Friday, April 07, 2006

Poetry Post

Two for one, March and April. Both by Rudyard Kipling:



IN THE NEOLITHIC AGE

In the Neolithic Age savage warfare did I wage
For food and fame and woolly horses' pelt;
I was singer to my clan in that dim, red Dawn of Man,
And I sang of all we fought and feared and felt.

Yea, I sang as now I sing, when the Prehistoric spring
Made the piled Biscayan ice-pack split and shove;
And the troll and gnome and dwerg, and the Gods of Cliff and Berg
Were about me and beneath me and above.

But a rival, of Solutré, told the tribe my style was ~outré~ --
'Neath a tomahawk of diorite he fell.
And I left my views on Art, barbed and tanged, below the heart
Of a mammothistic etcher at Grenelle.

Then I stripped them, scalp from skull, and my hunting dogs fed full,
And their teeth I threaded neatly on a thong;
And I wiped my mouth and said, "It is well that they are dead,
For I know my work is right and theirs was wrong."

But my Totem saw the shame; from his ridgepole shrine he came,
And he told me in a vision of the night: --
"There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays,
And every single one of them is right!"

. . . . .

Then the silence closed upon me till They put new clothing on me
Of whiter, weaker flesh and bone more frail;
And I stepped beneath Time's finger, once again a tribal singer
[And a minor poet certified by Tr--ll].

Still they skirmish to and fro, men my messmates on the snow,
When we headed off the aurochs turn for turn;
When the rich Allobrogenses never kept amanuenses,
And our only plots were piled in lakes at Berne.

Still a cultured Christian age sees us scuffle, squeak, and rage,
Still we pinch and slap and jabber, scratch and dirk;
Still we let our business slide -- as we dropped the half-dressed hide --
To show a fellow-savage how to work.

Still the world is wondrous large, -- seven seas from marge to marge, --
And it holds a vast of various kinds of man;
And the wildest dreams of Kew are the facts of Khatmandhu,
And the crimes of Clapham chaste in Martaban.

Here's my wisdom for your use, as I learned it when the moose
And the reindeer roared where Paris roars to-night: --
There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays,
And -- every -- single -- one -- of -- them -- is -- right!

(Sounds sorta anti-war for a guy who loved glory so much, huh? I wonder what the soldiers who are in Afghanistan right now would make of Ford O' Kabul River...)



THE EXPLANATION

Love and Death once ceased their strife
At the Tavern of Man's Life.
Called for wine, and threw -- alas! --
Each his quiver on the grass.
When the bout was o'er they found
Mingled arrows strewed the ground.
Hastily they gathered then
Each the loves and lives of men.
Ah, the fateful dawn deceived!
Mingled arrows each one sheaved;
Death's dread armoury was stored
With the shafts he most abhorred;
Love's light quiver groaned beneath
Venom-headed darts of Death.

Thus it was they wrought our woe
At the Tavern long ago.
Tell me, do our masters know,
Loosing blindly as they fly,
Old men love while young men die?

4 comments:

Andrew Gray said...

Back in third year, I went through an entire exam unable to get In The Neolithic Age out of my head. Worryingly, that was also one of the papers I did the best in...

Mary said...

What was it an exam in?

Andrew Gray said...

General Problems, which I think was a third-year course... hmm, still seems to be on the syllabus. "...problem solving using basic physics concepts". I'm sure you've encountered something similar at some point.

Quite a fun paper, mainly because it didn't actually involve having to know anything horrendously difficult, which was the case with pretty much everything else that year.

Amy tells me she has a similar course, but with the idea being to solve the "real-world problems" with Cunning Mathematical Trickery (Oxbridge and their imitations of real universities, I don't know...)

Unfortunately, the only one of them she ever explained to me gets one answer through Fancy Probability Logic and the completely opposite one through an appeal to the laws of physics, which leads me to suspect it may not be a very useful course as regards the real world...

Maurice said...

Thank you for posting The Explanation. I am a fan of Kipling, I found your blog while looking up "Allobrogenses " Reading you boog-something I almost never do- I found your account of the Nepali Man conned into contractor duty in Iraq. Valuable work I think. Having seen the selection "What's Wrong With Kansas" leads me to feel you are a like minded person and might enjoy some Poetry and songs on my YouTube Channel. BardOfEarth. Specifically they are Nine One One, Who let em bomb the Pentagon, and a recitation of The New Colossus. Shared your feelings about Kabul River. All the Best BardOfEarth