Written for John Lockwood Kipling’s
They killed a Child to please the Gods
In Earth’s young penitence,
And I have bled in that Babe’s stead
Because of innocence.
I bear the sins of sinful men
That have no sin of my own,
They drive me forth to Heaven’s wrath
Unpastured and alone.
I am the meat of sacrifice,
The ransom of man’s guilt,
For they give my life to the altar-knife
Wherever shrine is built.
Between the waving tufts of jungle-grass,
Up from the river as the twilight falls,
Across the dust-beclouded plain they pass
On to the village walls.
Great is the sword and mighty is the pen,
But over all the labouring ploughman’s blade
For on its oxen and its husbandmen
An Empire’s strength is laid.
The torn boughs trailing o’er the tusks aslant,
The saplings reeling in the path he trod,
Declare his might our lord the Elephant,
Chief of the ways of God.
The black bulk heaving where the oxen pant,
The bowed head toiling where the guns careen,
Declare our might our slave the Elephant,
And servant of the Queen.
Dark children of the mere and marsh,
Wallow and waste and lea,
Outcaste they wait at the village gate
With folk of low degree.
Their pasture is in no man’s land,
Their food the cattle’s scorn;
Their rest is mire and their desire
The thicket and the thorn.
But woe to those that break their sleep,
And woe to those that dare
To rouse the herd-bull from his keep,
The wild boar from his lair!
Pigs and Buffaloes.
The beasts are very wise,
Their mouths are clean of lies,
They talk one to the other,
Bullock to bullock’s brother
Resting after their labours,
Each in stall with his neighbours.
But man with goad and whip,
Breaks up their fellowship,
Shouts in their silky ears
Filling their soul with fears.
When he has ploughed the land,
He says: “They understand.”
But the beasts in stall together,
Freed from the yoke and tether,
Say as the torn flanks smoke:
“Nay, ’twas the whip that spoke.”