Monday, June 10, 2013

A sestina from Rudyard Kipling

My father died many years ago, when I was still a young girl, and I have few possessions that were once his.  One is The First Jungle Book, signed "Fulton Simpson" with his hand; it is very precious.  By extension, all work by Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) falls under my interest.  And a sestina by Kipling is worthy of note:

Sestina of the Tramp-Royal     by Rudyard Kipling


Speakin’ in general, I ’ave tried ’em all—
The ’appy roads that take you o’er the world. 
Speakin’ in general, I ’ave found them good 
For such as cannot use one bed too long, 
But must get ’ence, the same as I ’ave done, 
An’ go observin’ matters till they die.

What do it matter where or ’ow we die,
So long as we’ve our ’ealth to watch it all—
The different ways that different things are done, 
An’ men an’ women lovin’ in this world; 
Takin’ our chances as they come along, 
An’ when they ain’t, pretendin’ they are good?

In cash or credit—no, it aren’t no good; 
You ’ave to ’ave the ’abit or you’d die,
Unless you lived your life but one day long, 
Nor didn’t prophesy nor fret at all,
But drew your tucker some’ow from the world, 
An’ never bothered what you might ha’ done.

But, Gawd, what things are they I ’aven’t done? 
I’ve turned my ’and to most, an’ turned it good, 
In various situations round the world—
For ’im that doth not work must surely die; 
But that's no reason man should labour all 
’Is life on one same shift—life’s none so long.

Therefore, from job to job I’ve moved along. 
Pay couldn’t ’old me when my time was done, 
For something in my ’ead upset it all,
Till I ’ad dropped whatever ’twas for good, 
An’, out at sea, be’eld the dock-lights die,
An’ met my mate—the wind that tramps the world!

It’s like a book, I think, this bloomin’ world, 
Which you can read and care for just so long, 
But presently you feel that you will die 
Unless you get the page you’re readin’ done, 
An’ turn another—likely not so good; 
But what you’re after is to turn ’em all.

Gawd bless this world! Whatever she ’ath done—
Excep’ when awful long I’ve found it good. 
So write, before I die, ‘’E liked it all!’

Thanks to Greg Coxson, for alerting me to this sestina -- now in the public domain; many of Kipling's verses are available on the Internet, found through an easy search.  Here is a link to my posting of another of his poems, "Arithmetic on the Frontier," and here is a link to another of this blog's sestinas, "Mobius Strip."  Here is a six-word sestina by Lloyd Schwartz that makes the permutation-pattern of this form very clear.  At the end of this 2011 post are links to still more sestinas and variations.

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