Verse > Rudyard Kipling > Verse: 1885–1918
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Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936).  Verse: 1885–1918.  1922.
 
The Feet of the Young Men
 
1897

NOW the Four-way Lodge is opened, now the Hunting Winds are loose—
  Now the Smokes of Spring go up to clear the brain;
Now the Young Men’s hearts are troubled for the whisper of the Trues,
  Now the Red Gods make their medicine again!
Who hath seen the beaver busied? Who hath watched the black-tail mating?        5
  Who hath lain alone to hear the wild-goose cry?
Who hath worked the chosen water where the ouananiche is waiting,
  Or the sea-trout’s jumping-crazy for the fly?
 
    He must go—go—go away from here!
      On the other side the world he’s overdue.        10
    ’Send your road is clear before you when the old Spring-fret comes o’er you,
      And the Red Gods call for you!
 
So for one the wet sail arching through the rainbow round the bow,
  And for one the creak of snow-shoes on the crust;
And for one the lakeside lilies where the bull-moose waits the cow,        15
  And for one the mule-train coughing in the dust.
Who hath smelt wood-smoke at twilight? Who hath heard the birch-log burning?
  Who is quick to read the noises of the night?
Let him follow with the others, for the Young Men’s feet are turning
  To the camps of proved desire and known delight!

Let him go—go, etc.
        20
 
I
Do you know the blackened timber—do you know that racing stream
  With the raw, right-angled log-jam at the end;
And the bar of sun-warmed shingle where a man may bask and dream
  To the click of shod canoe-poles round the bend?
It is there that we are going with our rods and reels and traces,        25
  To a silent, smoky Indian that we know—
To a couch of new-pulled hemlock, with the starlight on our faces,
  For the Red Gods call us out and we must go!

They must go—go, etc.
 
II
Do you know the shallow Baltic where the seas are steep and short,
  Where the bluff, lee-boarded fishing-luggers ride?        30
Do you know the joy of threshing leagues to leeward of your port
  On a coast you’ve lost the chart of overside?
It is there that I am going, with an extra hand to bale her—
  Just one able ’long-shore loafer that I know.
He can take his chance of drowning, while I sail and sail and sail her,        35
  For the Red Gods call me out and I must go!

He must go—go, etc.
 
III
Do you know the pile-built village where the sago-dealers trade—
  Do you know the reek of fish and wet bamboo?
Do you know the steaming stillness of the orchid-scented glade
  When the blazoned, bird-winged butterflies flap through?        40
It is there that I am going with my camphor, net, and boxes,
  To a gentle, yellow pirate that I know—
To my little wailing lemurs, to my palms and flying-foxes,
  For the Red Gods call me out and I must go!

He must go—go, etc.
 
IV
Do you know the world’s white roof-tree—do you know that windy rift
        45
  Where the baffling mountain-eddies chop and change?
Do you know the long day’s patience, belly-down on frozen drift,
  While the head of heads is feeding out of range?
It is there that I am going, where the boulders and the snow lie,
  With a trusty, nimble tracker that I know.        50
I have sworn an oath, to keep it on the Horns of Ovis Poli,
  And the Red Gods call me out and I must go!

He must go—go, etc.
 
Now the Four-way Lodge is opened—now the Smokes of Council rise—
  Pleasant smokes, ere yet ’twixt trail and trail they choose—
Now the girths and ropes are tested: now they pack their last supplies:        55
  Now our Young Men go to dance before the Trues!
Who shall meet them at those altars—who shall light them to that shrine?
  Velvet-footed, who shall guide them to their goal?
Unto each the voice and vision: unto each his spoor and sign—
Lonely mountain in the Northland, misty sweat-bath ’neath the Line—        60
  And to each a man that knows his naked soul!
White or yellow, black or copper, he is waiting, as a lover,
  Smoke of funnel, dust of hooves, or beat of train—
Where the high grass hides the horseman or the glaring flats discover—
Where the steamer hails the landing, or the surf-boat brings the rover—        65
Where the rails run out in sand-drift … Quick! ah, heave the camp-kit over,
  For the Red Gods make their medicine again!
 
    And we go—go—go away from here!
      On the other side the world we ’re overdue!
    ’Send the road is clear before you when the old Spring-fret comes o’er you,        70
      And the Red Gods call for you!
 
 
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