Kipling Friday

McAndrew’s Hymn

Lord, Thou hast made this world below the shadow of a dream, 
An', taught by time, I tak' it so---exceptin' always Steam. 
From coupler-flange to spindle-guide I see Thy Hand, O God--- 
Predestination in the stride o' yon connectin'-rod. 
John Calvin might ha' forged the same---enorrmous, certain, slow--- 
Ay, wrought it in the furnace-flame---my "Institutio." 
I cannot get my sleep to-night; old bones are hard to please; 
I'll stand the middle watch up here---alone wi' God an' these 
My engines, after ninety days o' rase an' rack an' strain 
Through all the seas of all Thy world, slam-bangin' home again. 
Slam-bang too much---they knock a wee---the crosshead-gibs are loose, 
But thirty thousand mile o' sea has gied them fair excuse.... 
Fine, clear an'dark---a full-draught breeze, wi' Ushant out o' sight, 
An' Ferguson relievin' Hay. Old girl, ye'll walk to-night! 
His wife's at Plymouth.... Seventy---One---Two---Three since he began--- 
Three turns for Mistress Ferguson... and who's to blame the man? 
There's none at any port for me, by drivin' fast or slow, 
Since Elsie Campbell went to Thee, Lord, thirty years ago. 
(The year the Sarah Sands was burned. Oh roads we used to tread, 
Fra' Maryhill to Pollokshaws--fra' Govan to Parkhead!) 
Not but that they're ceevil on the Board. Ye'll hear Sir Kenneth say: 
"Good morn, McAndrew! Back again? An' how's your bilge to-day?" 
Miscallin' technicalities but handin' me my chair 
To drink Madeira wi' three Earls---the auld Fleet Engineer 
That started as a boiler-whelp---when steam and he were low. 
I mind the time we used to serve a broken pipe wi' tow! 
Ten pound was all the pressure then---Eh! Eh!---a man wad drive; 
An' here, our workin' gauges give one hunder sixty-five! 
We're creepin' on wi' each new rig---less weight an' larger power; 
There'll be the loco-boiler next an' thirty miles an hour! 
Thirty an' more. What I ha' seen since ocean-steam began 
Leaves me na doot for the machine: but what about the man? 
The man that counts, wi' all his runs, one million mile o' sea: 
Four time the span from Earth to Moon.... How far, O Lord from thee 
That wast beside him night an' day? Ye mind my first typhoon? 
It scoughed the skipper on his way to jock wi' the saloon. 
Three feet were on the stokehold-floor---just slappin' to an' fro--- 
An' cast me on a furnace-door. I have the marks to show. 
Marks! I ha' marks o' more than burns---deep in my soul an' black, 
An' times like this, when things go smooth, my wickudness comes back. 
The sins o' four an' forty years, all up an' down the seas. 
Clack an' repeat like valves half-fed.... Forgie's our trespasses! 
Nights when I'd come on to deck to mark, wi' envy in my gaze, 
The couples kittlin' in the dark between the funnel-stays; 
Years when I raked the Ports wi' pride to fill my cup o' wrong--- 
Judge not, O Lord, my steps aside at Gay Street in Hong-Kong! 
Blot out the wastrel hours of mine in sin when I abode--- 
Jane Harrigan's an' Number Nine, The Reddick an' Grant Road! 
An' waur than all---my crownin' sin---rank blasphemy an' wild. 
I was not four and twenty then---Ye wadna judge a child? 
I'd seen the Tropics first that run---new fruit, new smells, new air--- 
How could I tell---blinf-fou wi' sun--- the Deil was lurkin' there? 
By day like playhouse-scenes the shore slid past our sleepy eyes; 
By night thos soft, lasceevious stars leered from those velvet skies, 
In port (we used no cargo-steam) I'd daunder down the streets--- 
An ijjit grinnin' in a dream---for shells an' parrakeets, 
An' walkin'-sticks o' carved bamboo an' blowfish stuffed an' dried--- 
Fillin' my bunk wi' rubbishry the Cheif put overside. 
Till, off Sambawa Head, Ye mind, I heard a land-breeze ca', 
Milk-warm wi' breath o' spice an' bloom: "McAndrew, Come awa'!" 
Firm, clear an' low---no haste, no hate---the ghostly whisper went, 
Just statin' eevidential facts beyon' all argument: 
"Your mither's god's a graspin' deil, the shadow o' yoursel', 
"Got out o' books by meenisters clean daft on Heaven an' Hell. 
"They mak' him in the Broomielaw, o' Glasgie cold an' dirt, 
"A jealous, pridefu' fetich, lad, that's only strong to hurt. 
"Ye'll not go back to Him again an' kiss His red-hot rod, 
"But come wi' Us" (Now who were They?) "an' know the Leevin' God, 
"That does not kipper souls for sport or break a life in jest, 
"But swells the ripenin' cocoanuts an' ripes the woman's breast." 
An' there it stopped: cut off: no more; that quiet, certain voice--- 
For me, six months o' twenty-four, to leave or take at choice. 
'Twas on me like a thunderclap---it racked me through an' through--- 
Temptation past the show o' speech, unnameable an' new--- 
The Sin against the Holy Ghost?... An' under all, our screw. 

That storm blew by but left behind her anchor-shiftin' swell. 
thou knowest all my heart an' mind, Thou knowest, Lord, I fell--- 
Third on the Mary Gloster then, and first that night in Hell! 
Yet was Thy Hand beneath my head, about my feet Thy Care--- 
Fra' Deli clear to Torres Strait, the trial o' despair, 
But when we touched the Barrier Reef Thy answer to my prayer!... 
We wared na run that sea by night but lay an' held our fire, 
An' I was drowsin' on the hatch---sick---sick wi' doubt an' tire: 
"Better the sight of eyes that see than wanderin' o' desire!" 
Ye mind that word? Clear as gongs---again, an' once again, 
When rippin' down through coral-trash ran out our moorin'-chain: 
An', by Thy Grace, I had the light to see my duty plain. 
Light on the engine-room---no more---bright as our carbons burn. 
I've lost it since a thousand times, but never past return! 

Obsairve! Per annum we'll have here two thousand souls aboard--- 
Think not I dare to justify myself before the Lord, 
But---average fifteen hunder souls safe-born fra' port to port--- 
I am o' service to my kind. Ye wadna blame the thought? 
Maybe they steam from Grace to Wrath---to sin by folly led--- 
It isna mine to judge their path---their lives are on my head. 
Mine at the last---when all is done it all comes back to me, 
The fault that leaves six thousand ton a log upon the sea. 
We'll tak' one stretch---three weeks an odd by ony road ye steer--- 
Fra' Cape Town east to Wellington---ye need an engineer. 
Fail there---ye've time to weld your shaft---ay, eat it, ere ye're spoke; 
Or make Kergueen under sail---three jiggers burned wi' smoke! 
An' home again---the Rio run: it's no child's play to go 
Steamin' to bell for fourteen days o' snow an' floe an' blow. 
The beergs like kelpies oversde that girn an' turn an' shift 
Whaur, grindin' like the Mills o' God, goes by the big South drift. 
(Hail, Snow and Ice that praise the Lord. I've met them at their work, 
An wished we had anither route or they another kirk.) 
Yon's strain, hard strain, o' head an' hand, for though Thy Power brings 
All skill to naught, Ye'll underatand a man must think o' things. 
Then, at the last, we'll get to port an' hoist their baggage clear--- 
The passengers, wi' gloves an' canes---an' this is what I'll hear: 
"Well, thank ye for a pleasant voyage. The tender's comin' now." 
While I go testin' follower-bolts an' watch the skipper bow. 
They've words for every one but me---shake hands wi' half the crew, 
Except the dour Scots engineer, the man they never knew. 
An' yet I like the wark for all we've dam' few pickin's here--- 
No pension, an' the most we'll earn's four hunder pound a year. 
Better myself abroad? Maybe. I'd sooner starve than sail 
Wi' such as call a snifter-rod ross.... French for nightingale. 
Commeesion on my stores? Some do; but I cannot afford 
To lie like stewards wi' patty-pans. I'm older than the Board. 
A bonus on the coal I save? Ou ay, the Scots are close, 
But when I grudge the strength Ye gave I'll grudge their food to those. 
(There's bricks that I might recommend---an' clink the firebars cruel. 
No! Welsh---Wangarti at the worst---an' damn all patent fuel!) 
Inventions? Ye must stay in port to mak' a patent pay. 
My Deeferential Valve-Gear taught me how that business lay. 
I blame no chaps wi' clearer heads for aught they make or sell. 
I found that I could not invent an' look to these as well. 
So, wrestled wi' Apollyon---Nah!---fretted like a bairn--- 
But burned the workin'-plans last run, wi' all I hoped to earn. 
Ye know how hard an Idol dies, an' what that meant to me--- 
E'en tak' it for a sacrifice acceptable to Thee.... 
Below there! Oiler! What's your wark? Ye find it runnin' hard? 
Ye needn't swill the cup wi' oil---this isn't the Cunard! 
Ye thought? Ye are not paid to think. Go, sweat that off again! 
Tck! Tck! It's deeficult to sweer nor tak' The Name in vain! 
Men, ay an' women, call me stern. Wi' these to oversee, 
Ye'll note I've little time to burn on social repartee. 
The bairns see what their elders miss; they'll hunt me to an' fro, 
Till for the sake of---well, a kiss---I tak' 'em down below. 
That minds me of our Viscount loon---Sir Kenneth's kin---the chap 
Wi' Russia leather tennis-shoon an' spar-decked yachtin'-cap. 
I showed him round last week, o'er all---an' at the last says he: 
"Mister McAndrew, Don't you think steam spoils romance at sea?" 
Damned ijjit! I'd been doon that morn to see what ailed the throws, 
Manholin', on my back---the cranks three inches off my nose. 
Romance! Those first-class passengers they like it very well, 
Printed an' bound in little books; but why don't poets tell? 
I'm sick of all their quirks an' turns---the loves an' doves they dream--- 
Lord, send a man like Robbie Burns to sing the Song o' Steam! 
To match wi' Scotia's noblest speech yon orchestra sublime 
Whaurto---uplifted like the Just---the tail-rods mark the time. 
The crank-throws give the double-bass, the feed-pump sobs an' heaves, 
An' now the main eccentrics start their quarrel on the sheaves: 
Her time, her own appointed time, the rocking link-head bides, 
Till---hear that note?---the rod's return whings glimmerin' through the guides. 
They're all awa'! True beat, full power, the clangin' chorus goes 
Clear to the tunnel where they sit, my purrin' dynamos. 
Interdependence absolute, forseen, ordained, decreed, 
To work, Ye'll note, at ony tilt an' every rate o' speed. 
Fra' Skylight-lift to furnace-bars, backed, bolted, braced an' stayed. 
An' singin' like the Mornin' Stars for joy that they are made; 
While, out o' touch o' vanity, the sweatin' thrust-block says: 
"Not unto us the praise, or man---not unto us the praise!" 
Now, a' together, hear them lift their lesson---theirs an' mine: 
"Law, Orrder, Duty an' Restraint, Obedience, Discipline!" 
Mill, forge an' try-pit taught them that when roarin' they arose, 
An' whiles I wonder if a soul was gied them wi' the blows. 
Oh for a man to weld it then, in one trip-hammer strain, 
Till even first-class passengers could tell the meanin' plain! 
But no one cares except mysel' that serve an' understand 
My seven thousand horse-power here. Eh Lord! They're grand---they're grand! 
Uplift am I? When first in store the new-made beasties stood, 
Were Ye cast down that breathed the Word declarin' all things good? 
Not so! O' that warld-liftin' joy no after-fall could vex, 
Ye've left a glimmer still to cheer the Man---the Arrtifex! 
That holds, in spite o' knock and scale, o' friction, waste an' slip, 
An' by that light---now, mark my word---we'll build the Perfect Ship. 
I'll never last to judge her lines, or take her curve---not I. 
But I ha' lived an' I ha' worked. Be thanks to Thee, Most High! 
An' I ha' done what I ha' done---judge Thou if ill or well--- 
Always Thy grace preventin' me.... 
Losh! Yon's the "Stand-by" bell. 
Pilot so soon? His flare it is. The mornin'-watch is set. 
Well, God be thanked, as I was sayin', I'm no Pelagian yet. 
Now, I'll tak' on.... 
'Morrn, Ferguson. Man, have ye ever thought 
What your good leddy costs in coal?... I'll burn 'em down to port.

Distant Shores

It’s a strange sight, to sit off the coast of a country you’ve never been to and probably won’t ever visit. At night you can distinctly make out the dark mass of land as it breaks up the almost endless sky. And the lights sit ashore, twinkling, waiting for the sun to rise. And there I sat, perched atop the rails on the port bridge wing, leaning against the life boat canister, surveying the coastline for movement of any kind. The only sounds are whine of the gas turbine engines and the whoosh of the ventilation fans. The air is static and the South American humidity so thick it feels as if I’m breathing a glass of water. And the watch drags on.

Conversation has gone stale and the drug runners don’t seem to be interested in coming out to play to tonight. No doubt they could see our ship from shore and thought better of it. Whoever thought standing a five hour midwatch, after standing the reveille watch the morning before and then working through the day, was a special kind of cruel.

But it’s in these moments, out here, all alone on the bridge wing that I can finally afford the time to be introspective. I have the freedom and the privacy to be alone (Yes, alone, finally!) with just my thoughts. Here, watching the coast roll lazily along, I can ponder life’s mysteries and breath a little easier.

But the humidity doesn’t get any easier to take. I soon retreat back to the pilothouse which is cooled by an asthmatic air conditioner. I walk through the door just in time to meet my relief. We do a quick turnover and then I lurch down the ladder and back aft to the wardroom.

I raid the gedunk drawer and pull out a couple whole grain poptarts (These are just like regular poptarts, but with a better marketing team). It’s been a long day and I just want to decompress. As I munch and munch and think over how uneventful the watch is, I feel the ship come alive beneath me. Both gas turbine engines are now online and are screaming at full grunt. I know that the bridge team have spotted a drug runner and are now giving chase.

And such is the life of a warship at sea: Long periods of boredom unexpectedly punctuated by moments of sheer terror and excitement. As for me, I cleaned up my garbage and went to bed.

Kipling Friday

The Looking-Glass

A Country Dance
“Gloriana” – Rewards and Fairies

Queen Bess was Harry’s daughter. Stand forward partners all!
In ruff and stomacher and gown
She danced King Philip down-a-down,
And left her shoe to show ‘twas true –
(The very tune I’m playing you)
In Norgem at Brickwall!

The Queen was in her chamber, and she was middling old.
Her petticoat was satin, and her stomacher was gold.
Backwards and forwards and sideways did she pass,
Making up her mind to face the cruel looking-glass.
The cruel looking-glass that will never show a lass
As comely or as kindly or as young as what she was!

Queen Bess was Harry’s daughter. Now hand your partners all!

The Queen was in her chamber, a-combing of her hair.
There came Queen Mary’s spirit and It stood behind her char,
Singing “Backwards and forwards and sideways may you pass, 
But I will stand behind you till you face the looking-glass.
The cruel looking-glass that will never show a lass
As lovely or unlucky or as lonely as I was!”

Queen Bess was Harry’s daughter. Now turn your partners all!

The Queen was in her chamber, a-weeping very sore.
There came Lord Leicester’s spirit and It scratched upon the door,
Singing “Backwards and forwards and sideways may you pass, 
But I will walk beside you till you face the looking-glass.
The cruel looking-glass that will never show a lass,
As hard and unforgiving or as wicked as you was!”

Queen Bess was Harry’s daughter. Now kiss your partners all!

The Queen was in her chamber, her sins were on her head.
She looked the spirits up and down and statelily she said: -
“Backwards and forwards and sideways though I’ve been,
Yet I am Harry’s daughter and I am England’s Queen!”
And she saw her day was over and she saw her beauty pass
In the cruel looking-glass, that can always hurt a lass
More hard than any ghost there is or any man there was!

Kipling Friday

The Long Trail

There's a whisper down the field where the year has shot her yield,
    And the ricks stand grey to the sun,
Singing: "Over then, come over, for the bee has quit the dover,
    "And your English summer's done."
         You have heard the beat of the off-shore wind,
         And the thresh of the deep-sea rain;
         You have heard the song --  how long? how long?
         Pull out on the trail again!
Ha' done with the Tents of Shem, dear lass,
We've seen the seasons through,
And it's time to turn the old trail, our own trail, the out trail,
Pull out, pull out, on the Long Trail-the trail that is always new!

It's North you may run to the rime-ringed sun
    Or South to the blind Hom's hate;
Or East all the way into Mississippi Bay,
    Or West to the Golden Gate --
         Where the blindest bluffs hold good, dear lass,
         And the wildest tales are true,
         And the men bulk big on the old trail, our own trail, the out trail,
         And life runs large on the Long Trail -- the trail that is always new.

The days are sick and cold, and the skies are grey and old
    And the twice-breathed airs blow damp;
And I'd sell my tired soul for the bucking beam-sea roll
    Of a black Bilbao tramp,
         With her load-line over her hatch, dear lass,
         And a drunken Dago crew,
         And her nose held down on the old trail, our own trail, the out trail
         From Cadiz south on the Long Trail-the trail that is always new.

There be triple ways to take, of the eagle or the snake,
    Or the way of a man with a maid;
But the sweetest way to me is a ship's upon the sea
    In the heel of the North-East Trade.
         Can you hear the crash on her brows, dear lass.
         And the drum of the racing screw,
         As she ships it green on the old trail, our own trail, the out trail,
         As she lifts and 'scends on the Long Trail -- the trail that is always new?

See the shaking funnels roar, with the Peter at the fore,
    And the fenders grind and heave,
And the derricks clack and grate, as the tackle hooks the crate,
    And the fall-rope whines through the sheave;
         It's "Gang-plank up and in," dear lass,
         It's "Hawsers warp her through!"
         And it's "All clear aft" on the old trail, our own trail, the out trail,
         We're backing down on the Long Trail -- the trail that is always new.

O the mutter overside, when the port-fog holds us tied,
    And the sirens hoot their dread,
When foot by foot we creep o'er the hueless, viewless deep
    To the sob of the questing lead!
         It's down by the Lower Hope, dear lass,
         With the Grinfleet Sands in view,
         Till the Mouse swings green on the old trail, our own trail, the out trail,
         And the Gull Light lifts on the Long Trail -- the trail that is always new.

O the blazing tropic night, when the wake's a welt of light
    That holds the hot sky tame,
And the steady fore-foot snores through the planet-powdered floors
    Where the scared whale flukes in flame!
         Her plates are flaked by the sun, dear lass
         And her ropes are taut with the dew,
         For we're booming down on the old trail, our own trail, the out trail,
         We're sagging south on the Long Trail -- the trail that is always new.

Then home, get her home, where the drunken rollers comb,
    And the shouting seas drive by,
And the engines stamp and ring, and the wet bows reel and swing,
    And the Southern Cross rides high!
         Yes, the old lost stars wheel back, dear lass,
         That blaze in the velvet blue.
         They're all old friends on the old trail, our own trail, the out trail,
         They're God's own guides on the Long Trail -- the trail that is always new.

Fly forward, O my heart, from the Foreland to the Start
    We're steaming all too slow,
And it's twenty thousand mile to our little lazy isle
    Where the trumpet-orchids blow!
         You have heard the call of the off-shore wind
         And the voice of the deep-sea rain;
         You have heard the song-how long? how long?
         Pull out on the trail again!

The Lord knows what we may find, dear lass,
And The Deuce knows we may do
But we're back once more on the old trail, our own trail, the out trail,
We're down, hull-down, on the Long Trail -- the trail that is always new!

Kipling Friday

“Late Came the God”

“The Wish House”

Late came the God, having sent his forerunners who were
      not regarded--
  Late, but in wrath;
Saying: "The wrong shall be paid, the contempt be rewarded
  On all that she hath."
He poisoned the blade and struck home, the full bosom receiving
The wound and the venom in one, past cure or relieving.
He made treaty with Time to stand still that the grief might
     be fresh--
Daily renewed and nightly pursued through her soul to her
     flesh--
Mornings of memory, noontides of agony, midnights unslaked
     for her,
Till the stones of the streets of her Hells and her Paradise ached
     for her.

So she lived while her body corrupted upon her.
  And she called on the Night for a sign, and a Sign was allowed,
And she builded an Altar and served by the light of her Vision--
  Alone, without hope of regard or reward, but uncowed,
Resolute, selfless, divine.
  These things she did in Love's honour...
What is a God beside Woman? Dust and derision!

Kipling Friday

The Last Ode

Nov. 27, 8 B.C.
Horace, BK. V. Ode 31
“The Eye of Allah”
“From “Debits and Credits”(1919-1923)

As WATCHERS couched beneath a Bantine oak,
  Hearing the dawn-wind stir,
Know that the present strength of night is broke
  Though no dawn threaten her
Till dawn's appointed hour--so Virgil died,
  Aware of change at hand, and prophesied

Change upon all the Eternal Gods had made
  And on the Gods alike--
Fated as dawn but, as the dawn, delayed
  Till the just hour should strike--

A Star new-risen above the living and dead;
  And the lost shades that were our loves restored
As lovers, and for ever. So he said;
  Having received the word...

Maecenas waits me on the Esquiline:
  Thither to-night go I....
And shall this dawn restore us, Virgil mine
  To dawn? Beneath what sky?

Kipling Friday

The King’s Job

The Tudor Monarchy

Once on a time was a King anxious to understand
What was the wisest thing a man could do for his land.
Most of his population hurried to answer the question,
Each with a long oration, each with a new suggestion.
They interrupted his meals -- he wasn't safe in his bed from 'em --
They hung round his neck and heels, and at last His Majesty fled from 'em.
He put on a leper's cloak (people leave lepers alone),
Out of the window he broke, and abdicated his throne.
All that rapturous day, while his Court and his ministers mourned him,
He danced on his own highway till his own Policeman warned him.
Gay and cheerful he ran (lepers don't cheer as a rule)
Till he found a philosopher-man teaching an infant-school.
The windows were open wide, the King sat down on the grass,
And heard the children inside reciting "Our King is an ass."
The King popped in his head: "Some people would call this treason,
But I think you are right," he said; "Will you kindly give me your reason?"     
Lepers in school are as rare as kings with a leper's dress on,
But the class didn't stop or stare; it calmly went on with the lesson:
"The wisest thing, we suppose, that a man can do for his land.
Is the work that lies under his nose, with the tools that lie under his hand."
The King whipped off his cloak, and stood in his crown before 'em.
He said: "My dear little folk,  Ex ore parvulorum --."
(Which is Latin for "Children know more than grown-ups would credit" )
You have shown me the road to go, and I propose to tread it."
Back to his Kingdom he ran, and issued a Proclamation,
"Let every living man return to his occupation!"
Then he explained to the mob who cheered in his palace and round it,
"I've been to look for a job, and Heaven be praised I've found it!"