Rudyard Kipling

In The Neolithic Age

In the Neolithic Age savage warfare did I wage For food and fame and woolly horses’ pelt. I was singer to my clan in that dim, red Dawn of Man, And I sang of all we fought and feared and felt. Yea, I sang as now I sing, when the Prehistoric spring Made the piled Biscayan ice—pack split and shove; And the troll and gnome and dwerg, and the Gods of Cliff and Berg Were about me and beneath me and above. But a rival, of Solutré, told the tribe my style was outré— 'Neath a tomahawk, of diorite, he fell And I left my views on Art, barbed and tanged, below the heart Of a mammothistic etcher at Grenelle. Then I stripped them, scalp from skull, and my hunting—dogs fed full, And their teeth I threaded neatly on a thong; And I wiped my mouth and said, “It is well that they are dead, For I know my work is right and theirs was wrong.” But my Totem saw the shame; from his ridgepole—shrine he came, And he told me in a vision of the night: — “There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays, ”And every single one of them is right!" * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Then the silence closed upon me till They put new clothing on me Of whiter, weaker flesh and bone more frail; . And I stepped beneath Time’s finger, once again a tribal singer, And a minor poet certified by Traill! Still they skirmish to and fro, men my messmates on the snow When we headed off the aurochs turn for turn; When the rich Allobrogenses never kept amanuenses, And our only plots were piled in lakes at Berne. Still a cultured Christian age sees us scuffle, squeak, and rage, Still we pinch and slap and jabber, scratch and dirk; Still we let our business slide—as we dropped the half—dressed hide— To show a fellow—savage how to work. Still the world is wondrous large,—seven seas from marge to marge— And it holds a vast of various kinds of man; And the wildest dreams of Kew are the facts of Khatmandhu And the crimes of Clapham chaste in Martaban. Here’s my wisdom for your use, as I learned it when the moose And the reindeer roamed where Paris roars to—night:— “There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays, ”And—every—single—one—of—them—is—right!"

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