I sortof knew Kipling did poetry, if only because of the scraps of doggerel found in The Jungle Book and Just So Stories. Yet somehow, until nearly high school, and picking up a copy of the fourth volume of the “There Will Be War” series by Pournelle (because I already loved the collected short stories in “The Mercenary” and hey, the cover looked cool…), I had completely avoided discovering he was a fucking poet of the first order.
And then I read “The ‘Eathen”
Poetry is meant to be read aloud, and you can’t help, due to his punctuation, to read this in anything but a better or worse approximation of an english accent.
**The 'eathen ** The 'eathen in 'is blindness bows down to wood an' stone; 'E don't obey no orders unless they is 'is own; 'E keeps 'is side-arms awful: 'e leaves 'em all about, An' then comes up the Regiment an' pokes the 'eathen out. *All along o' dirtiness, all along o' mess, All along o' doin' things rather-more-or-less, All along of abby-nay, kul, an' hazar-ho, Mind you keep your rifle an' yourself jus' so! * The young recruit is 'aughty -- 'e draf's from Gawd knows where; They bid 'im show 'is stockin's an' lay 'is mattress square; 'E calls it bloomin' nonsense -- 'e doesn't know, no more -- An' then up comes 'is Company an'kicks'im round the floor! The young recruit is 'ammered -- 'e takes it very hard; 'E 'angs 'is 'ead an' mutters -- 'e sulks about the yard; 'E talks o' "cruel tyrants" which 'e'll swing for by-an'-by, An' the others 'ears an' mocks 'im, an' the boy goes orf to cry. The young recruit is silly -- 'e thinks o' suicide. 'E's lost 'is gutter-devil; 'e 'asn't got 'is pride; But day by day they kicks 'im, which 'elps 'im on a bit, Till 'e finds 'isself one mornin' with a full an' proper kit. *Gettin' clear o' dirtiness, gettin' done with mess, Gettin' shut o' doin' things rather-more-or-less; Not so fond of abby-nay, kul, nor hazar-ho, Learns to keep 'is ripe an "isself jus'so! * The young recruit is 'appy -- 'e throws a chest to suit; You see 'im grow mustaches; you 'ear 'im slap' is boot. 'E learns to drop the "bloodies" from every word 'e slings, An 'e shows an 'ealthy brisket when 'e strips for bars an' rings. The cruel-tyrant-sergeants they watch 'im 'arf a year; They watch 'im with 'is comrades, they watch 'im with 'is beer; They watch 'im with the women at the regimental dance, And the cruel-tyrant-sergeants send 'is name along for "Lance." An' now 'e's 'arf o' nothin', an' all a private yet, 'Is room they up an' rags 'im to see what they will get. They rags 'im low an' cunnin', each dirty trick they can, But 'e learns to sweat 'is temper an 'e learns to sweat 'is man. An', last, a Colour-Sergeant, as such to be obeyed, 'E schools 'is men at cricket, 'e tells 'em on parade, They sees 'im quick an 'andy, uncommon set an' smart, An' so 'e talks to orficers which 'ave the Core at 'eart. 'E learns to do 'is watchin' without it showin' plain; 'E learns to save a dummy, an' shove 'im straight again; 'E learns to check a ranker that's buyin' leave to shirk; An 'e learns to make men like 'im so they'll learn to like their work. An' when it comes to marchin' he'll see their socks are right, An' when it comes: to action 'e shows 'em how to sight. 'E knows their ways of thinkin' and just what's in their mind; 'E knows when they are takin' on an' when they've fell be'ind. 'E knows each talkin' corp'ral that leads a squad astray; 'E feels 'is innards 'eavin', 'is bowels givin' way; 'E sees the blue-white faces all tryin 'ard to grin, An 'e stands an' waits an' suffers till it's time to cap'em in. An' now the hugly bullets come peckin' through the dust, An' no one wants to face 'em, but every beggar must; So, like a man in irons, which isn't glad to go, They moves 'em off by companies uncommon stiff an' slow. Of all 'is five years' schoolin' they don't remember much Excep' the not retreatin', the step an' keepin' touch. It looks like teachin' wasted when they duck an' spread an 'op -- But if 'e 'adn't learned 'em they'd be all about the shop. An' now it's "'Oo goes backward?" an' now it's "'Oo comes on?" And now it's "Get the doolies," an' now the Captain's gone; An' now it's bloody murder, but all the while they 'ear 'Is voice, the same as barrick-drill, a-shepherdin' the rear. 'E's just as sick as they are, 'is 'eart is like to split, But 'e works 'em, works 'em, works 'em till he feels them take the bit; The rest is 'oldin' steady till the watchful bugles play, An 'e lifts 'em, lifts 'em, lifts 'em through the charge that wins the day! The 'eathen in 'is blindness bows down to wood an' stone -- 'E don't obey no orders unless they is 'is own. The 'eathen in 'is blindness must end where 'e began But the backbone of the Army is the Non-commissioned Man! Keep away from dirtiness -- keep away from mess, Don't get into doin' things rather-more-or-less! Let's ha' done with abby-nay, kul, and hazar-ho; Mind you keep your rifle an' yourself jus' so!