Rudyard Kipling

A Recantation

To Lyde of the Music Halls

What boots it on the Gods to call? Since, answered or unheard, We perish with the Gods and all Things made--except the Word. Ere certain Fate had touched a heart By fifty years made cold, I judged thee, Lyde, and thy art O'erblown and over-bold. But he--but he, of whom bereft I suffer vacant days-- He on his shield not meanly left He cherished all thy lays. Witness the magic coffer stocked With convoluted runes Wherein thy very voice was locked And linked to circling tunes. Witness thy portrait, smoke-defiled, That decked his shelter-place. Life seemed more present, wrote the child, Beneath thy well-known face. And when the grudging days restored Him for a breath to home, He, with fresh crowds of youth, adored Thee making mirth in Rome. Therefore, I humble, join the hosts, Loyal and loud, who bow To thee as Queen of Song--and ghosts, For I remember how Never more rampant rose the Hall At thy audacious line Than when the news came in from Gaul Thy son had--followed mine. But thou didst hide it in thy breast And, capering, took the brunt Of blaze and blare, and launched the jest That swept next week the front. Singer to children! Ours possessed Sleep before noon--but thee, Wakeful each midnight for the rest, No holocaust shall free! Yet they who use the Word assigned, To hearten and make whole, Not less than Gods have served mankind, Though vultures rend their soul.

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