A Death-Bed

By Rudyard Kipling 1865–1936 Rudyard Kipling

1918

"This is the State above the Law.
    The State exists for the State alone."
[This is a gland at the back of the jaw,
    And an answering lump by the collar-bone.]

Some die shouting in gas or fire;
    Some die silent, by shell and shot.
Some die desperate, caught on the wire;
    Some die suddenly. This will not.

"Regis suprema voluntas Lex"
    [It will follow the regular course of—throats.]
Some die pinned by the broken decks,
    Some die sobbing between the boats.

Some die eloquent, pressed to death
    By the sliding trench as their friends can hear.
Some die wholly in half a breath.
    Some—give trouble for half a year.

"There is neither Evil nor Good in life.
    Except as the needs of the State ordain."
[Since it is rather too late for the knife,
    All we can do is mask the pain.]

Some die saintly in faith and hope—
    Some die thus in a prison-yard—
Some die broken by rape or the rope;
    Some die easily. This dies hard.

"I will dash to pieces who bar my way.
    Woe to the traitor!    Woe to the weak!"
[Let him write what he wishes to say.
    It tires him out if he tries to speak.]

Some die quietly.    Some abound
    In loud self-pity.    Others spread
Bad morale through the cots around . . .
    This is a type that is better dead.

"The war was forced on me by my foes.
    All that I sought was the right to live."
[Don't be afraid of a triple dose;
    The pain will neutralize half we give.

Here are the needles.    See that he dies
    While the effects of the drug endure . . .
What is the question he asks with his eyes?—
    Yes, All-Highest, to God, be sure.]

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Poet Rudyard Kipling 1865–1936

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Victorian

Subjects Living, Death, Health & Illness, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, War & Conflict

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 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 Living, Death, Health & Illness, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, War & Conflict

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Victorian

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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