Verse > Rudyard Kipling > Verse: 1885–1918
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Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936).  Verse: 1885–1918.  1922.
 
The Song of the Dead
 
HEAR now the Song of the Dead—in the North by the torn berg-edges
They that look still to the Pole, asleep by their hide-stripped sledges.
Song of the Dead in the South—in the sun by their skeleton horses,
Where the warrigal whimpers and bays through the dust of the sere river-courses.
 
Song of the Dead in the East—in the heat-rotted jungle-hollows,        5
Where the dog-ape barks in the kloof—in the brake of the buffalo-wallows.
Song of the Dead in the West—in the Barrens, the pass that betrayed them,
Where the wolverine tumbles their packs from the camp and the grave-mound they made them;
            Hear now the Song of the Dead!
 
I
We were dreamers, dreaming greatly, in the man-stifled town;
        10
We yearned beyond the sky-line where the strange roads go down.
Came the Whisper, came the Vision, came the Power with the Need,
Till the Soul that is not man’s soul was lent us to lead.
As the deer breaks—as the steer breaks—from the herd where they graze,
In the faith of little children we went on our ways.        15
Then the wood failed—then the food failed—then the last water dried—
In the faith of little children we lay down and died.
On the sand-drift—on the veldt-side—in the fern-scrub we lay,
That our sons might follow after by the bones on the way.
Follow after—follow after! We have watered the root,        20
And the bud has come to blossom that ripens for fruit!
Follow after—we are waiting, by the trails that we lost,
For the sounds of many footsteps, for the tread of a host.
Follow after—follow after—for the harvest is sown:
By the bones about the wayside ye shall come to your own!        25
 
    When Drake went down to the Horn
      And England was crowned thereby,
    ’Twixt seas unsailed and shores unhailed
      Our Lodge—our Lodge was born
      (And England was crowned thereby!)        30
 
    Which never shall close again
      By day nor yet by night,
    While man shall take his life to stake
      At risk of shoal or main
      (By day nor yet by night)        35
 
    But standeth even so
      As now we witness here,
    While men depart, of joyful heart,
      Adventure for to know
      (As now bear witness here!)        40
 
II
We have fed our sea for a thousand years
  And she calls us, still unfed,
Though there’s never a wave of all her waves
  But marks our English dead:
We have strawed our best to the weed’s unrest,        45
  To the shark and the sheering gull.
If blood be the price of admiralty,
  Lord God, we ha’ paid in full!
 
There’s never a flood goes shoreward now
  But lifts a keel we manned;        50
There’s never an ebb goes seaward now
  But drops our dead on the sand—
But slinks our dead on the sands forlore,
  From the Ducies to the Swin.
If blood be the price of admiralty,        55
If blood be the price of admiralty,
  Lord God, we ha’ paid it in!
 
We must feed our sea for a thousand years,
  For that is our doom and pride,
As it was when they sailed with the Golden Hind,        60
  Or the wreck that struck last tide—
Or the wreck that lies on the spouting reef
  Where the ghastly blue-lights flare.
If blood be the price of admiralty,
If blood be the price of admiralty,        65
If blood be the price of admiralty,
  Lord God, we ha’ bought it fair!
 
 
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