Verse > Rudyard Kipling > Verse: 1885–1918
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Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936).  Verse: 1885–1918.  1922.
 
M. I.
 
(Mounted Infantry of the Line)

I WISH my mother could see me now, with a fence-post under my arm,
And a knife and a spoon in my putties that I found on a Boer farm,
Atop of a sore-backed Argentine, with a thirst that you could n’t buy.
  I used to be in the Yorkshires once
  (Sussex, Lincolns, and Rifles once),        5
  Hampshires, Glosters, and Scottish once!  (ad lib.)
            But now I am M. I.
 
That is what we are known as—that is the name you must call
If you want officers’ servants, pickets an’ ’orseguards an’ all—
Details for buryin’-parties, company-cooks or supply—        10
Turn out the chronic Ikonas! Roll up the —— 1 M. I.!
 
My ’ands are spotty with veldt-sores, my shirt is a button an’ frill,
An’ the things I’ve used my bay’nit for would make a tinker ill!
An’ I don’t know whose dam’ column I’m in, nor where we’re trekkin’ nor why.
  I’ve trekked from the Vaal to the Orange once—        15
  From the Vaal to the greasy Pongolo once—
  (Or else it was called the Zambesi once)—
            For now I am M. I.
 
That is what we are known as—we are the push you require
For outposts all night under freezin’, an’ rearguard all day under fire.        20
Anything ’ot or unwholesome? Anything dusty or dry?
Borrow a bunch of Ikonas! Trot out the —— M. I.!
 
Our Sergeant-Major’s a subaltern, our Captain’s a Fusilier—
Our Adjutant’s “late of Somebody’s ’Orse,” an’ a Melbourne auctioneer;
But you couldn’t spot us at ’arf a mile from the crackest caval-ry.        25
  They used to talk about Lancers once,
  Hussars, Dragoons, an’ Lancers once,
  ’Elmets, pistols, an’ carbines once,
            But now we are M. I.!
 
That is what we are known as—we are the orphans they blame        30
For beggin’ the loan of an ’ead-stall an’ makin’ a mount to the same.
’Can’t even look at their ’orselines but some one goes bellerin’ “Hi!
“’Ere comes a burglin’ Ikona!” Footsack you —— M. I.!
 
We’re trekkin’ our twenty miles a day an’ bein’ loved by the Dutch,
But we don’t hold on by the mane no more, nor lose our stirrups—much;        35
An’ we scout with a senior man in charge where the ’oly white flags fly.
  We used to think they were friendly once,
  Didn’t take any precautions once
  (Once, my ducky, an’ only once!)
            But now we are M. I.!        40
 
That is what we are known as—we are the beggars that got
Three days “to learn equitation,” an’ six months o’ bloomin’ well trot!
Cow-guns, an’ cattle, an’ convoys—an’ Mister De Wet on the fly—
We are the rollin’ Ikonas! We are the —— M. I.
 
The new fat regiments come from home, imaginin’ vain V. C.’s        45
(The same as your talky-fighty men which are often Number Threes), 2
But our words o’ command are “Scatter” an’ “Close” an’ “Let your wounded lie.”
  We used to rescue ’em noble once,—
  Givin’ the range as we raised ’em once,
  Gettin’ ’em killed as we saved ’em once—        50
            But now we are M. I.
 
That is what we are known as—we are the lanterns you view
After a fight round the kopjes, lookin’ for men that we knew;
Whistlin’ an’ callin’ together, ’altin’ to catch the reply:—
“’Elp me! O ’elp me, Ikonas! This way, the —— M. I.!”        55
 
I wish my mother could see me now, a-gatherin’ news on my own,
When I ride like a General up to the scrub and ride back like Tod Sloan,
Remarkable close to my ’orse’s neck to let the shots go by.
  We used to fancy it risky once
  (Called it a reconnaissance once),        60
  Under the charge of an orf’cer once,
            But now we are M. I.!
 
That is what we are known as—that is the song you must say
When you want men to be Mausered at one and a penny a day;
We are no five-bob Colonials—we are the ’ome-made supply,        65
Ask for the London Ikonas! Ring up the —— M. I.!
 
I wish myself could talk to myself as I left ’im a year ago;
I could tell ’im a lot that would save ’im a lot on the things that ’e ought to know!
When I think o’ that ignorant barrack-bird, it almost makes me cry.
  I used to belong in an Army once        70
  (Gawd! what a rum little Army once),
  Red little, dead little Army once!
            But now I am M. I.!
 
That is what we are known as—we are the men that have been
Over a year at the business, smelt it an’ felt it an’ seen.        75
We ’ave got ’old of the needful—you will be told by and by;
Wait till you’ve ’eard the Ikonas, spoke to the old M. I.!
 
Mount—march, Ikonas! Stand to your ’orses again!
Mop off the frost on the saddles, mop up the miles on the plain.
Out go the stars in the dawnin’, up goes our dust to the sky,        80
Walk—trot, Ikonas! Trek jou, 3 the old M. I.!
 
Note 1. Number according to taste and service of audience. [back]
Note 2. Horse-holders when in action, and therefore generally under cover. [back]
Note 3. Get ahead. [back]
 
 
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