Verse > Rudyard Kipling > Verse: 1885–1918
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Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936).  Verse: 1885–1918.  1922.
 
The Song of Diego Valdez
 
1902

THE GOD of Fair Beginnings
  Hath prospered here my hand—
The cargoes of my lading,
  And the keels of my command.
For out of many ventures        5
  That sailed with hope as high,
My own have made the better trade,
  And Admiral am I.
 
To me my King’s much honour,
  To me my people’s love—        10
To me the pride of Princes
  And power all pride above;
To me the shouting cities,
  To me the mob’s refrain:—
“Who knows not noble Valdez,        15
  “Hath never heard of Spain.”
 
But I remember comrades—
  Old playmates on new seas—
Whenas we traded orpiment
  Among the savages—        20
A thousand leagues to south’ard
  And thirty years removed—
They knew not noble Valdez,
  But me they knew and loved.
 
Then they that found good liquor,        25
  They drank it not alone,
And they that found fair plunder,
  They told us every one,
About our chosen islands
  Or secret shoals between,        30
When, weary from far voyage,
  We gathered to careen.
 
There burned our breaming-fagots
  All pale along the shore:
There rose our worn pavilions—        35
  A sail above an oar:
As flashed each yearning anchor
  Through mellow seas afire,
So swift our careless captains
  Rowed each to his desire.        40
 
Where lay our loosened harness?
  Where turned our naked feet?
Whose tavern ’mid the palm-trees?
  What quenchings of what heat?
Oh fountain in the desert!        45
  Oh cistern in the waste!
Oh bread we ate in secret!
  Oh cup we spilled in haste!
 
The youth new-taught of longing,
  The widow curbed and wan,        50
The goodwife proud at season,
  And the maid aware of man—
All souls unslaked, consuming
  Defrauded in delays,
Desire not more their quittance        55
  Than I those forfeit days!
 
I dreamed to wait my pleasure
  Unchanged my spring would bide:
Wherefore, to wait my pleasure,
  I put my spring aside        60
Till, first in face of Fortune,
  And last in mazed disdain,
I made Diego Valdez
  High Admiral of Spain.
 
Then walked no wind ’neath Heaven        65
  Nor surge that did not aid—
I dared extreme occasion,
  Nor ever one betrayed.
They wrought a deeper treason—
  (Led seas that served my needs!)        70
They sold Diego Valdez
  To bondage of great deeds.
 
The tempest flung me seaward,
  And pinned and bade me hold
The course I might not alter—        75
  And men esteemed me bold!
The calms embayed my quarry,
  The fog-wreath sealed his eyes;
The dawn-wind brought my topsails—
  And men esteemed me wise!        80
 
Yet, ’spite my tyrant triumphs,
  Bewildered, dispossessed—
My dream held I before me—
  My vision of my rest;
But, crowned by Fleet and People,        85
  And bound by King and Pope—
Stands here Diego Valdez
  To rob me of my hope.
 
No prayer of mine shall move him,
  No word of his set free        90
The Lord of Sixty Pennants
  And the Steward of the Sea.
His will can loose ten thousand
  To seek their loves again—
But not Diego Valdez,        95
  High Admiral of Spain.
 
There walks no wind ’neath Heaven
  Nor wave that shall restore
The old careening riot
  And the clamorous, crowded shore—        100
The fountain in the desert,
  The cistern in the waste,
The bread we ate in secret,
  The cup we spilled in haste.
 
Now call I to my Captains—        105
  For council fly the sign,
Now leap their zealous galleys,
  Twelve-oared, across the brine.
To me the straiter prison,
  To me the heavier chain—        110
To me Diego Valdez,
  High Admiral of Spain!
 
 
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