Verse > Rudyard Kipling > Verse: 1885–1918
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Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936).  Verse: 1885–1918.  1922.
 
Sussex
 
1902

GOD gave all men all earth to love,
  But since our hearts are small,
Ordained for each one spot should prove
  Belovèd over all;
That, as He watched Creation’s birth,        5
  So we, in godlike mood,
May of our love create our earth
  And see that it is good.
 
So one shall Baltic pines content,
  As one some Surrey glade,        10
Or one the palm-grove’s droned lament
  Before Levuka’s Trade.
Each to his choice, and I rejoice
  The lot has fallen to me
In a fair ground—in a fair ground—        15
  Yea, Sussex by the sea!
 
No tender-hearted garden crowns,
  No bosomed woods adorn
Our blunt, bow-headed, whale-backed Downs,
  But gnarled and writhen thorn—        20
Bare slopes where chasing shadows skim,
  And, through the gaps revealed,
Belt upon belt, the wooded, dim,
  Blue goodness of the Weald.
 
Clean of officious fence or hedge,        25
  Half-wild and wholly tame,
The wise turf cloaks the white cliff edge
  As when the Romans came.
What sign of those that fought and died
  At shift of sword and sword?        30
The barrow and the camp abide,
  The sunlight and the sward.
 
Here leaps ashore the full Sou’west
  All heavy-winged with brine,
Here lies above the folded crest        35
  The Channel’s leaden line;
And here the sea-fogs lap and cling,
  And here, each warning each,
The sheep-bells and the ship-bells ring
  Along the hidden beach.        40
 
We have no waters to delight
  Our broad and brookless vales—
Only the dewpond on the height
  Unfed, that never fails—
Whereby no tattered herbage tells        45
  Which way the season flies—
Only our close-bit thyme that smells
  Like dawn in Paradise.
 
Here through the strong and shadeless days
  The tinkling silence thrills;        50
Or little, lost, Down churches praise
  The Lord who made the hills:
But here the Old Gods guard their round,
  And, in her secret heart,
The heathen kingdom Wilfrid found        55
  Dreams, as she dwells, apart.
 
Though all the rest were all my share,
  With equal soul I’d see
Her nine-and-thirty sisters fair,
  Yet none more fair than she.        60
Choose ye your need from Thames to Tweed,
  And I will choose instead
Such lands as lie ’twixt Rake and Rye,
  Black Down and Beachy Head.
 
I will go out against the sun        65
  Where the rolled scarp retires,
And the Long Man of Wilmington
  Looks naked toward the shires;
And east till doubling Rother crawls
  To find the fickle tide,        70
By dry and sea-forgotten walls,
  Our ports of stranded pride.
 
I will go north about the shaws
  And the deep ghylls that breed
Huge oaks and old, the which we hold        75
  No more than Sussex weed;
Or south where windy Piddinghoe’s
  Begilded dolphin veers
And red beside wide-bankèd Ouse
  Lie down our Sussex steers.        80
 
So to the land our hearts we give
  Till the sure magic strike,
And Memory, Use, and Love make live
  Us and our fields alike—
That deeper than our speech and thought,        85
  Beyond our reason’s sway,
Clay of the pit whence we were wrought
  Yearns to its fellow-clay.
 
God gives all men all earth to love,
  But since man’s heart is small,        90
Ordains for each one spot shall prove
  Beloved over all.
Each to his choice, and I rejoice
  The lot has fallen to me
In a fair ground—in a fair ground        95
  Yea, Sussex by the sea!
 
 
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