Limits and Renewals

The Totem

Rudyard Kipling

ERE the mother’s milk had dried
    On my lips, the Brethren came—
Tore me from my nurse’s side,
    And bestowed on me a name

Infamously overtrue—
    Such as ‘Bunny,’ ‘Stinker,’ ‘Podge’;—
But, whatever I should do,
    Mine for ever in the Lodge.

Then they taught with palm and toe—
    Then I learned with yelps and tears—
A11 the Armoured Man should know
    Through his Seven Secret Years . . .

Last, oppressing as oppressed,
    I was loosed to go my ways
With a Totem on my breast
    Governing my nights and days—

Ancient and unbribeable,
    By the virtue of its Name—
Which, however oft I fell
    Lashed me back into The Game.

And the World, that never knew,
    Saw no more beneath my chin
Than a patch of rainbow-hue,
    Mixed as Life and crude as Sin.

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