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Poem by Rudyard Kipling


Debits and Credits. (1919-1926). 7. Rahere


                          "The Wish House"

Rahere, King Henrys Jester, feared by all the Norman Lords
For his eye that pierced their bosoms, for his tongue that shamed their swords;
Feed and flattered by the Churchmen  well they knew how deep he stood
In dark Henrys crooked counsels  fell upon an evil mood.

Suddenly, his days before him and behind him seemed to stand
Stripped and barren, fixed and fruitless, as those leagues of naked sand
When St. Michaels ebb slinks outward to the bleak horizon-bound,
And the trampling wide-mouthed waters are withdrawn from sight and sound.

Then a Horror of Great Darkness sunk his spirit and, anon,
(Who had seen him wince and whiten as he turned to walk alone)
Followed Gilbert the Physician, and muttered in his ear,
Thou hast it, O my brother? Yes, I have it, said Rahere.

So it comes, said Gilbert smoothly, mans most immanent distress.
Tis a humour of the Spirit which abhorreth all excess;
And, whatever breed the surfeit  Wealth, or Whit, or Power, or Fame
(And thou hast each) the Spirit laboureth to expel the same.

Hence the dulled eyes deep self-loathing  hence the loaded leaden brow;
Hence the burden of Wanhope that aches thy soul and body now.
Ay, the merriest fool must face it, and the wisest Doctor learn;
For it comes  it comes, said Gilbert, as it passes  to return.

But Rahere was in his torment, and he wandered, dumb and far,
Till he came to reeking Smeethfield where the crowded gallows are,
(Followed Gilbert the Physician) and beneath the wry-necked dead,
Sat a leper and his woman, very merry, breaking bread.

He was cloaked from chin to ankle  faceless, fingerless, obscene 
Mere corruption swaddled man-wise, but the woman whole and clean;
And she waited on him crooning, and Rahere beheld the twain,
Each delighted in the other, and he checked and groaned again.

So it comes,  it comes, said Gilbert, as it came when Life began.
Tis a motion of the Spirit that revealeth God to man.
In the shape of Love exceeding , which regards not taint or fall,
Since the perfect Life, saith Scripture, can be no excess at all.

Hence the eye that sees no blemish  hence the hour that holds no shame,
Hence the Soul assured the Essence and the Substance are the same.
Nay, the meanest need not miss it, though the mightier pass it by;
For it comes  it comes, said Gilbert, and, thou seest, it does not die!



Rudyard Kipling


Rudyard Kipling's other poems:
  1. The Last of the Light Brigade
  2. Verses on Games. To An Almanack of Twelve Sports by W. Nicholson, 1898
  3. Limits and Renewals. 1932. 12. The Threshold
  4. France
  5. Limits and Renewals. 1932. 19. Azrael's Count


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