15+ Best Rudyard Kipling Poems You Should Have Read By Now

Rudyard Kipling is one of the best-known of the late Victorian poets, famous for his poems which showcase his encouraging, humanistic style.

If you’re searching for famous poems ever that perfectly capture what you’d like to say or just want to feel inspired yourself, browse through an amazing collection of amazing Audre Lorde poems, greatest Alice Walker poems, and best known Wendell Berry poems.

Famous Rudyard Kipling Poems

The Appeal

It I have given you delight
By aught that I have done,
Let me lie quiet in that night
Which shall be yours anon:

And for the little, little, span
The dead are born in mind,
Seek not to question other than
The books I leave behind.

The Legends Of Evil

This is the sorrowful story
Told when the twilight fails
And the monkeys walk together
Holding their neighbours’ tails: —

“Our fathers lived in the forest,
Foolish people were they,
They went down to the cornland
To teach the farmers to play.

“Our fathers frisked in the millet,
Our fathers skipped in the wheat,
Our fathers hung from the branches,
Our fathers danced in the street.

“Then came the terrible farmers,
Nothing of play they knew,
Only. . .they caught our fathers
And set them to labour too!

“Set them to work in the cornland
With ploughs and sickles and flails,
Put them in mud-walled prisons
And — cut off their beautiful tails!

“Now, we can watch our fathers,
Sullen and bowed and old,
Stooping over the millet,
Sharing the silly mould,

“Driving a foolish furrow,
Mending a muddy yoke,
Sleeping in mud-walled prisons,
Steeping their food in smoke.

“We may not speak to our fathers,
For if the farmers knew
They would come up to the forest
And set us to labour too.”

This is the horrible story
Told as the twilight fails
And the monkeys walk together
Holding their kinsmen’s tails.

II

‘Twas when the rain fell steady an’ the Ark was pitched an’ ready,
That Noah got his orders for to take the bastes below;
He dragged them all together by the horn an’ hide an’ feather,
An’ all excipt the Donkey was agreeable to go.

Thin Noah spoke him fairly, thin talked to him sevarely,
An’ thin he cursed him squarely to the glory av the Lord: —
“Divil take the ass that bred you, and the greater ass that fed you —
Divil go wid you, ye spalpeen!” an’ the Donkey went aboard.

But the wind was always failin’, an’ ’twas most onaisy sailin’,
An’ the ladies in the cabin couldn’t stand the stable air;
An’ the bastes betwuxt the hatches, they tuk an’ died in batches,
Till Noah said: — “There’s wan av us that hasn’t paid his fare!”

For he heard a flusteration ‘mid the bastes av all creation —
The trumpetin’ av elephints an’ bellowin’ av whales;
An’ he saw forninst the windy whin he wint to stop the shindy
The Divil wid a stable-fork bedivillin’ their tails.

The Divil cursed outrageous, but Noah said umbrageous: —
“To what am I indebted for this tenant-right invasion?”
An’ the Divil gave for answer: — “Evict me if you can, sir,
For I came in wid the Donkey — on Your Honour’s invitation.”

The Spies’ March

There are not leaders to lead us to honour, and yet without leaders we sally,
Each man reporting for duty alone, out of sight, out of reach, of his fellow.
There are no bugles to call the battalions, and yet without bugle we rally
From the ends of the earth to the ends of the earth, to follow the Standard of Yellow!
Fall in! O fall in! O fall in!

Not where the squadrons mass,
Not where the bayonets shine,
Not where the big shell shout as they pass
Over the firing-line;
Not where the wounded are,
Not where the nations die,
Killed in the cleanly game of war —
That is no place for a spy!
O Princes, Thrones and Powers, your work is less than ours —
Here is no place for a spy!

Trained to another use,
We march with colours furled,
Only concerned when Death breaks loose
On a front of half a world.
Only for General Death
The Yellow Flag may fly,
While we take post beneath —
That is the place for a spy.
Where Plague has spread his pinions
Over Nations and Dominions —
Then will be work for a spy!

The dropping shots begin,
The single funerals pass,
Our skirmishers run in,
The corpses dot the grass!
The howling towns stampede,
The tainted hamlets die.
Now it is war indeed —
Now there is room for a spy!
O Peoples, Kings and Lands,
We are waiting your commands —
What is the work for a spy?
(Drums) — Fear is upon us, spy!

“Go where his pickets hide —
Unmask the shape they take,
Whether a gnat from the waterside,
Or a stinging fly in the brake,
Or filth of the crowded street,
Or a sick rat limping by,
Or a smear of spittle dried in the heat —
That is the work of a spy!
(Drums) — Death is upon us, spy!

“What does he next prepare?
Whence will he move to attack? —
By water, earth or air? —
How can we head him back?
Shall we starve him out if we burn
Or bury his food-supply?
Slip through his lines and learn —
That is work for a spy!
(Drums) — Get to your business, spy!

“Does he feint or strike in force?
Will he charge or ambuscade?
What is it checks his course?
Is he beaten or only delayed?
How long will the lull endure?
Is he retreating? Why?
Crawl to his camp and make sure —
That is the work for a spy!
(Drums) — Fetch us our answer, spy!

“Ride with him girth to girth
Wherever the Pale Horse wheels
Wait on his councils, ear to earth,
And say what the dust reveals.
For the smoke of our torment rolls
Where the burning thousands lie;
What do we care for men’s bodies or souls?
Bring us deliverance, spy!”

The Song Of The Sons

One from the ends of the earth — gifts at an open door —
Treason has much, but we, Mother, thy sons have more!
From the whine of a dying man, from the snarl of a wolf-pack freed,
Turn, and the world is thine. Mother, be proud of thy seed!
Count, are we feeble or few? Hear, is our speech so rude?
Look, are we poor in the land? Judge, are we men of The Blood?

Those that have stayed at thy knees, Mother, go call them in —
We that were bred overseas wait and would speak with our kin.
Not in the dark do we fight — haggle and flout and gibe;
Selling our love for a price, loaning our hearts for a bribe.
Gifts have we only to-day — Love without promise or fee —
Hear, for thy children speak, from the uttermost parts of the sea!

The Coastwise Lights

Our brows are bound with spindrift and the weed is on our knees;
Our loins are battered ‘neath us by the swinging, smoking seas.
From reef and rock and skerry — over headland, ness, and voe —
The Coastwise Lights of England watch the ships of England go!

Through the endless summer evenings, on the lineless, level floors;
Through the yelling Channel tempest when the siren hoots and roars —
By day the dipping house-flag and by night the rocket’s trail —
As the sheep that graze behind us so we know them where they hail.

We bridge across the dark and bid the helmsman have a care,
The flash that wheeling inland wakes his sleeping wife to prayer;
From our vexed eyries, head to gale, we bind in burning chains
The lover from the sea-rim drawn — his love in English lanes.

We greet the clippers wing-and-wing that race the Southern wool;
We warn the crawling cargo-tanks of Bremen, Leith, and Hull;
To each and all our equal lamp at peril of the sea —
The white wall-sided war-ships or the whalers of Dundee!

Come up, come in from Eastward, from the guardports of the Morn!
Beat up, beat in from Southerly, O gipsies of the Horn!
Swift shuttles of an Empire’s loom that weave us, main to main,
The Coastwise Lights of England give you welcome back again!

Go, get you gone up-Channel with the sea-crust on your plates;
Go, get you into London with the burden of your freights!
Haste, for they talk of Empire there, and say, if any seek,
The Lights of England sent you and by silence shall ye speak!

The Ballad Of Minepit Shaw

About the time that taverns shut
And men can buy no beer,
Two lads went up to the keepers’ hut
To steal Lord Pelham’s deer.

Night and the liquor was in their heads–
They laughed and talked no bounds,
Till they waked the keepers on their beds
And the keepers loosed the hounds.

They had killed a hart, they had killed a hind,
Ready to carry away,
When they heard a whimper down the wind
And they heard a bloodhound bay.

They took and ran across the fern,
Their crossbows in their hand,
Till they met a man with a green lantern
That called and bade ’em stand.

“What are ye doing, O Flesh and Blood,
And what’s your foolish will,
That you must break into Minepit Wood
And wake the Folk of the Hill?”

“Oh, we’ve broke into Lord Pelham’s park,
And killed Lord Pelham’s deer,
And if ever you heard a little dog bark
You’ll know why we come here.

“We ask you let us go our way,
As fast as we can flee,
For if ever you heard a bloodhound bay
You’ll know how pressed we be.”

“Oh, lay your crossbows on the bank
And drop the knives from your hand,
And though the hounds be at your flank
I’ll save you where you stand!”

They laid their crossbows on the bank,
They threw their knives in the wood,
And the ground before them opened and sank
And saved ’em where they stood.

“Oh, what’s the roaring in our ears
That strikes us well-nigh dumb?”
“Oh, that is just how things appears
According as they come.”

“What are the stars before our eyes
That strike us well-nigh blind?”
“Oh, that is just how things arise
According as you find.”

“And why’s our bed so hard to the bones
Excepting where it’s cold?”
“Oh, that’s because it is precious stones
Excepting where ’tis gold.

“Think it over as you stand,
For I tell you without fail,
If you haven’t got into Fairyland
You’re not in Lewes Gaol.”

All night long they thought of it,
And, come the dawn, they saw
They’d tumbled into a great old pit,
At the bottom of Minepit Shaw.

And the keeper’s hound had followed ’em close,
And broke her neck in the fall;
So they picked up their knives and their crossbows
And buried the dog. That’s all.

But whether the man was a poacher too
Or a Pharisee’ so bold–
I reckon there’s more things told than are true.
And more things true than are told!

The Jacket

Through the Plagues of Egyp’ we was chasin’ Arabi,
Gettin’ down an’ shovin’ in the sun;
An’ you might ‘ave called us dirty, an’ you might ha’ called us dry,
An’ you might ‘ave ‘eard us talkin’ at the gun.
But the Captain ‘ad ‘is jacket, an’ the jacket it was new —
(‘Orse Gunners, listen to my song!)
An’ the wettin’ of the jacket is the proper thing to do,
Nor we didn’t keep ‘im waitin’ very long.

One day they gave us orders for to shell a sand redoubt,
Loadin’ down the axle-arms with case;
But the Captain knew ‘is dooty, an’ he took the crackers out
An’ he put some proper liquor in its place.
An’ the Captain saw the shrapnel, which is six-an’-thirty clear.
(‘Orse Gunners, listen to my song!)
“Will you draw the weight,” sez ‘e, “or will you draw the beer?”
An’ we didn’t keep ‘im waitin’ very long.
~For the Captain, etc.~

Then we trotted gentle, not to break the bloomin’ glass,
Though the Arabites ‘ad all their ranges marked;
But we dursn’t ‘ardly gallop, for the most was bottled Bass,
An’ we’d dreamed of it since we was disembarked:
So we fired economic with the shells we ‘ad in ‘and,
(‘Orse Gunners, listen to my song!)
But the beggars under cover ‘ad the impidence to stand,
An’ we couldn’t keep ’em waitin’ very long.
~And the Captain, etc.~

So we finished ‘arf the liquor (an’ the Captain took champagne),
An’ the Arabites was shootin’ all the while;
An’ we left our wounded ‘appy with the empties on the plain,
An’ we used the bloomin’ guns for pro-jec-tile!
We limbered up an’ galloped — there were nothin’ else to do —
(‘Orse Gunners, listen to my song!)
An’ the Battery came a-boundin’ like a boundin’ kangaroo,
But they didn’t watch us comin’ very long.
~As the Captain, etc.~

We was goin’ most extended — we was drivin’ very fine,
An’ the Arabites were loosin’ ‘igh an’ wide,
Till the Captain took the glassy with a rattlin’ right incline,
An’ we dropped upon their ‘eads the other side.
Then we give ’em quarter — such as ‘adn’t up and cut,
(‘Orse Gunners, listen to my song!)
An’ the Captain stood a limberful of fizzy — somethin’ Brutt,
But we didn’t leave it fizzing very long.
~For the Captain, etc.~

We might ha’ been court-martialled, but it all come out all right
When they signalled us to join the main command.
There was every round expended, there was every gunner tight,
An’ the Captain waved a corkscrew in ‘is ‘and.
~But the Captain ‘ad ‘is jacket, etc.~

The Press

The Soldier may forget his Sword,
The Sailorman the Sea,
The Mason may forget the Word
And the Priest his Litany:
The Maid may forget both jewel and gem,
And the Bride her wedding-dress–
But the Jew shall forget Jerusalem
Ere we forget the Press!

Who once hath stood through the loaded hour
Ere, roaring like the gale,
The Harrild and the Hoe devour
Their league-long paper-bale,
And has lit his pipe in the morning calm
That follows the midnight stress–
He hath sold his heart to the old Black Art
We call the daily Press.

Who once hath dealt in the widest game
That all of a man can play,
No later love, no larger fame
Will lure him long away.
As the war-horse snuffeth the battle afar,
The entered Soul, no less,
He saith: “Ha! Ha!” where the trumpets are
And the thunders of the Press!

Canst thou number the days that we fulfill,
Or the Times that we bring forth?
Canst thou send the lightnings to do thy will,
And cause them reign on earth?
Hast thou given a peacock goodly wings,
To please his foolishness?
Sit down at the heart of men and things,
Companion of the Press!

The Pope may launch his Interdict,
The Union its decree,
But the bubble is blown and the bubble is pricked
By Us and such as We.
Remember the battle and stand aside
While Thrones and Powers confess
That King over all the children of pride
Is the Press–the Press–the Press!

The Man Who Could Write 

Shun — shun the Bowl! That fatal, facile drink
Has ruined many geese who dipped their quills in ‘t;
Bribe, murder, marry, but steer clear of Ink
Save when you write receipts for paid-up bills in ‘t.
There may be silver in the “blue-black” — all
I know of is the iron and the gall.

Boanerges Blitzen, servant of the Queen,
Is a dismal failure — is a Might-have-been.
In a luckless moment he discovered men
Rise to high position through a ready pen.

Boanerges Blitzen argued therefore — “I,
With the selfsame weapon, can attain as high.”
Only he did not possess when he made the trial,
Wicked wit of C-lv-n, irony of L–l.

[Men who spar with Government need, to back their blows,
Something more than ordinary journalistic prose.]

Never young Civilian’s prospects were so bright,
Till an Indian paper found that he could write:
Never young Civilian’s prospects were so dark,
When the wretched Blitzen wrote to make his mark.

Certainly he scored it, bold, and black, and firm,
In that Indian paper — made his seniors squirm,
Quated office scandals, wrote the tactless truth —
Was there ever known a more misguided youth?

When the Rag he wrote for praised his plucky game,
Boanerges Blitzen felt that this was Fame;
When the men he wrote of shook their heads and swore,
Boanerges Blitzen only wrote the more:

Posed as Young Ithuriel, resolute and grim,
Till he found promotion didn’t come to him;
Till he found that reprimands weekly were his lot,
And his many Districts curiously hot.

Till he found his furlough strangely hard to win,
Boanerges Blitzen didn’t care to pin:
Then it seemed to dawn on him something wasn’t right —
Boanerges Blitzen put it down to “spite”;

Languished in a District desolate and dry;
Watched the Local Government yearly pass him by;
Wondered where the hitch was; called it most unfair.
. . . . .
That was seven years ago — and he still is there!

The Legend Of The Foreign Office

Rajah of Kolazai,
Drinketh the “simpkin” and brandy peg,
Maketh the money to fly,
Vexeth a Government, tender and kind,
Also — but this is a detail — blind.

Rustum Beg of Kolazai — slightly backward Native State —
Lusted for a C.S.I. — so began to sanitate.
Built a Gaol and Hospital — nearly built a City drain —
Till his faithful subjects all thought their ruler was insane.

Strange departures made he then — yea, Departments stranger still:
Half a dozen Englishmen helped the Rajah with a will,
Talked of noble aims and high, hinted of a future fine
For the State of Kolazai, on a strictly Western line.

Fajah Rustum held his peace; lowered octroi dues a half;
Organised a State Police; purified the Civil Staff;
Settled cess and tax aftresh in a very liberal way;
Cut temptations of the flesh — also cut the Bukhshi’s pay;

Roused his Secretariat to a fine Mahratta fury,
By an Order hinting at supervision of dasturi;
Turned the State of Kolazai very nearly upside-down;
When the end of May was night waited his achievement’s crown.

Then the Birthday Honours came. Sad to state and sad to see,
Stood against the Rajah’s name nothing more than C.I.E.!. . .
Things were lively for a week in the State of Kolazai,
Even now the people speak of that time regretfully.

How he disendowed the Gaol — stopped at once the City drain;
Turned to beauty fair and frail — got his senses back again;
Doubled taxes, cesses, all; cleared away each new-built thana;
Turned the two-lakh Hospital into a superb Zenana;

Heaped upon the Bukshi Sahib wealth and honours manifold;
Glad himself in Eastern garb — squeezed his people as of old.
Happy, happy Kolazai! Never more will Rustum Beg
Play to catch his Viceroy’s eye. He prefers the “simpkin” peg.

The Ballad Of Ahmed Shah

This is the ballad of Ahmed Shah
Dealer in tats in the Sudder Bazar,
By the gate that leads to the Gold Minar
How he was done by a youth from Morar.

Ahmed Shah was a man of peace –
His beard and turban were thick with grease:
His paunch was huge and his speech was slow
And he swindled the subalterns high and low,
Scores of subalterns came to try
The tats that he sold – and remained to buy,
Scores of subalterns later on
Found that their flashiest mounts were ‘gone’ –
Some in the front and some behind
Some were roarers and some went blind –
Scores of subalterns over their ‘weeds’
Cursed old Ahmed and all his deeds.
But Ahmed Shah in his gully sat still –
And ever he fashioned a Little Black Pill!

Yet a judgement was brewing for Ahmed Shah,
Like a witches cauldron, in far Morar
And the youth that brewed it has eyes of blue
And his cheek was beardless and boundless too.
Softly he mused o’er a trichi thick:-
‘By the Beard of the Prophet I’ve got the trick!’
Then he rose from his chair with an artless grin
And called the Battery Sergeant in:-
‘Sergeant’ he said ‘Hasst aught for me
In the way of a ‘caster’ with lots of gee ?’
The sergeant pondered and answered slow
‘There’s a red-roan gelding that’s bound to go
At the next Committee. ‘E ain’t no use
Excep’ for kickin’ recruits to the deuce,
‘E’s chained in the sick lines.’
The subaltern’s brow
Was puckered with thought for a moment. Then
The sergeant was richer by rupees ten.
‘When the next Committee sits’ quoth he
‘O Sergeant buy up that brute for me.’

So the plot was laid and the long weeks passed
And the red-road gelding was duly cast.
They led him in chains to the subaltern’s stall
And gave him his gram’ through a hole in the wall.
The subaltern mixed it. When morning came
The red-road gelding was strangely tame.
He bit not nor kicked nor essayed to slay
And he and the sub went north that day
Till they came to the gully of Ahmed Shah
The man and the horse from far Morar.
The subaltern stated his funds were low
And he came – mehrbani – to ‘sell karo’.
Then Ahmed Shah with his eyes agog
Broke the Tenth Command in the decalogue,
For the roan was a monster in size and thews
And stood over sixteen hand in his shoes.
‘Sahib kitna mangta?’ With brow serene
The subaltern softly answered ‘Teen’.
He haggled an hour, that dealer thrifty
Till the price was lowered to do sow fifty
And the money was paid in greasy rupees
While the red-roan gelding drowsed at his ease.
The subaltern left him – and Ahmed smiled –
‘By Allah, how mad is this pink-faced child
I will stuff that ghorah with attah and goor
And sell him again to some English soor
For a clear eight-fifty!’… and e’en as he spoke
The devil they’d drugged in the red-roan woke !
Then the head-ropes snapped and the heel-ropes drew
And the stallions squealed as the roan went through
And the syces ran as men run for life
And the yard was troubled with equine strife
Till the berserk-rage of the beat was o’er
And he dropped to slumber at Ahmed’s door!

Then a veil was lifted from Ahmed’s eyes
And he raised the eyelids and punched the thighs
Felt the tense pulse slacken – the muscles still –
And fathomed the Trcik of the Opium Pill!
His own old dodge that had brought him pelf
Had the subaltern turned against himself!

Did he swear, though his three best tats were lame
And half of the city would hear of his shame ?
Did he seek the law courts? With downcast eye
He hailed an ekka that jingled by,
And drove to the station, where filled with peace
The subaltern counted the greasy rupees.

What passed between them? I cannot say,
The subaltern turns the question away
With an innocent laugh: but the men of Morar
Say he still gets ponies from Ahmed Shah.
Ponies to bet on – but not to buy –
Weeds to look at but devils to fly
And once in a while comes a tiny pill-box.
The Doctor abets him…Whenever I’m able
I plunge to my last clean shirt on their stable!

The North Sea Patrol

1914-18 — Sea Warfare

Where the East wind is brewed fresh and fresh every morning,
And the balmy night-breezes blow straight from the Pole,
I heard a Destroyer sing: “What an enjoya-
ble life does one lead on the North Sea Patrol!

“To blow things to bits is our business (and Fritz’s),
Which means there are mine-fields wherever you stroll.
Unless you’ve particular wish to die quick, you’ll a-
void steering close to the North Sea Patrol.

“We warn from disaster the mercantile master
Who takes in high Dudgeon our life-saving role,
For every one’s grousing at Docking and Dowsing
The marks and the lights on the North Sea Patrol.”

[Twelve verses omitted.]

So swept but surviving, half drowned but still driving
I watched her head out through the swell off the shoal,
And I heard her propellers roar- “Write to poor fellers
Who run such a Hell as the North Sea Patrol!”

The Ballad Of Fisher’s Boarding-House

That night, when through the mooring-chains
The wide-eyed corpse rolled free,
To blunder down by Garden Reach
And rot at Kedgeree,
The tale the Hughli told the shoal
The lean shoal told to me.

‘T was Fultah Fisher’s boarding-house,
Where sailor-men reside,
And there were men of all the ports
From Mississip to Clyde,
And regally they spat and smoked,
And fearsomely they lied.

They lied about the purple Sea
That gave them scanty bread,
They lied about the Earth beneath,
The Heavens overhead,
For they had looked too often on
Black rum when that was red.

They told their tales of wreck and wrong,
Of shame and lust and fraud,
They backed their toughest statements with
The Brimstone of the Lord,
And crackling oaths went to and fro
Across the fist-banged board.

And there was Hans the blue-eyed Dane,
Bull-throated, bare of arm,
Who carried on his hairy chest
The maid Ultruda’s charm —
The little silver crucifix
That keeps a man from harm.

And there was Jake Withouth-the-Ears,
And Pamba the Malay,
And Carboy Gin the Guinea cook,
And Luz from Vigo Bay,
And Honest Jack who sold them slops
And harvested their pay.

And there was Salem Hardieker,
A lean Bostonian he —
Russ, German, English, Halfbreed, Finn,
Yank, Dane, and Portuguee,
At Fultah Fisher’s boarding-house
The rested from the sea.

Now Anne of Austria shared their drinks,
Collinga knew her fame,
From Tarnau in Galicia
To Juan Bazaar she came,
To eat the bread of infamy
And take the wage of shame.

She held a dozen men to heel —
Rich spoil of war was hers,
In hose and gown and ring and chain,
From twenty mariners,
And, by Port Law, that week, men called
her Salem Hardieker’s.

But seamen learnt — what landsmen know —
That neither gifts nor gain
Can hold a winking Light o’ Love
Or Fancy’s flight restrain,
When Anne of Austria rolled her eyes
On Hans the blue-eyed Dane.

Since Life is strife, and strife means knife,
From Howrah to the Bay,
And he may die before the dawn
Who liquored out the day,
In Fultah Fisher’s boarding-house
We woo while yet we may.

But cold was Hans the blue-eyed Dane,
Bull-throated, bare of arm,
And laughter shook the chest beneath
The maid Ultruda’s charm —
The little silver crucifix
That keeps a man from harm.

“You speak to Salem Hardieker;
“You was his girl, I know.
“I ship mineselfs to-morrow, see,
“Und round the Skaw we go,
“South, down the Cattegat, by Hjelm,
“To Besser in Saro.”

When love rejected turns to hate,
All ill betide the man.
“You speak to Salem Hardieker” —
She spoke as woman can.
A scream — a sob — “He called me — names!”
And then the fray began.

An oath from Salem Hardieker,
A shriek upon the stairs,
A dance of shadows on the wall,
A knife-thrust unawares —
And Hans came down, as cattle drop,
Across the broken chairs.

. . . . . .

In Anne of Austria’s trembling hands
The weary head fell low: —
“I ship mineselfs to-morrow, straight
“For Besser in Saro;
“Und there Ultruda comes to me
“At Easter, und I go

“South, down the Cattegat — What’s here?
“There — are — no — lights — to guide!”
The mutter ceased, the spirit passed,
And Anne of Austria cried
In Fultah Fisher’s boarding-house
When Hans the mighty died.

Thus slew they Hans the blue-eyed Dane,
Bull-throated, bare of arm,
But Anne of Austria looted first
The maid Ultruda’s charm —
The little silver crucifix
That keeps a man from harm.

Hymn of Breaking Strain

THE careful text-books measure
(Let all who build beware!)
The load, the shock, the pressure
Material can bear.
So, when the buckled girder
Lets down the grinding span,
‘The blame of loss, or murder,
Is laid upon the man.
Not on the Stuff – the Man!

But in our daily dealing
With stone and steel, we find

The Gods have no such feeling
Of justice toward mankind.
To no set gauge they make us-
For no laid course prepare-
And presently o’ertake us
With loads we cannot bear:
Too merciless to bear.

The prudent text-books give it
In tables at the end
‘The stress that shears a rivet
Or makes a tie-bar bend-
‘What traffic wrecks macadam-
What concrete should endure-
but we, poor Sons of Adam
Have no such literature,
To warn us or make sure!

We hold all Earth to plunder –
All Time and Space as well-
Too wonder-stale to wonder
At each new miracle;
Till, in the mid-illusion
Of Godhead ‘neath our hand,
Falls multiple confusion
On all we did or planned-
The mighty works we planned.

We only of Creation
(0h, luckier bridge and rail)
Abide the twin damnation-
To fail and know we fail.
Yet we – by which sole token
We know we once were Gods-
Take shame in being broken
However great the odds-
The burden of the Odds.

Oh, veiled and secret Power
Whose paths we seek in vain,
Be with us in our hour
Of overthrow and pain;
That we – by which sure token
We know Thy ways are true –
In spite of being broken,
Because of being broken
May rise and build anew
Stand up and build anew.

The Coiner

To be sung by the unlearned to the tune of “King John and the Abbot of Canterbury,” and by the learned to “Tempest-a-brewing.”

Against the Bermudas we foundered, whereby
This Master, that Swabber, yon Bo’sun, and I
(Our pinnace and crew being drowned in the main)
Must beg for our bread through old England again.

For a bite and a sup, and a bed of clean straw,
We’ll tell you such marvels as man never saw,
On a Magical Island which no one did spy
Save this Master, that Swabber, yon Bo’sun, and I.

Seven months among Mermaids and Devils and Sprites,
And Voices that howl in the cedars o’nights,
With further enchantments we underwent there.
Good Sirs, ’tis a tale to draw guts from a bear!

‘Twixt Dover and Southwark it paid us our way,
Where we found some poor players were labouring a play;
And, willing to search what such business might be,
We entered the yard, both to hear and to see.

One hailed us for seamen and courteous-ly
Did guide us apart to a tavern near by
Where we told him our tale (as to many of late),
And he gave us good cheer, so we gave him good weight.

Mulled sack and strong waters on bellies well lined
With beef and black pudding do strengthen the mind;
And seeing him greedy for marvels, at last
From plain salted truth to flat leasing we passed.

But he, when on midnight our reckoning he paid,
Says, “Never match coins with a Coiner by trade,
Or he’ll turn your lead pieces to metal as rare
As shall fill him this globe, and leave something to spare….”

We slept where they laid us, and when we awoke
Was a crown or five shillings in every man’s poke.
We bit them and rang them, and, finding them good,
We drank to that Coiner as honest men should!

For a cup and a crust, and a truss, etc.

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