Kipling’s Beauty

I wish I could paint word-pictures half as beautiful as Rudyard Kipling. One of my favorites has been set to music, the other remains “only” written. First, “Jobson’s Amen”

BLESSÉD be the English and all their ways and works.

Cursed be the Infidels, the Hereticks, and Turks!

“Amen” quo Jobson, “But where I used to lie

Was neither Candle, Bell, nor Book to curse my brethren by.

“But a palm-tree in full bearing, bowing down, bowing down,
To a surf that drove unsparing at the brown, walled town
Conches in a temple, oil-lamps in a dome
And a low moon out of Africa said: ‘This way home!'”

“Blessèd be the English and all that they profess.
Cursèd be the Savages that prance in nakedness!”
“Amen,” quo’ Jobson, “but where I used to lie
Was neither shirt nor pantaloons to catch my brethren by:

“But a well-wheel slowly creaking, going round, going round,
By a water-channel leaking over drowned, warm ground –
Parrots very busy in the trellised pepper-vine –
And a high sun over Asia shouting: ‘Rise and shine !'”

“Blessèd be the English and everything they own.
Cursèd be the Infidels that bow to wood and stone!”
“Amen,” quo’ Jobson, “but where I used to lie
Was neither pew nor Gospelleer to save my brethren by:

“But a desert stretched and stricken, left and right, left and right,
Where the piled mirages thicken under white-hot light –
A skull beneath a sand-hill and a viper coiled inside –
And a red wind out of Libya roaring: ‘Run and hide!'”

“Blessèd be the English and all they make or do.
Cursèd be the Hereticks who doubt that this is true!”
“Amen,” quo’ Jobson, “but where I mean to die
Is neither rule nor calliper to judge the matter by:

“But Himalaya heavenward-heading, sheer and vast, sheer and vast,
In a million summits bedding on the last world’s past –
A certain sacred mountain where the scented cedars climb,
And – the feet of my Beloved hurrying back through Time! ”

And another poem about a rough and distant land: “Bridge Guard at the Karoo

"Opal and ash-of-roses, cinnamon, umber, and dun . . ."

“Opal and ash-of-roses, cinnamon, umber, and dun . . .”

“. . . and will supply details to guard the Blood River Bridge.” District Orders-Lines of Communication, South African War.

Sudden the desert changes,
The raw glare softens and clings,
Till the aching Oudtshoorn ranges
Stand up like the thrones of Kings —

Ramparts of slaughter and peril —
Blazing, amazing, aglow —
‘Twixt the sky-line’s belting beryl
And the wine-dark flats below.

Royal the pageant closes,
Lit by the last of the sun —
Opal and ash-of-roses,
Cinnamon, umber, and dun.

The twilight swallows the thicket,
The starlight reveals the ridge.
The whistle shrills to the picket —
We are changing guard on the bridge.

(Few, forgotten and lonely,
Where the empty metals shine —
No, not combatants-only
Details guarding the line.)

We slip through the broken panel
Of fence by the ganger’s shed;
We drop to the waterless channel
And the lean track overhead;

We stumble on refuse of rations,
The beef and the biscuit-tins;
We take our appointed stations,
And the endless night begins.

We hear the Hottentot herders
As the sheep click past to the fold —
And the click of the restless girders
As the steel contracts in the cold —

Voices of jackals calling
And, loud in the hush between,
A morsel of dry earth falling
From the flanks of the scarred ravine.

And the solemn firmament marches,
And the hosts of heaven rise
Framed through the iron arches —
Banded and barred by the ties,

Till we feel the far track humming,
And we see her headlight plain,
And we gather and wait her coming —
The wonderful north-bound train.

(Few, forgotten and lonely,
Where the white car-windows shine —
No, not combatants-only
Details guarding the line.)

Quick, ere the gift escape us!
Out of the darkness we reach
For a handful of week-old papers
And a mouthful of human speech.

And the monstrous heaven rejoices,
And the earth allows again,
Meetings, greetings, and voices
Of women talking with men.

So we return to our places,
As out on the bridge she rolls;
And the darkness covers our faces,
And the darkness re-enters our souls.

More than a little lonely
Where the lessening tail-lights shine.
No – not combatants – only
Details guarding the line!

Alas, the Leslie Fish setting for this is the ONE of hers that’s not on YouTube. So here’s “Puck’s Song” from Puck of Pook’s Hill, from her album Cold Iron, a collection of Kipling’s historical poems.



3 thoughts on “Kipling’s Beauty

    • Sean, I was looking at pictures of the Great Karoo and thinking, “My stars, it’s just like Eastern New Mexico.” Which goes to show you that semi-arid brush and grasslands around the world share the same look. The four-footed wildlife is a bit more varied, thought, in the Karoo. (New Mexico’s two footed wildlife . . . the east slope of the Rocky Mountains seems to attract characters.)

      • It really is amazing how much alike certain types of scenery can be, across the world. As to the interesting characters, they do seem attracted to the slopes and foothills of mountains – though for shear concentration nothing exceeds what I observed in the Oak Creek valley at Sedona.

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