Song of the Galley-Slaves

By Rudyard Kipling 1865–1936 Rudyard Kipling

(‘“The Finest Story in the World”’—Many Inventions)

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?

Source: A Choice of Kipling's Verse (1943)

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Poet Rudyard Kipling 1865–1936

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Victorian

Subjects Class, History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity

Poetic Terms Refrain

 Rudyard  Kipling

Biography

Rudyard Kipling is one of the best-known of the late Victorian poets and story-tellers. Although he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1907, his unpopular political views caused his work to be neglected shortly after his death. Critics, however, recognize the power of his work. "His unrelenting craftsmanship, his determination to be 'master of the bricks and mortar of his trade,' compels respect, and his genius as a . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Class, History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Victorian

Poetic Terms Refrain

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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