Robert William Service |
Since I have come to years sedate
I see with more and more acumen
The bitter irony of Fate,
The vanity of all things human.
Why, just to-day some fellow said,
As I surveyed Fame's outer portal:
"By gad! I thought that you were dead.
Poor me, who dreamed to be immortal!
But that's the way with many men
Whose name one fancied time-defying;
We thought that they were dust and then
We found them living by their dying.
Like dogs we penmen have our day,
To brief best-sellerdom elected;
And then, "thumbs down," we slink away
And die forgotten and neglected.
Ah well, my lyric fling I've had;
A thousand bits of verse I've minted;
And some, alas! were very bad,
And some, alack! were best unprinted.
But if I've made my muse a bawd
(Since I am earthy as a ditch is),
I'll answer humbly to my God:
Most men at times have toyed with bitches.
Yes, I have played with Lady Rhyme,
And had a long and lovely innings;
And when the Umpire calls my time
I'll blandly quit and take my winnings.
I'll hie me to some Sleepydale,
And feed the ducks and pat the poodles,
And prime my paunch with cakes and ale,
And blether with the village noodles.
And then some day you'll idly scan
The Times obituary column,
And say: "Dear me, the poor old man!"
And for a moment you'll look solemn.
"So all this time he's been alive -
In realms of rhyme a second-rater .
But gad! to live to ninety-five:
Let's toast his ghost - a sherry, waiter!"
Rudyard Kipling |
So here's your Empire.
No more wine, then?
We'll clear the Aides and khitmatgars away.
(You'll know that fat old fellow with the knife --
He keeps the Name Book, talks in English too,
And almost thinks himself the Government.
O Youth, Youth, Youth! Forgive me, you're so young.
Forty from sixty -- twenty years of work
And power to back the working.
Ay def mi!
You want to know, you want to see, to touch,
And, by your lights, to act.
I wonder can I help you.
Let me try.
You saw -- what did you see from Bombay east?
Enough to frighten any one but me?
Neat that! It frightened Me in Eighty-Four!
You shouldn't take a man from Canada
And bid him smoke in powder-magazines;
Nor with a Reputation such as -- Bah!
That ghost has haunted me for twenty years,
My Reputation now full blown -- Your fault --
Yours, with your stories of the strife at Home,
Who's up, who's down, who leads and who is led --
One reads so much, one hears so little here.
Well, now's your turn of exile.
I go back
To Rome and leisure.
All roads lead to Rome,
Or books -- the refuge of the destitute.
When you .
that brings me back to India.
Egypt served my turn.
You'll never plumb the Oriental mind,
And if you did it isn't worth the toil.
Think of a sleek French priest in Canada;
Divide by twenty half-breeds.
By twice the Sphinx's silence.
There's your East,
And you're as wise as ever.
So am I.
Accept on trust and work in darkness, strike
At venture, stumble forward, make your mark,
(It's chalk on granite), then thank God no flame
Leaps from the rock to shrivel mark and man.
I'm clear -- my mark is made.
Three months of drought
Had ruined much.
It rained and washed away
The specks that might have gathered on my Name.
I took a country twice the size of France,
And shuttered up one doorway in the North.
I stand by those.
You'll find that both will pay,
I pledged my Name on both -- they're yours to-night.
Hold to them -- they hold fame enough for two.
I'm old, but I shall live till Burma pays.
Men there -- not German traders -- Crsthw-te knows --
You'll find it in my papers.
For the North
Guns always -- quietly -- but always guns.
You've seen your Council? Yes, they'll try to rule,
And prize their Reputations.
Have you met
A grim lay-reader with a taste for coins,
And faith in Sin most men withhold from God?
He's gone to England.
R-p-n knew his grip
A Council always has its H-pes.
They look for nothing from the West but Death
Or Bath or Bournemouth.
Here's their ground.
Until the middle classes take them back,
One of ten millions plus a C.
Or drop in harness.
Legion of the Lost?
Not altogether -- earnest, narrow men,
But chiefly earnest, and they'll do your work,
And end by writing letters to the Times,
(Shall I write letters, answering H-nt-r -- fawn
With R-p-n on the Yorkshire grocers? Ugh!)
They have their Reputations.
Look to one --
I work with him -- the smallest of them all,
White-haired, red-faced, who sat the plunging horse
Out in the garden.
He's your right-hand man,
And dreams of tilting W-ls-y from the throne,
But while he dreams gives work we cannot buy;
He has his Reputation -- wants the Lords
By way of Frontier Roads.
Meantime, I think,
He values very much the hand that falls
Upon his shoulder at the Council table --
Hates cats and knows his business; which is yours.
Your business! twice a hundered million souls.
Your business! I could tell you what I did
Some nights of Eighty-Five, at Simla, worth
A Kingdom's ransom.
When a big ship drives,
God knows to what new reef the man at the whee!
Prays with the passengers.
They lose their lives,
Or rescued go their way; but he's no man
To take his trick at the wheel again -- that's worse
Well, a galled Mashobra mule
(You'll see Mashobra) passed me on the Mall,
And I was -- some fool's wife and ducked and bowed
To show the others I would stop and speak.
Then the mule fell -- three galls, a hund-breadth each,
Behind the withers.
Leers at the mule and me by turns, thweet thoul!
"How could they make him carry such a load!"
I saw -- it isn't often I dream dreams --
More than the mule that minute -- smoke and flame
From Simla to the haze below.
You'll dream dreams before you've done.
You've youth, that's one -- good workmen -- that means two
Fair chances in your favor.
Fate's the third.
I know what I did.
Do you ask me, "Preach"?
I answer by my past or else go back
To platitudes of rule -- or take you thus
In confidence and say: "You know the trick:
You've governed Canada.
And all the while commend you to Fate's hand
(Here at the top on loses sight o' God),
Commend you, then, to something more than you --
The Other People's blunders and
I'd agonize to serve you if I could.
It's incommunicable, like the cast
That drops the tackle with the gut adry.
Too much -- too little -- there's your salmon lost!
And so I tell you nothing --with you luck,
And wonder -- how I wonder! -- for your sake
And triumph for my own.
You're young, you're young,
You hold to half a hundred Shibboleths.
I followed Power to the last,
Gave her my best, and Power followed Me.
It's worth it -- on my sould I'm speaking plain,
Here by the claret glasses! -- worth it all.
I gave -- no matter what I gave -- I win.
I know I win.
Mine's work, good work that lives!
A country twice the size of France -- the North
That's my record: sink the rest
And better if you can.
The Rains may serve,
Rupees may rise -- three pence will give you Fame --
It's rash to hope for sixpence -- If they rise
Get guns, more guns, and lift the salt-tax.
I told you what the Congress meant or thought?
I'll answer nothing.
Half a year will prove
The full extent of time and thought you'll spare
Ask a Lady Doctor once
How little Begums see the light -- deduce
Thence how the True Reformer's child is born.
It's interesting, curious .
I told the Turk he was a gentlman.
I told the Russian that his Tartar veins
Bled pure Parisian ichor; and he purred.
The Congress doesn't purr.
I think it swears.
You're young -- you'll swear to ere you've reached the end.
The End! God help you, if there be a God.
(There must be one to startle Gl-dst-ne's soul
In that new land where all the wires are cut.
And Cr-ss snores anthems on the asphodel.
God help you! And I'd help you if I could,
But that's beyond me.
Yes, your speech was crude.
Sound claret after olives -- yours and mine;
But Medoc slips into vin ordinaire.
(I'll drink my first at Genoa to your health.
Raise it to Hock.
You'll never catch my style.
And, after all, the middle-classes grip
The middle-class -- for Brompton talk Earl's Court.
Perhaps you're right.
I'll see you in the Times --
A quarter-column of eye-searing print,
A leader once a quarter -- then a war;
The Strand abellow through the fog: "Defeat!"
"'Orrible slaughter!" While you lie awake
Oh, you'll wonder ere you're free!
I wonder now.
The four years slide away
So fast, so fast, and leave me here alone.
R-y, C-lv-n, L-l, R-b-rts, B-ck, the rest,
Princes and Powers of Darkness troops and trains,
(I cannot sleep in trains), land piled on land,
Whitewash and weariness, red rockets, dust,
White snows that mocked me, palaces -- with draughts,
And W-stl-nd with the drafts he couldn't pay,
Poor W-ls-n reading his obituary.
Before he died, and H-pe, the man with bones,
And A-tch-s-n a dripping mackintosh
At Council in the Rains, his grating "Sirrr"
Half drowned by H-nt-r's silky: "Bat my lahnd.
Hunterian always: M-rsh-l spinning plates
Or standing on his head; the Rent Bill's roar,
A hundred thousand speeches, must red cloth,
And Smiths thrice happy if I call them Jones,
(I can't remember half their names) or reined
My pony on the Mall to greet their wives.
More trains, more troops, more dust, and then all's done.
Four years, and I forget.
If I forget
How will they bear me in their minds? The North
Safeguarded -- nearly (R-b-rts knows the rest),
A country twice the size of France annexed.
That stays at least.
The rest may pass -- may pass --
Your heritage -- and I can teach you nought.
"High trust," "vast honor," "interests twice as vast,"
"Due reverence to your Council" -- keep to those.
I envy you the twenty years you've gained,
But not the five to follow.
What's that? One?
Two! -- Surely not so late.
Omer Tarin |
You are not dead
Why do they call you
You are not dead!
You have never been dead
By the scorching banks of the Sindhu;
Historians have conspired against you
A thousand and one tales
Have besmirched your name
Misguided fools have imagined
Your obituary to be true;
Sentimental fools have sung elegies
By their own graves
Garlanded their own biers,
Cursed the stars and howled at the heavens
Self-piteous tears, in the hope
That some part of their practiced grief would be remembered
A fitting tribute to your eternal face;
Maybe, they would be able to, by their ululations,
Raise demons from the earth
Or bring forth spectres
From darkest shadows of the thinnest air, precipitating
Some prophecy, nameless and foreboding, a small
Tin medal on their pathetic breasts,
Stark in their hunger for inspired flights;
Other dust should fashion other jars, not having the consistency
It has been foretold that you will not die
That you will not die thus, at the behest of historians
Or for the research of archaeologists
Or even the yapping lap-dogs
Aping the tawny shades of our leonine skins;
It has been foretold,
And we are witnesses to you survival.
Priest-Kings and dancing girls
The sands have shifted,
As the river has---
You are only abandoned,
Take heart! Be not sad,
The sons of Sindhu are around you;
You cannot die while your sons live,
While the children of the river still ply their wide boats
On your consort’s undulating breast;
While your daughters carry their vessels
Fashioned from your clay;
In every face, you are alive.
In the mien of priest-kings who have renounced
Their crowns and pulpits for lives of love and freedom—
At Bhit Shah, they sing your songs;
At Sehwan, they celebrate your being;
In every prayer and call to prayer you are revealed
Rising gradually towards the heights of Kirthar
Rolling ceaselessly over the sands of Kutch
With every partridge crooning in the cotton,
With every mallard winging over Manchar,
You come forth—
You are the yellow turmeric staining the red ajrak
Of our wounds
Anointing your martyrs
Healing your casualties
Soothing us with your whispered lullaby
Such as our mothers used to sing us
In our cradles
From the earliest dawn of creation;
Even now, your humped oxen plod home in the evening
Of their tillage;
Every day I hear the rise and fall of your undeciphered script
In the cadences of children
In the chattering of women
In the murmur of lovers
In the gestures of old men
In the anger of the young.
A Dream Untold
It was said, long ago, that you will not die
That forever you will live in the eyes of every child,
That you will rise from your gargantuan sleep,
Arise, woken by the winds!
When the Eastern Gates of your citadel are opened wide
All wars will cease
Your sons will no longer flinch under the lash,
Your daughters will no longer be distraught,
The pillars of fire and smoke will settle down
And the silent waste-lands speak with voices of prophecy;
When precious stones will once again etch the bright circumference
Of your ruins
And the heavens shake themselves into fleeting shapes,
Vain and irresolute constellations plunge
Into narrow circles of despair—
It has been said that you will flourish again,
When the crashing shores
Of sea and river
Melt into each other
When waves shiver
Into the rock’s embrace.
Then I, too, shall awaken, I trust,
And behold you in your truth.
* (c) Omer Tarin.
Pub ''The Glasgow Seeker'', UK, 2005