Sestina of the Tramp-Royal

Original Text: 
Rudyard Kipling's Verse: Definitive Edition (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1940): 87-88.
2The 'appy roads that take you o'er the world.
3Speakin' in general, I 'ave found them good
4For such as cannot use one bed too long,
5But must get 'ence, the same as I 'ave done,
6An' go observin' matters till they die.
7What do it matter where or 'ow we die,
8So long as we've our 'ealth to watch it all--
9The different ways that different things are done.
10An' men an' women lovin' in this world;
11Takin' our chances as they come along.
12An' when they ain't, pretendin' they are good?
13In cash or credit--no, it aren't no good;
14You 'ave to 'ave the 'abit or you'd die,
15Unless you lived your life but one day long,
16Nor didn't prophesy nor fret at all,
18An' never bothered what you might ha' done.
19But, Gawd, what things are they I 'aven't done?
20I've turned my 'and to most, an' turned it good,
21In various situations round the world--
22For 'im that doth not work must surely die;
23But that's no reason man should labour all
24'Is life on one same shift--life's none so long.
25Therefore, from job to job I've moved along.
26Pay couldn't 'old me when my time was done,
27For something in my 'ead upset it all,
28Till I 'ad dropped whatever 'twas for good,
29An', out at sea, be'eld the dock-lights die,
30An' met my mate--the wind that tramps the world!
31It's like a book, I think, this bloomin' world,
32Which you can read and care for just so long,
33But presently you feel that you will die
34Unless you get the page you're readin' done,
35An' turn another--likely not so good;
36But what you're after is to turn 'em all.
37Gawd bless this world! Whatever she 'ath done--
38Excep' when awful long--I've found it good.
39So write, before I die, "'E liked it all!"


1] 'ave: have. 'em: them. The cockney speaker regularly elides initial h and th. Back to Line
17] tucker: food. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: