Verse > Rudyard Kipling > Verse: 1885–1918
Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936).  Verse: 1885–1918.  1922.
The Hyænas
AFTER the burial-parties leave
  And the baffled kites have fled;
The wise hyænas come out at eve
  To take account of our dead.
How he died and why he died        5
  Troubles them not a whit.
They snout the bushes and stones aside
  And dig till they come to it.
They are only resolute they shall eat
  That they and their mates may thrive,        10
And they know that the dead are safer meat
  Than the weakest thing alive.
(For a goat may butt, and a worm may sting,
  And a child will sometimes stand;
But a poor dead soldier of the King        15
  Can never lift a hand.)
They whoop and halloo and scatter the dirt
  Until their tushes white
Take good hold in the army shirt,
  And tug the corpse to light,        20
And the pitiful face is shewn again
  For an instant ere they close;
But it is not discovered to living men—
  Only to God and to those
Who, being soulless, are free from shame,        25
  Whatever meat they may find.
Nor do they defile the dead man’s name—
  That is reserved for his kind.

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