Verse > Rudyard Kipling > Verse: 1885–1918
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Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936).  Verse: 1885–1918.  1922.
 
Piet
 
(Regular of the Line)

I DO not love my Empire’s foes,
  Nor call ’em angels; still,
What is the sense of ’atin’ those
  ’Oom you are paid to kill?
So, barrin’ all that foreign lot        5
  Which only joined for spite,
Myself, I’d just as soon as not
  Respect the man I fight.
    Ah there, Piet!—’is trousies to ’is knees,
    ’Is coat-tails lyin’ level in the bullet-sprinkled breeze;        10
    ’E does not lose ’is rifle an’ ’e does not lose ’is seat,
    I’ve known a lot o’ people ride a dam’ sight worse than Piet.
 
I’ve ’eard ’im cryin’ from the ground
  Like Abel’s blood of old,
An’ skirmished out to look, an’ found        15
  The beggar nearly cold.
I’ve waited on till ’e was dead
  (Which couldn’t ’elp ’im much),
But many grateful things ’e ’s said
  To me for doin’ such.        20
    Ah there, Piet! whose time ’as come to die,
    ’Is carcase past rebellion, but ’is eyes inquirin’ why.
    Though dressed in stolen uniform with badge o’ rank complete,
    I’ve known a lot o’ fellers go a dam’ sight worse than Piet.
 
An’ when there was n’t aught to do        25
  But camp and cattle-guards,
I’ve fought with ’im the ’ole day through
  At fifteen ’undred yards;
Long afternoons o’ lyin’ still,
  An’ ’earin’ as you lay        30
The bullets swish from ’ill to ’ill
  Like scythes among the ’ay.
    Ah there, Piet!—be’ind ’is stony kop.
    With ’is Boer bread an’ biltong, 1 an’ ’is flask of awful Dop; 2
    ’Is Mauser for amusement an’ ’is pony for retreat,        35
    I’ve known a lot o’ fellers shoot a dam’ sight worse than Piet.
 
He’s shoved ’is rifle ’neath my nose
  Before I’d time to think,
An’ borrowed all my Sunday clo’es
  An’ sent me ’ome in pink;        40
An’ I ’ave crept (Lord, ’ow I’ve crept!)
  On ’ands an’ knees I’ve gone,
And spoored and floored and caught and kept
  An’ sent him to Ceylon!
    Ah there, Piet!—you’ve sold me many a pup,        45
    When week on week alternate it was you an’ me “’ands up!”
    But though I never made you walk man-naked in the ’eat,
    I’ve known a lot of fellows stalk a dam’ sight worse than Piet.
 
From Plewman’s to Marabastad,
  From Ookiep to De Aar,        50
Me an’ my trusty friend ’ave ’ad,
  As you might say, a war;
But seein’ what both parties done
  Before ’e owned defeat,
I ain’t more proud of ’avin’ won,        55
  Than I am pleased with Piet.
    Ah there, Piet!—picked up be’ind the drive!
    The wonder wasn’t ’ow ’e fought, but ’ow ’e kep’ alive,
    With nothin’ in ’is belly, on ’is back, or to ’is feet—
    I’ve known a lot o’ men behave a dam’ sight worse than Piet.        60
 
No more I’ll ’ear ’is rifle crack
  Along the block’ouse fence—
The beggar’s on the peaceful tack,
  Regardless of expense;
For countin’ what ’e eats an’ draws,        65
  An’ gifts an’ loans as well,
’E’s gettin’ ’alf the Earth, because
  ’E didn’t give us ’Ell!
    Ah there, Piet! with your brand-new English plough,
    Your gratis tents an’ cattle, an’ your most ungrateful frow,        70
    You’ve made the British taxpayer rebuild your country-seat—
    I’ve known some pet battalions charge a dam’ sight less than Piet.
 
Note 1. Dried meat. [back]
Note 2. Cape brandy. [back]
 
 
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