The Explorer

Original Text: 
Rudyard Kipling's Verse: Definitive Edition (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1940): 103-07.
1"There's no sense in going further--it's the edge of cultivation,"
2   So they said, and I believed it--broke my land and sowed my crop--
3Built my barns and strung my fences in the little border station
4   Tucked away below the foothills where the trails run out and stop:
5Till a voice, as bad as Conscience, rang interminable changes
6   On one everlasting Whisper day and night repeated--so:
7"Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges--
8   "Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!"
9So I went, worn out of patience; never told my nearest neighbours--
10   Stole away with pack and ponies--left 'em drinking in the town;
13March by march I puzzled through 'em, turning flanks and dodging shoulders,
15Till I camped above the tree-line--drifted snow and naked boulders--
16   Felt free air astir to windward--knew I'd stumbled on the Pass.
18   Froze and killed the plains-bred ponies; so I called the camp Despair
19(It's the Railway Gap to-day, though). Then my Whisper waked to hound me:--
20   "Something lost behind the Ranges. Over yonder! Go you there!"
21Then I knew, the while I doubted--knew His Hand was certain o'er me.
22   Still--it might be self-delusion--scores of better men had died--
23I could reach the township living, but ... He knows what terror tore me ...
24   But I didn't ... but I didn't. I went down the other side,
25Till the snow ran out in flowers, and the flowers turned to aloes,
26   And the aloes sprung to thickets and a brimming stream ran by;
28   And I dropped again on desert--blasted earth, and blasting sky ...
29I remember lighting fires; I remember sitting by 'em;
30   I remember seeing faces, hearing voices, through the smoke;
31I remember they were fancy--for I threw a stone to try 'em.
32   "Something lost behind the Ranges" was the only word they spoke.
33I remember going crazy. I remember that I knew it
34   When I heard myself hallooing to the funny folk I saw.
35'Very full of dreams that desert, but my two legs took me through it ...
36   And I used to watch 'em moving with the toes all black and raw.
37But at last the country altered--White Man's country past disputing--
38   Rolling grass and open timber, with a hint of hills behind--
39There I found me food and water, and I lay a week recruiting.
40   Got my strength and lost my nightmares. Then I entered on my find.
42   Week by week I pried and sampled--week by week my findings grew.
44   But by God, who sent His Whisper, I had struck the worth of two!
45Up along the hostile mountains, where the hair-poised snowslide shivers--
46   Down and through the big fat marshes that the virgin ore-bed stains,
47Till I heard the mile-wide mutterings of unimagined rivers,
48   And beyond the nameless timber saw illimitable plains!
49'Plotted sites of future cities, traced the easy grades between 'em;
51Counted leagues of water-frontage through the axe-ripe woods that screen 'em--
52   Saw the plant to feed a people--up and waiting for the power!
53Well I know who'll take the credit--all the clever chaps that followed--
54   Came, a dozen men together--never knew my desert-fears;
55Tracked me by the camps I'd quitted, used the water-holes I'd hollowed.
56   They'll go back and do the talking. They'll be called the Pioneers!
57They will find my sites of townships--not the cities that I set there.
58   They will rediscover rivers--not my rivers heard at night.
59By my own old marks and bearings they will show me how to get there,
60   By the lonely cairns I builded they will guide my feet aright.
61Have I named one single river? Have I claimed one single acre?
62   Have I kept one single nugget--(barring samples)? No, not I!
63Because my price was paid me ten times over by my Maker.
64   But you wouldn't understand it. You go up and occupy.
65Ores you'll find there; wood and cattle; water-transit sure and steady
66   (That should keep the railway-rates down), coal and iron at your doors.
67God took care to hide that country till He judged His people ready,
68   Then He chose me for His Whisper, and I've found it, and it's yours!
70   And "no sense in going further"--till I crossed the range to see.
71God forgive me! No, I didn't. It's God's present to our nation.
72   Anybody might have found it, but--His Whisper came to Me!

Notes

11] "Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done" (Matthew 21: 21; Ralph Durand, A Handbook to the Poetry of Rudyard Kipling [London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1914]: 171). Back to Line
12] "A good horseman does not ride up and down steep pinches unless he is in a great hurry. A horse cannot be easily led up a steep place, as he hangs back and strains at the bridle. It is better therefore to drive him from behind, urging him when necessary. (A horse cannot kick when he is on a steep slope, as he would lose his balance if he tried to do so.) He will go down hill more willingly and should therefore be led, lest on reaching level ground he should take it into his head to gallop away" (Durand 171). Back to Line
14] headed back for lack of grass: turned back from a barren landscape to previous pastures so that the horses can feed up. Back to Line
17] the Norther: "An American term for a strong wind off the snows and accompanied by intense cold" (Durand 171). Back to Line
27] "Flowers stand cold better than almost any kind of vegetation except moss and lichens. They grow in profusion in the Arctic as well as at high altitudes. Aloes need a higher temperature. Thorn-bearing plants abound in dry or exposed windy places, because as the giving off of water is one of the chief functions of leaves, desert plants economise their strength by producing thorns instead. Desert plants, moreover, being slow of growth would quickly be eaten down if their thorns did not protect them" (Durand 172). Back to Line
41] To blaze a tree is to cut "large-easily noticeable squares in their bark"; and to ring a tree is to kill it by slicing "a ring in the bark right round the trunk" (Durand 172). Back to Line
43] See 1 Samuel 9:3-27, and 10:1-24 (Durand 172). Back to Line
50] head: 132 feet of water ("head," OED, 17; quotation of 1861). Back to Line
69] "Never-never country": Australian term for the arid waste-lands of the central and northern outback. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1898
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
2007
Rhyme: 
Form: