"The Trade"

By Rudyard Kipling 1865–1936 Rudyard Kipling

1914-18
(Sea Warfare)

They bear, in place of classic names,
    Letters and numbers on their skin.
They play their grisly blindfold games
    In little boxes made of tin.
    Sometimes they stalk the Zeppelin,
Sometimes they learn where mines are laid,
    Or where the Baltic ice is thin.
That is the custom of "The Trade."

Few prize-courts sit upon their claims.
    They seldom tow their targets in.
They follow certain secret aims
    Down under, far from strife or din.
    When they are ready to begin
No flag is flown, no fuss is made
    More than the shearing of a pin.
That is the custom of "The Trade."

The Scout's quadruple funnel flames
    A mark from Sweden to the Swin,
The Cruiser's thund'rous screw proclaims
    Her comings out and goings in:
    But only whiffs of paraffin
Or creamy rings that fizz and fade
    Show where the one-eyed Death has been.
That is the custom of "The Trade."

Their feats, their fortunes and their fames
    Are hidden from their nearest kin;
No eager public backs or blames,
    No journal prints the yarn they spin
    (The Censor would not let it in! )
When they return from run or raid.
    Unheard they work, unseen they win.
That is the custom of "The Trade."

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Poet Rudyard Kipling 1865–1936

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Victorian

Subjects Social Commentaries, War & Conflict

Poetic Terms Refrain, 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 Social Commentaries, War & Conflict

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Victorian

Poetic Terms Refrain, Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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