Verse > Rudyard Kipling > Verse: 1885–1918
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Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936).  Verse: 1885–1918.  1922.
 
The Grave of the Hundred Head
 
THERE’S a widow in sleepy Chester
  Who weeps for her only son;
There’s a grave on the Pabeng River,
  A grave that the Burmans shun,
And there’s Subadar Prag Tewarri        5
  Who tells how the work was done.
 
A Snider squibbed in the jungle—
  Somebody laughed and fled,
And the men of the First Shikaris
  Picked up their Subaltern dead,        10
With a big blue mark in his forehead
  And the back blown out of his head.
 
Subadar Prag Tewarri,
  Jemadar Hira Lal,
Took command of the party,        15
  Twenty rifles in all,
Marched them down to the river
  As the day was beginning to fall.
 
They buried the boy by the river,
  A blanket over his face—        20
They wept for their dead Lieutenant,
  The men of an alien race—
They made a samadh 1 in his honour,
  A mark for his resting-place.
 
For they swore by the Holy Water,        25
  They swore by the salt they ate,
That the soul of Lieutenant Eshmitt Sahib
  Should go to his God in state;
With fifty file of Burman
  To open him Heaven’s Gate.        30
 
The men of the First Shikaris
  Marched till the break of day,
Till they came to the rebel village,
  The village of Pabengmay—
A jingal 2 covered the clearing,        35
  Calthrops hampered the way.
 
Subadar Prag Tewarri,
  Bidding them load with ball,
Halted a dozen rifles
  Under the village wall;        40
Send out a flanking-party
  With Jemadar Hira Lal.
 
The men of the First Shikaris
  Shouted and smote and slew,
Turning and grinning jingal        45
  On to the howling crew.
The Jemadar’s flanking-party
  Butchered the folk who flew.
 
Long was the morn of slaughter,
  Long was the list of slain,        50
Five score heads were taken,
  Five score heads and twain;
And the men of the First Shikaris
  Went back to their grave again,
 
Each man bearing a basket        55
  Red as his palms that day,
Red as the blazing village—
  The village of Pabengmay.
And the “drip-drip-drip” from the baskets
  Reddened the grass by the way.        60
 
They made a pile of their trophies
  High as a tall man’s chin,
Head upon head distorted,
  Set in a sightless grin,
Anger and pain and terror        65
  Stamped on the smoke-scorched skin.
 
Subadar Prag Tewarri
  Put the head of the Boh
On the top of the mound of triumph,
  The head of his son below—        70
With the sword and the peacock-banner
  That the world might behold and know.
 
Thus the samádh was perfect,
  Thus was the lesson plain
Of the wrath of the First Shikaris—        75
  The price of a white man slain;
And the men of the First Shikaris
  Went back into camp again.
 
Then a silence came to the river,
  A hush fell over the shore,        80
And the Bohs that were brave departed,
  And Sniders squibbed no more;
  For the Burmans said
  That a white-man’s head
Must be paid for with heads five-score.        85
 
There’s a widow in sleepy Chester
  Who weeps for her only son;
There’s a grave on the Pabeng River,
  A grave that the Burmans shun,
And there’s Subadar Prag Tewarri        90
  Who tells how the work was done.
 
Note 1. A memorial. [back]
Note 2. Native cannon. [back]
 
 
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