The Benefactors

Rudyard Kipling

AH! What avails the classic bent
    And what the cultured word,
Against the undoctored incident
    That actually occurred ?

And what is Art whereto we press
    Through paint and prose and rhyme—
When Nature in her nakedness
    Defeats us every time ?

It is not learning, grace nor gear,
    Nor easy meat and drink,
But bitter pinch of pain and fear
    That makes creation think

When in this world’s unpleasing youth
    Our god-like race began,
The longest arm, the sharpest tooth,
    Gave man control of man;

Till, bruised and bitten to the bone
    And taught by pain and fear,
He learned to deal the far-off stone,
    And poke the long, safe spear.

So tooth and nail were obsolete
    As means against a foe,
Till, bored by uniform defeat,
    Some genius built the bow.

Then stone and javelin proved as vain
    As old-time tooth and nail;
Till, spurred anew by fear and pain,
    Man fashioned coats of mail.

Then was there safety for the rich
    And danger for the poor,
Till someone mixed a powder which
    Redressed the scale once more.

Helmet and armour disappeared
    With sword and bow and pike,
And, when the smoke of battle cleared,
    All men were armed alike.  .  .  .

And when ten million such were slain
    To please one crazy king,
Man, schooled in bulk by fear and pain,
    Grew weary of the thing;

And, at the very hour designed,
    To enslave him past recall,
His tooth-stone-arrow-gun-shy mind
    Turned and abolished all.

All Power, each Tyrant, every Mob
    Whose head has grown too large,
Ends by destroying its own job
    And works its own discharge;

And Man, whose mere necessities
    Move all things from his path,
Trembles meanwhile at their decrees,
    And deprecates their wrath!

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