The Kiplings and India: A Collection of Writings from British India, 1870-1900

Public Waste (Rudyard Kipling)

   Walpole talks of "a man and his price."
      List to a ditty queer--
   The sale of a Deputy-Acting-Vice-
   Bought like a bullock, hoof and hide,
   By the Little Tin Gods on the Mountain Side.

By the Laws of the Family Circle 'tis written in letters of brass
That only a Colonel from Chatham can manage the Railways of State,
Because of the gold on his breeks, and the subjects wherein he must pass;
Because in all matters that deal not with Railways his knowledge is great.

Now Exeter Battleby Tring had laboured from boyhood to eld
On the Lines of the East and the West, and eke of the North and South;
Many Lines had he built and surveyed--important the posts which he held;
And the Lords of the Iron Horse were dumb when he opened his mouth.

Black as the raven his garb, and his heresies jettier still--
Hinting that Railways required lifetimes of study and knowledge--
Never clanked sword by his side--Vauban he knew not nor drill--
Nor was his name on the list of the men who had passed through the "College."

Wherefore the Little Tin Gods harried their little tin souls,
Seeing he came not from Chatham, jingled no spurs at his heels,
Knowing that, nevertheless, was he first on the Government rolls
For the billet of --"Railway Instructor to Little Tin Gods on Wheels."

Letters not seldom they wrote him, "having the honour to state,"
It would be better for all men if he were laid on the shelf.
Much would accrue to his bank-book, an he consented to wait
Until the Little Tin Gods built him a berth for himself,

"Special, well paid, and exempt from the Law of the Fifty and Five,
Even to Ninety and Nine"--these were the terms of the pact:
Thus did the Little Tin Gods (long may Their Highnesses thrive!)
Silence his mouth with rupees, keeping their Circle intact;

Appointing a Colonel from Chatham who managed the Bhamo State Line
(The which was one mile and one furlong--a guaranteed twenty-inch gauge),
So Exeter Battleby Tring consented his claims to resign,
And died on four thousand a month in the ninetieth year of his age!

[Glossary: Bhamo: a city in what is today Myanmar (then British Burma, part of the Indian empire)]
[Glossary: Breeks -- Scottish for Breeches]

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