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Old 12-30-2005, 12:47 AM
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"Tommy Atkins" by Rudyard Kipling

I came across this today, and it seemed rather apropos. If nothing else, it's a nice poem...


I WENT into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:

O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
But it’s "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play,—
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play.

I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-'alls,
But when it comes to fightin', Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls!

For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, wait outside";
But it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide,—
The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide,
O it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide.

Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.

Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?"
But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll,—
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll.

We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;

While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind",
But it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind,—
There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
O it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there’s trouble in the wind.

You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.

For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool—you bet that Tommy sees!
Old 12-30-2005, 02:52 AM
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Kipling is my favorite author of all time. Not a big fan of poetry but that was a nice acerbic piece
Old 12-30-2005, 03:11 AM
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Is this the origin of the title of James Jones' book The Thin Red Line?
Old 12-30-2005, 04:21 AM
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Old 12-30-2005, 04:57 AM
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Robert Heinlein quoted this poem a couple of times in Starship Troopers, as well as several other Kipling poems related to soldiers.

The young recruit is silly, e' thinks of suicide
He's lost his gutter devil an' he 'asn't got is pride.
But day by day they kicks him, which helps him on a bit
Till he finds hisself one morning with a full an proper kit.
Gettin' shut o' dirtiness, gettin' shut o mess,
Gettin' shut of doing things "Rather more or less"
Old 12-30-2005, 07:58 AM
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The Kipling piece that I’ve always liked, and spouted to a befuddled jury every once in a while is (this is from memory, don’t hold me to it):

When your officer’s down
And your sergeant looks white
Remember it’s ruin to run from a fight,
So take open order, spread out and sit tight
And wait for support like a soldier

There is a lot of imperialist balderdash and “white man’s burden” in Kipling but every once in a while he comes out with a gem. You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din.

Look up his little verse on the death of his son – something like:

They say my boy died laughing at some jest. I wish I knew what it was now that jests are few.

I’m told that the boy, a junior officer in the Irish Guards, was last seen going to the rear with a wound that had all but torn off his face. His body was never identified.
Old 12-30-2005, 08:21 AM
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A woman is only a woman,
But a good cigar is a smoke!
~~~From Kipling's poem "The Betrothed"
Old 12-30-2005, 08:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Ice Wolf
That was one of Jones' reasons for the title as given on the title pages of the book. Jones quoted the verse containing "thin red line of 'eroes" and what he described as an "Old Midwestern Saying"

"There's only a thin red line between the sane and the mad."
Old 12-30-2005, 10:00 AM
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Originally Posted by David Simmons
That was one of Jones' reasons for the title as given on the title pages of the book. Jones quoted the verse containing "thin red line of 'eroes" and what he described as an "Old Midwestern Saying"

"There's only a thin red line between the sane and the mad."
The phrase "The thin red line' may've first appeared in poetry with Kipling's wonderful poem but it predates him by quite a bit. It first appeared in news stories about the Peninsular war that was fought in Spain, Portugal and France in the first decades of the 19th century. Napoleon's marshalls almost always deployed their infantry in long columns anywhere from 5 to 10 files acrossw and literally hundreds of men deep. It was a terror weapon. Almost every infantry that tried to defend against these massive attacking columns would cromble and flee ine face of one of these attacks, especially if there were 10 or 12 of these columns on the march. Only the British ever withstood these attacks. They would deploy in a long thin line 2 or 3 rows deep. The first rank would kneel and the 2 lines behind them would stand. That way, even though their muskets had to be reloaded after every shot, there was always a row that could fire while the other rows reloaded. The column was terrifying but only the men in front could shoot so that even though they were outnumbered, the British had a superior rate of fire.
Old 12-30-2005, 10:21 AM
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Showing some other things never change, either:

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.
Old 12-30-2005, 10:35 AM
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Posts: 12,280
Awfuly Bloody Clever

While we are posting militant poetry ...

The Siege of Belgrade
Alaric Alexander Watts

An Austrian Army awfully arrayed,
Boldly by battery besieged Belgrade.
Cossack commanders cannonading come,
Dealing destruction's devastating doom.
Every endeavor engineers easy,
For fame, for fortune fighting - furious fray!
Generals 'gainst generals grapple - gracious God!
How honors Heaven heroic hardihood!
Infuriate, indiscriminate in ill,
Kindred kill kinsmen, kinsmen kindred kill.
Labor low levels longest loftiest lines;
Men march 'mid mounds 'mid moles, 'mid murderous mines;
Now noxious, noisy numbers nothing, naught
Of outward obstacles, opposing ought;
Poor patriots, partly purchased, partly pressed,
Quite quaking, quickly "Quarter! Quarter!" quest.
Reason returns, religious right rebounds,
Suwarrow stops such sanguinary sounds.
Truce to thee, Turkey! Triumph to thy train,
Unwise, unjust, unmerciful Ukraine!
Vanish, vain victory! Vanish victory vain!
Why wish we warfare? Wherefore welcome were
Xerxes, Ximenes, Xanthus, Xavier?
Yield, yield, ye youths! Ye yeomen, yield your yell!
Zeus', Zapater's Zoroaster's zeal,
Attracting all, arms against all
Old 12-30-2005, 12:00 PM
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Among Kipling's best, IMHO, is The Mary Gloucester. It's long, and not well known. But quite a poem.
Old 12-30-2005, 12:10 PM
Isaiah 1:15 Screw the NRA.
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To correct some errors:

ElvisL1ves and Spavined Gelding quoted The Young British Soldier. The origin of "the thin red line" comes from the battle of Balaklava during the Crimean War, when Colin Campbell's 93rd (Argyll & Sutherland) Highlanders refused to break before a Russian cavalry charge. This act of bravery was witnessed by a newspaper reporter, W. H. Russell, who described the stand in his story as "a thin red streak tipped with a line of steel."
Old 12-30-2005, 12:10 PM
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D'you like Kipling?

Dunno, I never Kippled.
Old 12-30-2005, 12:13 PM
Isaiah 1:15 Screw the NRA.
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Oops. Missed one: The poem quoted by Baker is "The 'eathen." All excellent selections.

In my AP Euro classes, I use "The Young British Soldier,"" Tommy," and "Gunga Din" as essay prompts when we discuss Imperialism.
Old 12-30-2005, 12:14 PM
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My Uni library has a complete, multivolume set of the works of Kipling.

Good thing too, because the PC set wants to censor him to oblivion.
"True glory consists in doing what deserves to be written, in writing what deserves to be read."
~~~ Pliny the Elder
Old 12-30-2005, 06:06 PM
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In which Kipling's 'aitch-droppin' Cockney essays a Sestina:

SPEAKIN’ in general, I ’ave tried ’em all—
The ’appy roads that take you o’er the world.
Speakin’ in general, I ’ave found them good
For such as cannot use one bed too long,
But must get ’ence, the same as I ’ave done,
An’ go observin’ matters till they die.

What do it matter where or ’ow we die,
So long as we’ve our ’ealth to watch it all —
The different ways that different things are done,
An’ men an’ women lovin’ in this world —
Takin’ our chances as they come along,
An’ when they ain’t, pretendin’ they are good?

In cash or credit—no, it aren’t no good;
You ’ave to ’ave the ’abit or you’d die,
Unless you lived your life but one day long,
Nor didn’t prophesy nor fret at all,
But drew your tucker some’ow from the world,
An’ never bothered what you might ha’ done.

But, Gawd, what things are they I ’aven’t done?
I’ve turned my ’and to most, an’ turned it good,
In various situations round the world—
For ‘im that doth not work must surely die;
But that’s no reason man should labour all
‘Is life on one same shift—life’s none so long.

Therefore, from job to job I’ve moved along.
Pay couldn’t ’old me when my time was done,
For something in my ’ead upset me all,
Till I ’ad dropped whatever ’twas for good,
An’, out at sea, be’eld the dock-lights die,
An’ met my mate—the wind that tramps the world!

It’s like a book, I think, this bloomin’ world,
Which you can read and care for just so long,
But presently you feel that you will die
Unless you get the page you’re readin’ done,
An’ turn another—likely not so good;
But what you’re after is to turn ’em all.

Gawd bless this world! Whatever she ’ath done—
Excep’ when awful long—I’ve found it good.
So write, before I die, “’E liked it all!”
Old 01-02-2006, 12:05 AM
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And let us not forget


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!
Old 01-02-2006, 12:22 AM
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Oooh, you just beat me to the punch, Elendil's Heir; I was just going to post that poem. I love the final stanza -- one of the very, very few pieces of poetry I have memorized.

Some great poems posted by everyone. Paul -- the one you posted is particularly impressive, at least from a technical standpoint. Kind of reminds me of that book that was written without using any e's.
Old 01-02-2006, 03:36 AM
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I've memorized most of this and it's what I use when rocking all of my kids to sleep from the day they were born.

Now this is the Law of the Jungle--as old and as true as
the sky;
And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf
that shall break it must die.

As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the Law runneth
forward and back--
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength
of the Wolf is the Pack.

Wash daily from nose-tip to tail-tip; drink deeply, but
never too deep;
And remember the night is for hunting, and forget not
the day is for sleep.

The jackal may follow the Tiger, but, Cub, when thy
whiskers are grown,
Remember the Wolf is a hunter--go forth and get food
of thine own.

Keep peace with the Lords of the Jungle--the Tiger, the
Panther, the Bear;
And trouble not Hathi the Silent, and mock not the Boar
in his lair.

When Pack meets with Pack in the Jungle, and neither
will go from the trail,
Lie down till the leaders have spoken--it may be fair
words shall prevail.

When ye fight with a Wolf of the Pack, ye must
fight him alone and afar,
Lest others take part in the quarrel, and the Pack be
diminished by war.

The Lair of the Wolf is his refuge, and where he has
made him his home,
Not even the Head Wolf may enter, not even the Council
may come.

The Lair of the Wolf is his refuge, but where he has
digged it too plain,
The Council shall send him a message, and so he shall
change it again.

If ye kill before midnight, be silent, and wake not the
woods with your bay,
Lest ye frighten the deer from the crops, and the brothers
go empty away.

Ye may kill for yourselves, and your mates, and your cubs
as they need, and ye can;
But kill not for pleasure of killing, and SEVEN TIMES NEVER

If ye plunder his Kill from a weaker, devour not all in
thy pride;
Pack-Right is the right of the meanest; so leave him the
head and the hide.

The Kill of the Pack is the meat of the Pack. Ye must
eat where it lies;
And no one may carry away of that meat to his lair, or
he dies.

The Kill of the Wolf is the meat of the Wolf. He may
do what he will,
But, till he has given permission, the Pack may not eat
of that Kill.

Cub-Right is the right of the Yearling. From all of his
Pack he may claim
Full-gorge when the killer has eaten; and none may
refuse him the same.

Lair-Right is the right of the Mother. From all of her
year she may claim
One haunch of each kill for her litter, and none may
deny her the same.

Cave-Right is the right of the Father--to hunt by himself
for his own.
He is freed of all calls to the Pack; he is judged by the
Council alone.

Because of his age and his cunning, because of his gripe
and his paw,
In all that the Law leaveth open, the word of the Head
Wolf is Law.

Now these are the Laws of the Jungle, and many and
mighty are they;
But the head and the hoof of the Law and the haunch
and the hump is--Obey!
Old 01-02-2006, 08:09 AM
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Good stuff from my Bircher days...

Hymn Before Action

The earth is full of anger,
The seas are dark with wrath,
The Nations in their harness
Go up against our path:
Ere yet we draw the blade,
Jehovah of the Thunders,
Lord God of Battles, aid!

High lust and froward bearing,
Proud heart, rebellious brow --
Deaf ear and soul uncaring,
We seek My mercy now!
The sinner that forswore Thee,
The fool that passed Thee by,
Our times are known before Thee --
Lord, grant us strength to die!

For those who kneel beside us
At altars not Thine own,
Who lack the lights that guide us,
Lord, let their faith atone!
If wrong we did to call them,
By honour bound they came;
Let not Thy Wrath befall them,
But deal to us the blame.

From panic, pride, and terror
Revenge that knows no rein --
Light haste and lawless error,
Protect us yet again,
Cloke Thou our undeserving,
Make firm the shuddering breath,
In silence and unswerving
To taste Thy lesser death.

Ah, Mary pierced with sorrow,
Remember, reach and save
The soul that comes to-morrow
Before the God that gave!
Since each was born of woman,
For each at utter need --
True comrade and true foeman --
Madonna, intercede!

E'en now their vanguard gathers,
E'en now we face the fray --
As Thou didst help our fathers,
Help Thou our host to-day.
Fulfilled of signs and wonders,
In life, in death made clear --
Jehovah of the Thunders,
Lord God of Battles, hear!

(A Victorian Ode)
God of our fathers, known of old --
Lord of our far-flung battle line --
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine --
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget -- lest we forget!

The tumult and the shouting dies --
The Captains and the Kings depart --
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget -- lest we forget!

Far-called our navies melt away --
On dune and headland sinks the fire --
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget -- lest we forget!

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe --
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the Law --
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget -- lest we forget!

For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard --
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding calls not Thee to guard.
For frantic boast and foolish word,
Thy Mercy on Thy People, Lord!

The Gods of the Copybook Headings

As I pass through my incarnations in every age and race
I make my proper prostrations to the gods of the market place
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall
But the gods of the copybook headings, I notice, outlast them all

We were living in trees when they met us, and showed us each in turn
That water would certianly wet us and fire would certianly burn
But we found them lacking uplift, vision and depth of mind
So we left them to teach the gorillas as we followed the march of

We moved as the spirit listed, they never altered there pace
Being neither cloud- nor windborne like the gods of the market place
But they alway caught up with our progress, and presently word would
That a tribe had been wiped off it's icefield, or the lights had gone
out in Rome

With the hopes that our world is built on, they were utterly out of
They denied that the moon is Stilton, they denied that she's even Dutch
They denied that wishes were horses, they denied that pigs had wings
So we worshipped the gods of the market, who promised these beautiful

When the Cambrian measures were forming they promised perpetual peace
They swore, if we lay down our weapons, the wars of the tribes would
But when we disarmed they sold us, and delivered us bound to our foe
And the gods of the copybook headings said, "Stick to the devil you

On the first Feminian sandstones they promised the fuller life
Which started by loving our neighbour, and ended by loving his wife
'til our women had no more children, and our men lost reason and faith
And the gods of the copybook headings said, "The wages of sin is death"

In the Caboniferous Epoch they promised abundance for all
By robbing selected Peter to pay for colletive Paul
And though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could
And the gods of the copybook headings said, "If you don't work, you die"

Then the gods of the market tumbled, and their smooth tounged wizards
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled, and began to believe it was
That all is not gold that glitters, and two and two make four
And the gods of the copybook headings limped up to explain it once more

That as it will be in the future, it was at the dawn of man
Only four things certian since social progress began
That a dog return to its vomit, and a sow returns to her mire
And the burnt fools bandaged finger, goes wobbling back to the fire

When all this has been acomplished and a brave new world begins
Where all men are paid for existing, and no man must pay for his sins
As surely as water will wet us and as surely as fire will burn
The gods of the copybook headings with terror and slaughter return
Old 01-02-2006, 09:14 AM
Join Date: Jun 2004
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I'd come back to post "Recessional," too. Glad to see it's already here. Kipling wrote it at the time of the pomp and hoopla of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubliee in 1897. Particularly today, as we wonder about our great republic's commitments and war(s) overseas, it's a good poem to keep in mind.
Old 01-02-2006, 10:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Elendil's Heir
I'd come back to post "Recessional," too. Glad to see it's already here. Kipling wrote it at the time of the pomp and hoopla of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubliee in 1897. Particularly today, as we wonder about our great republic's commitments and war(s) overseas, it's a good poem to keep in mind.
I first encountered "Recessional" in the closing of the Taylor Caldwell novel which had its title in the last stanza CAPTAINS AND THE KINGS. Then I found its predecessor "Hymn Before Action" in a Kipling collection. Finally, the Birchite monthly journal AMERICAN OPINION printed "Gods..."
Old 01-02-2006, 05:36 PM
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Posts: 25,083
The Story of Ung is a good attack on critics, and too long to post here.
Old 01-02-2006, 07:24 PM
Sluice Gate Tender, FCD #3
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Then there's McDonough's Song—once the province of the uber-Libertarian fringe, now it seems to be applicable across the political spectrum:
Whatsoever, for any cause,
Seeketh to take or give,
Power above or beyond the Laws,
Suffer it not to live!
Holy State or Holy King—
Or Holy People’s Will—
Have no truck with the senseless thing.
Order the guns and kill!
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