The Broken Men

Original Text: 
Rudyard Kipling's Verse: Definitive Edition (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1940): 96-97.
1For things we never mention,
2   For Art misunderstood--
3For excellent intention
4   That did not turn to good;
5From ancient tales' renewing,
6   From clouds we would not clear--
7Beyond the Law's pursuing
8   We fled, and settled here.
9We took no tearful leaving,
10   We bade no long good-byes.
11Men talked of crime and thieving,
12   Men wrote of fraud and lies.
13To save our injured feelings
14   'Twas time and time to go--
17The widow and the orphan
20   To spy the road we went.
21They watched the foreign sailings
22   (They scan the shipping still),
23And that's your Christian people
24   Returning good for ill!
25God bless the thoughtful islands
26   Where never warrants come;
27God bless the just Republics
28   That give a man a home,
29That ask no foolish questions,
30   But set him on his feet;
31And save his wife and daughters
33On church and square and market
34   The noonday silence falls;
35You'll hear the drowsy mutter
36   Of the fountain in our halls.
38   The city takes her ease--
39Till twilight brings the land-wind
41Day long the diamond weather,
42   The high, unaltered blue--
43The smell of goats and incense
44   And the mule-bells tinkling through.
46   That keeps us from our kin,
48   When the English mail comes in.
49You'll find us up and waiting
50   To treat you at the bar;
51You'll find us less exclusive
52   Than the average English are.
53We'll meet you with a carriage,
54   Too glad to show you round,
55But--we do not lunch on steamers,
57We sail o' nights to England
58   And join our smiling Boards--
59Our wives go in with Viscounts
60   And our daughters dance with Lords,
61But behind our princely doings,
63We feel there's Something Waiting,
64   And--we meet It when we wake.
65Ah, God! One sniff of England--
66   To greet our flesh and blood--
67To hear the traffic slurring
68   Once more through London mud!
69Our towns of wasted honour--
70   Our streets of lost delight!
72   Are Dover's cliffs still white?


15] dock: gated enclosure in court for the prisoner on trial.Dartmoor: old, modernized jail near Princetown, Devon, now for prisoners not likely to attempt escape (courtesy of reader George Jansen). Back to Line
16] Callao: a Peruvian harbour town in which criminals at that time could not be extradited (Ralph Durand, A Handbook to the Poetry of Rudyard Kipling [London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1914]: 167). Back to Line
18] ten per cent: of the debt owed them, or of the funds embezzled from them, funds which they hope to recover. Back to Line
19] clapped their trailers: put their spies. Back to Line
32] workhouse: a publicly-run house that domiciles, and sets to labour, the poor, the bankrupt, and the unemployed. Back to Line
37] yuccas: cassava plants from whose roots a bread is made. Back to Line
40] clicking jalousies: wooden or cane blinds against the sun (Durand 167). Back to Line
45] warder: guard. Back to Line
47] levée: public assembly and official reception. Back to Line
56] Avoided for fear of arrest. Back to Line
62] coup: successful business deal. Back to Line
71] the old Lord Warden: Dover hotel (Durand 168). Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: