Many Inventions

Song of the Galley-Slaves

Rudyard Kipling

WE PULLED for you when the wind was against us and
        the sails were low.
                Will you never let us go?
We ate bread and onions when you took towns, or ran aboard quickly
        when you were beaten back by the foe.
The Captains walked up and down the deck in fair weather singing
        songs, but we were below.
We fainted with our chins on the oars and you did not see that
        we were idle, for we still swung to and fro.
                Will you never let us go?
The salt made the oar-handles like shark-skin; our knees were cut
        to the bone with salt-cracks; our hair was stuck to our foreheads;
        and our lips were cut to the gums, and you whipped us because we
        could not row.
                Will you never let us go?
But, in a little time, we shall run out of the port-holes as the water
        runs along the oar-blade, and though you tell the others to row after
        us you will never catch us till you catch the oar-thresh and tie up
        the winds in the belly of the sail. Aho!
                Will you never let us go?

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