Verse > Rudyard Kipling > Verse: 1885–1918
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Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936).  Verse: 1885–1918.  1922.
 
La Nuit Blanche
 
 A much-discerning Public hold
  The Singer generally sings
  Of personal and private things,
And prints and sells his past for gold.
  
Whatever I may here disclaim,
  The very clever folk I sing to
  Will most indubitably cling to
Their pet delusion, just the same.

I HAD seen, as dawn was breaking
  And I staggered to my rest,
Tara Devi softly shaking
  From the Cart Road to the crest.
I had seen the spurs of Jakko        5
  Heave and quiver, swell and sink.
Was it Earthquake or tobacco,
  Day of Doom or Night of Drink?
 
In the full, fresh, fragrant morning
  I observed a camel crawl,        10
Laws of gravitation scorning,
  On the ceiling and the wall.
Then I watched a fender walking,
  And I heard grey leeches sing,
And a red-hot monkey talking        15
  Did not seem the proper thing.
 
Then a Creature, skinned and crimson,
  Ran about the floor and cried,
And they said I had the “jims” on,
  And they dosed me with bromide,        20
And they locked me in my bedroom—
  Me and one wee Blood Red Mouse—
Though I said:—“To give my head room
  “You had best unroof the house.”
 
But my words were all unheeded,        25
  Though I told the grave M.D.
That the treatment really needed
  Was a dip in open sea
That was lapping just below me,
  Smooth as silver, white as snow—        30
And it took three men to throw me
  When I found I could not go.
 
Half the night I watched the Heavens
  Fizz like ’81 champagne—
Fly to sixes and to sevens,        35
  Wheel and thunder back again;
And when all was peace and order
  Save one planet nailed askew,
Much I wept because my warder
  Would not let me set it true.        40
 
After frenzied hours of waiting,
  When the Earth and Skies were dumb,
Pealed an awful voice dictating
  An interminable sum,
Changing to a tangled story—        45
  “What she said you said I said—”
Till the Moon arose in glory,
  And I found her … in my head;
 
Then a Face came, blind and weeping,
  And It couldn’t wipe Its eyes,        50
And It muttered I was keeping
  Back the moonlight from the skies;
So I patted It for pity,
  But It whistled shrill with wrath,
And a huge, black Devil City        55
  Poured its peoples on my path.
 
So I fled with steps uncertain
  On a thousand-year long race,
But the bellying of the curtain
  Kept me always in one place,        60
While the tumult rose and maddened
  To the roar of Earth on fire,
Ere it ebbed and sank and saddened
  To a whisper tense as wire.
 
In intolerable stillness        65
  Rose one little, little star,
And it chuckled at my illness,
  And it mocked me from afar;
And its brethren came and eyed me,
  Called the Universe to aid,        70
Till I lay, with naught to hide me,
  ’Neath the Scorn of All Things Made.
 
Dun and saffron, robed and splendid
  Broke the solemn, pitying Day,
And I knew my pains were ended,        75
  And I turned and tried to pray;
But my speech was shattered wholly,
  And I wept as children weep,
Till the dawn-wind, softly, slowly,
  Brought to burning eyelids sleep.        80
 
 
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