers?
   The glut of all the sea.
 'Twixt tide and tide's returning
   Great store of newly dead, --
 The bones of those that faced us,
   And the hearts of those that fled.

 Afar, off-shore and single,
   Some stallion, rearing swift,
 Neighs hungry for new fodder,
   And calls us to the drift:
 Then down the cloven ridges --
   A million hooves unshod --
 Break forth the mad White Horses
   To seek their meat from God!
 
Girth-deep in hissing water
   Our furious vanguard strains --
 Through mist of mighty tramplings
   Roll up the fore-blown manes --
 A hundred leagues to leeward,
   Ere yet the deep is stirred,
 The groaning rollers carry
   The coming of the herd!

 Whose hand may grip your nostrils --
   Your forelock who may hold?
 E'en they that use the broads with us --
   The riders bred and bold,
 That spy upon our matings,
   That rope us where we run --
 They know the strong White Horses
   From father unto son.

 We breathe about their cradles,
   We race their babes ashore,
 We snuff against their thresholds,
   We nuzzle at their door;
 By day with stamping squadrons,
   By night in whinnying droves,
 Creep up the wise White Horses,
   To call them from their loves.
 
And come they for your calling?
   No wit of man may save.
 They hear the loosed White Horses
   Above their fathers' grave;
 And, kin of those we crippled,
   And, sons of those we slew,
 Spur down the wild white riders
   To school the herds anew.

 What service have ye paid them,
   Oh jealous steeds and strong?
 Save we that throw their weaklings,
   Is none dare work them wrong;
 While thick around the homestead
   Our snow-backed leaders graze --
 A guard behind their plunder,
   And a veil before their ways.

 With march and countermarchings --
   With weight of wheeling hosts --
 Stray mob or bands embattled --
   We ring the chosen coasts:
 And, careless of our clamour
   That bids the stranger fly,
 At peace with our pickets
   The wild white riders lie.

 Trust ye that curdled hollows --
   Trust ye the neighing wind --
 Trust ye the moaning groundswell --
   Our herds are close behind!
 To bray your foeman's armies --
   To chill and snap his sword --
 Trust ye the wild White Horses,
   The Horses of the Lord! 

- Rudyard Kipling

Poetry Corner – Ripple Song

Once red ripple came to land
   In the golden sunset burning--
 Lapped against a maiden's hand,
   By the ford returning.

Dainty foot and gentle breast--
 Here, across, be glad and rest.
 "Maiden, wait," the ripple saith;
 "Wait awhile, for I am Death!"

"Where my lover calls I go--
   Shame it were to treat him coldly--
 'Twas a fish that circled so,
   Turning over boldly."
   
Dainty foot and tender heart,
 Wait the loaded ferry-raft.
 "Wait, ah, wait!" the ripple saith;
"Maiden, wait, for I am Death!"

"When my lover calls I haste--
   Dame Disdain was never wedded!"
 Ripple-ripple round her waist,
   Clear the current eddied.

Foolish heart and faithful hand,
 Little feet that touched no land.
 Far away the ripple sped,
 Ripple-ripple running red! 

- Rudyard Kipling

Poetry Corner – If

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream -- and not make dreams your master;
If you can think -- and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings -- nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And -- which is more -- you'll be a Man, my son!

Poetry Corner

I will remember what I was, I am sick of rope and chain--
I will remember my old strength and all my forest affairs.
I will not sell my back to man for a bundle of sugar-cane:
I will go out to my own kind, and the wood-folk in their lairs.
I will go out until the day, until the morning break--
Out to the wind's untainted kiss, the water's clean caress;
I will forget my ankle-ring and snap my picket stake.
I will revisit my lost loves, and playmates masterless!

- "Chapter Heading" from Songs From Books 
- Rudyard Kipling

Poetry Corner – The Last Suttee

Udai Chand lay sick to death
In his hold by Gungra hill.
All night we heard the death-gongs ring
For the soul of the dying Rajpoot King,
All night beat up from the women’s wing
A cry that we could not still.

All night the barons came and went,
The lords of the outer guard:
All night the cressets glimmered pale
On Ulwar sabre and Tonk jezail,
Mewar headstall and Marwar mail,
That clinked in the palace yard.

In the Golden room on the palace roof
All night he fought for air:
And there was sobbing behind the screen,
Rustle and whisper of women unseen,
And the hungry eyes of the Boondi Queen
On the death she might not share.

He passed at dawn — the death-fire leaped
From ridge to river-head,
From the Malwa plains to the Abu scars:
And wail upon wail went up to the stars
Behind the grim zenana-bars,
When they knew that the King was dead.

The dumb priest knelt to tie his mouth
And robe him for the pyre.
The Boondi Queen beneath us cried:
“See, now, that we die as our mothers died
In the bridal-bed by our master’s side!
Out, women! — to the fire!”

We drove the great gates home apace:
White hands were on the sill:
But ere the rush of the unseen feet
Had reached the turn to the open street,
The bars shot down, the guard-drum beat —
We held the dovecot still.

A face looked down in the gathering day,
And laughing spoke from the wall:
“Oh, they mourn here: let me by —
Azizun, the Lucknow nautch-girl, I!
When the house is rotten, the rats must fly,
And I seek another thrall.

“For I ruled the King as ne’er did Queen, —
To-night the Queens rule me!
Guard them safely, but let me go,
Or ever they pay the debt they owe
In scourge and torture!” She leaped below,
And the grim guard watched her flee.

They knew that the King had spent his soul
On a North-bred dancing-girl:
That he prayed to a flat-nosed Lucknow god,
And kissed the ground where her feet had trod,
And doomed to death at her drunken nod,
And swore by her lightest curl.

We bore the King to his fathers’ place,
Where the tombs of the Sun-born stand:
Where the gray apes swing, and the peacocks preen
On fretted pillar and jewelled screen,
And the wild boar couch in the house of the Queen
On the drift of the desert sand.

The herald read his titles forth,
We set the logs aglow:
“Friend of the English, free from fear,
Baron of Luni to Jeysulmeer,
Lord of the Desert of Bikaneer,
King of the Jungle, — go!”

All night the red flame stabbed the sky
With wavering wind-tossed spears:
And out of a shattered temple crept
A woman who veiled her head and wept,
And called on the King — but the great King slept,
And turned not for her tears.

Small thought had he to mark the strife —
Cold fear with hot desire —
When thrice she leaped from the leaping flame,
And thrice she beat her breast for shame,
And thrice like a wounded dove she came
And moaned about the fire.

One watched, a bow-shot from the blaze,
The silent streets between,
Who had stood by the King in sport and fray,
To blade in ambush or boar at bay,
And he was a baron old and gray,
And kin to the Boondi Queen.

He said: “O shameless, put aside
The veil upon thy brow!
Who held the King and all his land
To the wanton will of a harlot’s hand!
Will the white ash rise from the blistered brand?
Stoop down, and call him now!”

Then she: “By the faith of my tarnished soul,
All things I did not well,
I had hoped to clear ere the fire died,
And lay me down by my master’s side
To rule in Heaven his only bride,
While the others howl in Hell.

“But I have felt the fire’s breath,
And hard it is to die!
Yet if I may pray a Rajpoot lord
To sully the steel of a Thakur’s sword
With base-born blood of a trade abhorred,” —
And the Thakur answered, “Ay.”

He drew and struck: the straight blade drank
The life beneath the breast.
“I had looked for the Queen to face the flame,
But the harlot dies for the Rajpoot dame —
Sister of mine, pass, free from shame,
Pass with thy King to rest!”

The black log crashed above the white:
The little flames and lean,
Red as slaughter and blue as steel,
That whistled and fluttered from head to heel,
Leaped up anew, for they found their meal
On the heart of — the Boondi Queen!

–Rudyard Kipling

Music Monday – Make Ye No Truce With Kings

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! 

The Old Issue