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  4. The Benefactors by Rudyard Kipling
The Benefactors

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Ah! What avails the classic bent
   And what the cultured word,
Against the undoctored incident
   That actually occurred?

And what is Art whereto we press
   Through paint and prose and rhyme—
When Nature in her nakedness
   Defeats us every time?

It is not learning, grace nor gear,
   Nor easy meat and drink,
But bitter pinch of pain and fear
   That makes creation think.

When in this world’s unpleasing youth
   Our godlike race began,
The longest arm, the sharpest tooth,
   Gave man control of man;

Till, bruised and bitten to the bone
   And taught by pain and fear,
He learned to deal the far-off stone,
   And poke the long, safe spear.

So tooth and nail were obsolete
   As means against a foe,
Till, bored by uniform defeat,
   Some genius built the bow.

Then stone and javelin proved as vain
   As old-time tooth and nail;
Till, spurred anew by fear and pain,
   Man fashioned coats of mail.

Then was there safety for the rich
   And danger for the poor,
Till someone mixed a powder which
   Redressed the scale once more.

Helmet and armour disappeared
   With sword and bow and pike,
And, when the smoke of battle cleared,
   All men were armed alike. . . .

And when ten million such were slain
   To please one crazy king,
Man, schooled in bulk by fear and pain,
   Grew weary of the thing;

And, at the very hour designed
   To enslave him past recall,
His tooth-stone-arrow-gun-shy mind
   Turned and abolished all.

All Power, each Tyrant, every Mob
   Whose head has grown too large,
Ends by destroying its own job
   And works its own discharge;

And Man, whose mere necessities
   Move all things from his path,
Trembles meanwhile at their decrees,
   And deprecates their wrath!

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

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