Rudyard Kipling

The Last of the Light Brigade


There were thirty million English 
		who talked of England’s might,
There were twenty broken troopers 
		who lacked a bed for the night.
They had neither food nor money, 
		they had neither service nor trade;
They were only shiftless soldiers, 
		the last of the Light Brigade. 

They felt that life was fleeting; 
		they knew not that art was long,
That though they were dying of famine, 
		they lived in deathless song.
They asked for a little money 
		to keep the wolf from the door;
And the thirty million English 
		sent twenty pounds and four! 

They laid their heads together 
		that were scarred and lined and gray;
Keen were the Russian sabres, 
		but want was keener than they;
And an old troop sergeant muttered, 
		“Let us go to the man who writes
The things on Balaclava 
		the kiddies at school recites.” 

They went without bands or colours, 
		a regiment ten-file strong,
To look for the Master-singer 
		who had crowned them all in his song;
And, waiting his servant’s order, 
		by the garden gate they stayed,
A desolate little cluster, 
		the last of the Light Brigade. 

They strove to stand to attention, 
		to straighten the toil-bowed back;
They drilled on an empty stomach, 
		the loose-knit files fell slack;
With stooping of weary shoulders,
 		in garments tattered and frayed,
They shambled into his presence, 
		the last of the Light Brigade. 

The old troop sergeant was spokesman, 
		and “Beggin’ your pardon,” he said,
“You wrote o’ the Light Brigade, sir. 
		Here’s all that isn’t dead.
An’ it’s all come true what you wrote, sir, 
		regardin’ the mouth of hell;
For we’re all of us nigh to the workhouse,
		an’ we thought we’d call an’ tell. 

“No, thank you, we don’t want food, sir; 
		but couldn’t you take an’ write
A sort of ‘to be continued’
		and ‘see next page’ o’ the fight?
We think that someone has blundered, 
		an’ couldn’t you tell ’em how?
You wrote we were heroes once, sir. 
		Please, write we are starving now.” 

The poor little army departed, 
		limping and lean and forlorn.
And the heart of the Master-singer 
		grew hot with “the scorn of scorn.”
And he wrote for them wonderful verses 
		That swept the land like flame,
Till the fatted souls of the English 
		were scourged with the thing called Shame. 

O thirty million English 
		that babble of England’s might,
Behold there are twenty heroes 
		who lack their food to-night;
Our children’s children are lisping 
		to “honour the charge they made —”
And we leave to the streets and the workhouse 
		the charge of the Light Brigade!

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