Verse > Rudyard Kipling > Verse: 1885–1918
Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936).  Verse: 1885–1918.  1922.
Half-ballad of Waterval
(Non-commissioned Officers in Charge of Prisoners)

WHEN by the labour of my ’ands
  I’ve ’elped to pack a transport tight
With prisoners for foreign lands,
  I ain’t transported with delight.
  I know it’s only just an’ right,        5
    But yet it somehow sickens me,
For I ’ave learned at Waterval
    The meanin’ of captivity.
Be’ind the pegged barb-wire strands,
  Beneath the tall electric light,        10
We used to walk in bare-’ead bands,
  Explainin’ ’ow we lost our fight;
  An’ that is what they’ll do to-night
    Upon the steamer out at sea,
If I ’ave learned at Waterval        15
    The meanin’ of captivity.
They’ll never know the shame that brands—
  Black shame no livin’ down makes white—
The mockin’ from the sentry-stands,
  The women’s laugh, the gaoler’s spite.        20
  We are too bloomin’-much polite,
    But that is ’ow I’d ’ave us be …
Since I ’ave learned at Waterval
    The meanin’ of captivity.
They’ll get those draggin’ days all right,        25
  Spent as a foreigner commands,
An’ ’orrors of the locked-up night,
  With ’Ell’s own thinkin’ on their ’ands.
  I’d give the gold o’ twenty Rands
    (If it was mine) to set ’em free        30
  For I ’ave learned at Waterval
    The meanin’ of captivity!

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