Verse > Rudyard Kipling > Verse: 1885–1918
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Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936).  Verse: 1885–1918.  1922.
 
The Pro-consuls
 
THE OVERFAITHFUL sword returns the user
His heart’s desire at price of his heart’s blood.
The clamour of the arrogant accuser
Wastes that one hour we needed to make good.
This was foretold of old at our outgoing;        5
This we accepted who have squandered, knowing,
The strength and glory of our reputations,
At the day’s need, as it were dross, to guard
The tender and new-dedicate foundations
Against the sea we fear—not man’s award.        10
 
        They that dig foundations deep,
          Fit for realms to rise upon,
        Little honour do they reap
          Of their generation,
        Any more than mountains gain        15
        Stature till we reach the plain.
 
        With no veil before their face
          Such as shroud or sceptre lend—
        Daily in the market-place,
          Of one height to foe and friend—        20
        They must cheapen self to find
        Ends uncheapened for mankind.
 
        Through the night when hirelings rest,
          Sleepless they arise, alone,
        The unsleeping arch to test        25
          And the o’er-trusted corner-stone,
        ’Gainst the need, they know, that lies
        Hid behind the centuries.
 
        Not by lust of praise or show
          Not by Peace herself betrayed—        30
        Peace herself must they forego
          Till that peace be fitly made;
        And in single strength uphold
        Wearier hands and hearts acold.
 
        On the stage their act hath framed        35
          For thy sports, O Liberty!
        Doubted are they, and defamed
          By the tongues their act set free,
        While they quicken, tend and raise
        Power that must their power displace.        40
 
        Lesser men feign greater goals,
          Failing whereof they may sit
        Scholarly to judge the souls
          That go down into the pit,
        And, despite its certain clay,        45
        Heave a new world towards the day.
 
        These at labour make no sign,
          More than planets, tides or years
        Which discover God’s design,
          Not our hopes and not our fears;        50
        Nor in aught they gain or lose
        Seek a triumph or excuse.
 
For, so the Ark be borne to Zion, who
Heeds how they perished or were paid that bore it?
For, so the Shrine abide, what shame—what pride        55
If we, the priests, were bound or crowned before it?
 
 
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