Verse > Rudyard Kipling > Verse: 1885–1918
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Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936).  Verse: 1885–1918.  1922.
 
Kitchener’s School
 
1898

   Being a translation of the song that was made by a Mohammedan schoolmaster of Bengal Infantry (some time on service at Suakim) when he heard that Kitchener was taking money from the English to build a Madrissa for Hubshees—or a college for the Sudanese.


OH Hubshee, carry your shoes in your hand and bow your head on your breast!
This is the message of Kitchener who did not break you in jest.
It was permitted to him to fulfil the long-appointed years;
Reaching the end ordained of old over your dead Emirs.
 
He stamped only before your walls, and the Tomb ye knew was dust:        5
He gathered up under his armpits all the swords of your trust:
He set a guard on your granaries, securing the weak from the strong:
He said:—“Go work the waterwheels that were abolished so long.”
 
He said:—“Go safely, being abased. I have accomplished my vow.”
That was the mercy of Kitchener. Cometh his madness now!        10
He does not desire as ye desire, nor devise as ye devise:
He is preparing a second host—an army to make you wise.
 
Not at the mouth of his clean-lipped guns shall ye learn his name again,
But letter by letter, from Kaf to Kaf, at the mouths of his chosen men.
He has gone back to his own city, not seeking presents or bribes,        15
But openly asking the English for money to buy you Hakims and scribes.
 
Knowing that ye are forfeit by battle and have no right to live,
He begs for money to bring you learning—and all the English give.
It is their treasure—it is their pleasure—thus are their hearts inclined:
For Allah created the English mad—the maddest of all mankind!        20
 
They do not consider the Meaning of Things; they consult not creed nor clan.
Behold, they clap the slave on the back, and behold, he ariseth a man!
They terribly carpet the earth with dead, and before their cannon cool,
They walk unarmed by twos and threes to call the living to school.
 
How is this reason (which is their reason) to judge a scholar’s worth,        25
By casting a ball at three straight sticks and defending the same with a fourth?
But this they do (which is doubtless a spell) and other matters more strange,
Until, by the operation of years, the hearts of their scholars change:
 
Till these make come and go great boats or engines upon the rail
(But always the English watch near by to prop them when they fail);        30
Till these make laws of their own choice and Judges of their own blood;
And all the mad English obey the Judges and say that that Law is good.
 
Certainly they were mad from of old; but I think one new thing,
That the magic whereby they work their magic—wherefrom their fortunes spring—
May be that they show all peoples their magic and ask no price in return.        35
Wherefore, since ye are bond to that magic, O Hubshee, make haste and learn!
 
Certainly also is Kitchener mad. But one sure thing I know—
If he who broke you be minded to teach you, to his Madrissa go!
Go, and carry your shoes in your hand and bow your head on your breast,
For he who did not slay you in sport, he will not teach you in jest.        40
 
 
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