Limits and Renewals

The Curé

Rudyard Kipling

LONG years ago, ere R—lls or R—ce
    Trebled the mileage man could cover;
When Sh—nks’s Mare was H—bs—n’s Choice,
    And Bl—r—ot had not flown to Dover
When good hoteliers looked askance
    If any power save horse-flesh drew vans—
’Time was in easy, hand-made France,
    I met the Curé of Saint Juvans.

He was no babbler, but, at last,
    One learned from things he left unspoken
How in some fiery, far-off past,
    His, and a woman’s, heart were broken.
He sought for death, but found it not,
    Yet, seeking, found his true vocation,
And fifty years, by all forgot,
    Toiled at a simple folks’ salvation.

His pay was lower than our Dole;
    The piteous little church he tended
Had neither roof nor vestments whole
    Save what his own hard fingers mended
While, any hour, at every need
    (As Conscience or La Grippe assailed ’em),
His parish bade him come with speed,
    And, foot or cart, he never failed ’em.

His speech—to suit his hearers—ran
    From pure Parisian to gross peasant,
With interludes North African
    If any Legionnaire were present:
And when some wine-ripe atheist mocked
    His office or the Faith he knelt in,
He left the sinner dumb and shocked
    By oaths his old Battalion dealt in. . .

And he was learned in Death and Life;
    And he was Logic’s self (as France is).
He knew his folk—man, maid, and wife—
    Their forebears, failings, and finances.
Spite, Avarice, Devotion, Lies—
    Passion ablaze or sick Obsession—
He dealt with each physician-wise;
    Stern or most tender, at Confession.

.     .     .     .     .

To-day? God knows where he may lie—
    His Cross of weathered beads above him
But one not worthy to untie
    His shoe-string, prays you read—and love him!

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