from the poetry of
Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling

This page:
The Man Who Could Write
L’Envoi (to Departmental Ditties)
A General Summary
Army Headquarters
Pagett, M.P.
Certain Maxims of Hafiz
The Lovers’ Litany
“When ’Omer Smote ’Is Bloomin’ Lyre”



index pages:

My primary source for these is Rudyard Kipling’s Verse: Inclusive Edition 1885-1932, with at least one correction confirmed by a previous (1885-1918) edition. It lists cumulative copyrights for the whole volume, rather than for individual works, as follows:

Copyright © 1891, 1892, 1893, 1894, 1895, 1896, 1897, 1899, 1900, 1901, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1905, 1906, 1907, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1912, 1913, 1914, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1919, 1920, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1932, 1933, 1934
by Rudyard Kipling

The Man Who Could Write

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Shun—shun the Bowl! That fatal, facile drink

Has ruined many geese who dipped their quills in’t;

Bribe, murder, marry, but steer clear of Ink

Save when you write receipts for paid-up bills in’t.

There may be silver in the “blue-black”—all

I know of is the iron and the gall.



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to Departmental Ditties

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The smoke upon your Altar dies,

The flowers decay,

The Goddess of your sacrifice

Has flown away.

What profit then to sing or slay

The sacrifice from day to day?

“We know the Shrine is void,” they said,

“The Goddess flown—

“Yet wreaths are on the altar laid—

“The Altar-Stone

“Is black with fumes of sacrifice,

“Albeit She has fled our eyes.

“For, it may be, if still we sing

“And tend the Shrine,

“Some Deity on wandering wing

“May there incline;

“And, finding all in order meet,

“Stay while we worship at Her feet.”



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A General Summary

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Who shall doubt “the secret hid

Under Cheops’ pyramid”

Was that the contractor did

Cheops out of several millions?

Or that Joseph’s sudden rise

To Comptroller of Supplies

Was a fraud of monstrous size

On King Pharaoh’s swart Civilians?

Thus, the artless songs I sing

Do not deal with anything

New or never said before.

As it was in the beginning

Is to-day official sinning,

And shall be for evermore!

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Army Headquarters

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Cornelia used to sing with him, and Jenkins used to play;

He praised unblushingly her notes, for he was false as they; [...]



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Pagett, M.P.

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The toad beneath the harrow knows

Exactly where each tooth-point goes;

The butterfly upon the road

Preaches contentment to that toad.



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Certain Maxims of Hafiz

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If it be pleasant to look on, stalled in the packed serai,

Does not the Young Man try Its temper and pace ere he buy?

If She be pleasant to look on, what does the Young Man say?

“Lo! She is pleasant to look on. Give Her to me to-day!”


If He play, being young and unskilful, for shekels of silver and gold,

Take His money, my son, praising Allah. The kid was ordained to be sold.


In public Her face turneth to thee, and pleasant Her smile when ye meet.

It is ill. The cold rocks of El-Gidar smile thus on the waves at their feet.

In public Her face is averted; with anger She nameth thy name.

It is well. Was there ever a loser content with the loss of the game?




If she have spoken a word, remember thy lips are sealed,

And the Brand of the Dog is upon him by whom is the secret revealed.

If She have written a letter, delay not an instant but burn it.

Tear it in pieces, O Fool, and the wind to her mate shall return it!

If there be trouble to Herward, and a lie of the blackest can clear,

Lie, while thy lips can move or a man is alive to hear.


If we fall in the race, though we win, the hoof-slide is scarred on the course.

Though Allah and Earth pardon Sin, remaineth for ever Remorse.




My son, if I, Hafiz, thy father, take hold of thy knees in my pain,

Demanding thy name on stamped paper, one day or one hour—refrain.

Are the links of thy fetters so light that thou carvest another man’s chain?

Compare to:


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The Lovers’ Litany

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Maidens, of your charity,

Pity my most luckless state.

Four times Cupid’s debtor I—

Bankrupt in quadruplicate.

Yet, despite my evil case,

An a maiden showed me grace,

Four-and-forty times would I

Sing the Lovers’ Litany:—

“Love like ours can never die!”

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“When ’Omer Smote ’Is Bloomin’ Lyre”


Introduction to the Barrack-Room Ballads in “The Seven Seas”

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When ’Omer smote ’is bloomin’ lyre,

He’d ’eard men sing by land an’ sea;

An’ what he thought ’e might require,

’E went an’ took—the same as me!

The market-girls an’ fishermen,

The shepherds an’ the sailors, too,

They ’eard old songs turn up again,

But kep’ it quiet—same as you!

They knew ’e stole; ’e knew they knowed.

They didn’t tell, nor make a fuss,

But winked at ’Omer down the road,

An’ ’e winked back—the same as us!



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“Cleared,” honourable gentlemen! Be thankful it’s no more:—

The widow’s curse is on your house, the dead are at your door.

On you the shame of open shame; on you from North to South

The hand of every honest man flat-heeled across your mouth.

“Less black than we were painted”?—Faith, no word of black was said;

The lightest touch was human blood, and that, you know, runs red.

It’s sticking to your fist to-day for all your sneer and scoff,

And by the Judge’s well-weighed word you cannot wipe it off.

“The charge is old”?—as old as Cain—as fresh as yesterday;

Old as the Ten Commandments—have ye talked those laws away?

If words are words, or death is death, or powder sends the ball,

You spoke the words that sped the shot—the curse be on you all!

“Our friends believe”? Of course they do—as sheltered women may;

But have they seen the shrieking soul ripped from the quivering clay?

They!—If their own front door is shut, they’ll swear the whole world’s warm;

What do they know of dread of death or hanging fear of harm?

If black is black or white is white, in black and white it’s down,

You’re only traitors to the Queen and rebels to the Crown.

If print is print or words are words, the learned Court perpends:—

We are not ruled by murderers, but only—by their friends.

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Graphics copyright © 2005 by Hal Keen