I’ve always liked Rudyard Kipling’s poetry, ever since I read The Way Through The Woods in English literature classes when I was about 15. If still remains my favourite poem from any poet for its ability to express the values which are essential to success in many areas of life in a way which reads beautifully.
I particularly like his Barrack Room Ballads, especially the way in which they are evidently very old fashioned, but still make a powerful point relevant to the modern world. Who could plausibly claim that modern day Tommy is treated much differently to Kipling’s creation? And with the British army back in Afghanistan well over a century after Kipling wrote the Young British Soldier, his words seem rather ominous in today’s context:
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.
I’m sure many people before have commented on the modern-day relevancy of these two Barrack Room Ballads, and I’m hardly saying anything new in doing so myself. But maybe I am the first to say that another poem in the collection, The Ladies, is strangely relevant to workers in the oil industry. Or maybe I’m just looking for an excuse to post a rather cheerful and amusing poem which probably would not find a publisher were it written today.
I’ve taken my fun where I’ve found it;
I’ve rouged an’ I’ve ranged in my time;
I’ve ‘ad my pickin’ o’ sweethearts,
An’ four o’ the lot was prime.
One was an ‘arf-caste widow,
One was a woman at Prome,
One was the wife of a jemadar-sais
An’ one is a girl at ‘ome.
Now I aren’t no ‘and with the ladies,
For, takin’ ‘em all along,
You never can say till you’ve tried ‘em,
An’ then you are like to be wrong.
There’s times when you’ll think that you mightn’t,
There’s times when you’ll know that you might;
But the things you will learn from the Yellow an’ Brown,
They’ll ‘elp you a lot with the White!
I was a young un at ‘Oogli,
Shy as a girl to begin;
Aggie de Castrer she made me,
An’ Aggie was clever as sin;
Older than me, but my first un –
More like a mother she were –
Showed me the way to promotion an’ pay,
An’ I learned about women from ‘er!
Then I was ordered to Burma,
Actin’ in charge o’ Bazar,
An’ I got me a tiddy live ‘eathen
Through buyin’ supplies off ‘er pa.
Funny an’ yellow an’ faithful –
Doll in a teacup she were –
But we lived on the square, like a true-married pair,
An’ I learned about women from ‘er!
Then we was shifted to Neemuch
(Or I might ha’ been keepin’ ‘er now),
An’ I took with a shiny she-devil,
The wife of a nigger at Mhow;
‘Taught me the gipsy-folks’ bolee;
Kind o’ volcano she were,
For she knifed me one night ’cause I wished she was white,
And I learned about women from ‘er!
Then I come ‘ome in a trooper,
‘Long of a kid o’ sixteen –
‘Girl from a convent at Meerut,
The straightest I ever ‘ave seen.
Love at first sight was ‘er trouble,
She didn’t know what it were;
An’ I wouldn’t do such, ’cause I liked ‘er too much,
But — I learned about women from ‘er!
I’ve taken my fun where I’ve found it,
An’ now I must pay for my fun,
For the more you ‘ave known o’ the others
The less will you settle to one;
An’ the end of it’s sittin’ and thinking’,
An’ dreamin’ Hell-fires to see;
So be warned by my lot (which I know you will not),
An’ learn about women from me!
What did the Colonel’s Lady think?
Nobody never knew.
Somebody asked the Sergeant’s Wife,
An’ she told ‘em true!
When you get to a man in the case,
They’re like as a row of pins –
For the Colonel’s Lady an’ Judy O’Grady
Are sisters under their skins!