Verse > Rudyard Kipling > Verse: 1885–1918
Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936).  Verse: 1885–1918.  1922.
In the Neolithic Age

IN the Neolithic Age savage warfare did I wage
  For food and fame and woolly horses’ pelt;
I was singer to my clan in that dim, red Dawn of Man,
  And I sang of all we fought and feared and felt.
Yea, I sang as now I sing, when the Prehistoric spring        5
  Made the piled Biscayan ice-pack split and shove;
And the troll and gnome and dwerg, and the Gods of Cliff and Berg
  Were about me and beneath me and above.
But a rival of Solutré, told the tribe my style was outré
  ’Neath a tomahawk, of diorite, he fell.        10
And I left my views on Art, barbed and tanged, below the heart
  Of a mammothistic etcher at Grenelle.
Then I stripped them, scalp from skull, and my hunting dogs fed full,
  And their teeth I threaded neatly on a thong;
And I wiped my mouth and said, “It is well that they are dead,        15
  “For I know my work is right and theirs was wrong.”
But my Totem saw the shame; from his ridgepole-shrine he came,
  And he told me in a vision of the night:—
“There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays,
  “And every single one of them is right!”
*        *        *        *        *
Then the silence closed upon me till They put new clothing on me
  Of whiter, weaker flesh and bone more frail;
And I stepped beneath Time’s finger, once again a tribal singer,
  And a minor poet certified by Traill.
Still they skirmish to and fro, men my messmates on the snow,        25
  When we headed off the aurochs turn for turn;
When the rich Allobrogenses never kept amanuenses,
  And our only plots were piled in lakes at Berne.
Still a cultured Christian age sees us scuffle, squeak, and rage,
  Still we pinch and slap and jabber, scratch and dirk;        30
Still we let our business slide—as we dropped the half-dressed hide—
  To show a fellow-savage how to work.
Still the world is wondrous large,—seven seas from marge to marge—
  And it holds a vast of various kinds of man;
And the wildest dreams of Kew are the facts of Khatmandhu,        35
  And the crimes of Clapham chaste in Martaban.
Here’s my wisdom for your use, as I learned it when the moose
  And the reindeer roared where Paris roars to-night:—
“There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays,        35

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