Plain Tales From the Hills

Chapter Headings

Rudyard Kipling

LOOK, you have cast out Love! What Gods are these
You bid me please?
The Three in One, the One in Three? Not so!
To my own Gods I go.
It may be they shall give me greater ease
Than your cold Christ and tangled Trinities.

When the earth was sick and the skies were grey,
And the woods were rotted with rain,
The Dead Man rode through the autumn day
To visit his love again.

His love she neither saw nor heard,
So heavy was her shame;
And tho’ the babe within her stirred
She knew not that he came.

The Other Man.

Cry “Murder” in the market-place, and each
Will turn upon his neighbour anxious eyes
Asking: “Art thou the man?” We hunted Cain
Some centuries ago across the world.
This bred the fear our own misdeeds maintain

His Wedded Wife.

Go, stalk the red deer o’er the heather,
Ride, follow the fox if you can!
But, for pleasure and profit together,
Allow me the hunting of Man—
The chase of the Human, the search for the Soul
To its ruin—the hunting of Man.


“Stopped in the straight when the race was his own
Look at him cutting it—cur to the bone!”
Ask ere the youngster be rated and chidden
What did he carry and how was he ridden?
Maybe they used him too much at the start.
Maybe Fate’s weight-cloths are breaking his heart.

In the Pride of his Youth.

“And some are sulky, while some will plunge.
(So ho ! Steady ! Stand still, you!)
Some you must gentle, and some you must lunge.
(There! There! Who wants to kill you ?)
Some—there are losses in every trade—
Will break their hearts ere bitted and made,
Will fight like fiends as the rope cuts hard,
And die dumb-mad in the breaking-yard.”

Thrown Away.

The World hath set its heavy yoke
Upon the old white-bearded folk
Who strive to please the King.
God’s mercy is upon the young,
God’s wisdom in the baby tongue
That fears not anything.

Tod’s Amendment.

Not though you die to-night, O Sweet, and wail,
A spectre at my door,
Shall mortal Fear make Love immortal fail—
I shall but love you more,
Who, from Death’s House returning, give me still
One moment’s comfort in my matchless ill.

By Word of Mouth.

They burnt a corpse upon the sand—
The light shone out afar;
It guided home the plunging dhows
That beat from Zanzibar.
Spirit of Fire, where’er Thy altars rise,
Thou art the Light of Guidance to our eyes!

In Error.

Ride with an idle whip, ride with an unused heel,
But, once in a way, there will come a day
When the colt must be taught to feel
The lash that falls, and the curb that galls, and the sting of the rowelled steel.

The Conversion of Aurelian McGoggin.

It was not in the open fight
We threw away the sword,
But in the lonely watching
In the darkness by the ford.
The waters lapped, the night-wind blew,
Full-armed the Fear was born and grew,
And we were flying ere we knew
From panic in the night.

The Rout of the White Hussars.

In the daytime, when she moved about me,
In the night, when she was sleeping at my side,—
I was wearied, I was wearied of her presence.
Day by day and night by night I grew to hate her—
Would God that she or I had died!

The Bronckhorst Divorce Case.

A stone’s throw out on either hand
From that well-ordered road we tread,
And all the world is wild and strange;
Churel and ghoul and Djinn and sprite
Shall bear us company to-night,
For we have reached the Oldest Land
Wherein the powers of Darkness range.

In the House of Suddhoo.

To-night, God knows what thing shall tide,
The Earth is racked and fain—
Expectant, sleepless, open-eyed;
And we, who from the Earth were made,
Thrill with our Mother’s pain.

False Dawn.

Pit where the buffalo cooled his hide,
By the hot sun emptied, and blistered and dried;
Log in the plumegrass, hidden and lone;
Bund where the earth-rat’s mounds are strown;
Cave in the bank where the sly stream steals;
Aloe that stabs at the belly and heels,
Jump if you dare on a steed untried—
Safer it is to go wide—go wide!
Hark, from in front where the best men ride;—
“Pull to the off, boys! Wide! Go wide! “

Cupid’s Arrows.

He drank strong waters and his speech was coarse;
He purchased raiment and forbore to pay;
He stuck a trusting junior with a horse,
And won gymkhanas in a doubtful way.
Then, ’twixt a vice and folly, turned aside
To do good deeds and straight to cloak them, lied.

A Bank Fraud

Thus, for a season, they fought it fair—
    She and his cousin May—
Tactful, talented, debonair,
    Decorous foes were they;
But never can battle of man compare
With merciless feminine fray.

The Rescue of Pluffles.

Then a pile of heads he laid—
    Thirty thousand heaped on high—
All to please the Kafir maid
    Where the Oxus rippled by.
Grimly spake Atulla Khan:—
    ‘Love hath made this thing a Man.’

His Chance in Life.

Rosicrucian subtleties
In the Orient had rise.
Ye may find their teachers still
Under Jacatâlâ’s Hill.
Seek ye Bombast Paracelsus,
Read what Fludd the Seeker tells us
Of the Dominant that runs
Through the cycle of the Suns.
Read my story last and see
Luna at her apogee.


So we loosed a bloomin’ volley
    An’ we made the beggars cut,
An’ when our pooch was emptied out
    We used the bloomin’ butt.
Ho! My! Don’t you come anigh
When Tommy is a-playin’ with the bay’nit an’ the butt!

The Taking of Lungtungpen.

Pleasant it is for the Little Tin Gods
When great Jove nods;
But Little Tin Gods make their little mistakes
In missing the hour when great Jove wakes.

A Germ-Destroyer.

There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken any way you please, is bad,
And strands them in forsaken guts and creeks
No decent soul would think of visiting.
You cannot stop the tide; but, now and then,
You may arrest some rash adventurer,
Who—h’m—will hardly thank you for your pains.


While the snaffle holds or the long-neck stings,
While the big beam tilts or the last bell rings,
While horses are horses to train and to race,
Then women and wine take a second place
            For me—for me—
            While a short ‘ten-three’
Has a field to squander or fence to face.

The Broken-Link Handicap.

Little Blind Fish, thou art marvellous wise!
Little Blind Fish, who put out thy eyes?
Open thy ears while I whisper my wish.
Bring me a lover, thou little Blind Fish!

The Bisara of Pooree.

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