The Last of the Light Brigade

Original Text: 
Rudyard Kipling's Verse: Inclusive Edition 1885-1918 (Toronto: Copp-Clark, 1919): 228-30. PR 4851 1919 Robarts Library
1There were thirty million English who talked of England's might,
2There were twenty broken troopers who lacked a bed for the night.
3They had neither food nor money, they had neither service nor trade;
4They were only shiftless soldiers, the last of the Light Brigade.
5They felt that life was fleeting; they knew not that art was long,
6That though they were dying of famine, they lived in deathless song.
7They asked for a little money to keep the wolf from the door;
8And the thirty million English sent twenty pounds and four!
9They laid their heads together that were scarred and lined and grey;
10Keen were the Russian sabres, but want was keener than they;
12The things on Balaclava the kiddies at school recites."
13They went without bands or colours, a regiment ten-file strong,
14To look for the Master-singer who had crowned them all in his song;
15And, waiting his servant's order, by the garden gate they stayed,
16A desolate little cluster, the last of the Light Brigade.
17They strove to stand to attention, to straighten the toil-bowed back;
18They drilled on an empty stomach, the loose-knit files fell slack;
19With stooping of weary shoulders, in garments tattered and frayed,
20They shambled into his presence, the last of the Light Brigade.
21The old trop-sergeant was spokesman, and "Beggin' your pardon," he said,
22"You wrote o' the Light Brigade, sir. Here's all that isn't dead.
23An' it's all come true what you wrote, sir, regardin' the mouth of hell;
24For we're all of us nigh to the workhouse, an' we thought we'd call an' tell.
25"No, thank you, we don't want food, sir; but couldn't you take an' write
26A sort of "to be continued" and "see next page" o' the fight?
27We think that someone has blundered, an' couldn't you tell 'em how?
28You wrote we were heroes once, sir. Please, write we are starving now."
29The poor little army departed, limping and lean and forlorn.
33O thirty million English that babble of England's might,
34Behold there are twenty heroes who lack their food to-night;
35Our children's children are lisping to "honour the charge they made--"
36And we leave to the streets and the workhouse the charge of the Light Brigade!

Notes

11] the man who writes ...: Alfred lord Tennyson, who composed "Charge of the Light Brigade" in 1854. Back to Line
30] "the scorn of scorn": a phrase from Tennyson's poem, "The Poet" (courtesy of John McGivering at the Kipling Society web site). Back to Line
31] If Tennyson wrote a second piece, it has not survived. Back to Line
32] The following stanza appeared on 28 April 1890 in the first edition, in St. James's Gazette, but not in the later collected works.
They sent a cheque to the felon that sprang from an Irish bog;
They healed the spavined cab-horse; they housed the homeless dog;
And they sent (you may call me a liar), when felon and beast were paid,
A cheque, for enough to live on, to the last of the Light Brigade.
Courtesy of the excellent Kipling Society web site. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1890
Publication Notes: 
St. James's Gazette
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
2011
Rhyme: 
Form: