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

The Last Department (Rudyard Kipling)

   Twelve hundred million men are spread
     About this Earth, and I and You
   Wonder, when You and I are dead,
     "What will those luckless millions do?"

"None whole or clean," we cry, "or free from stain
Of favour." Wait awhile, till we attain
   The Last Department where nor fraud nor fools,
Nr grade nor greed, shall trouble us again.

Fear, Favour, or Affection--what are these
To the grim Head who claims our services?
   I never knew a wife or interest yet
Delay that pukka step, miscalled "decease";

When leave, long overdue, none can deny;
When idleness of all Eternity
   Becomes our furlough, and the marigold
Our thriftless, bullion-minting Treasury

Transferred to the Eternal Settlement,
Each in his strait, wood-scantled office pent,
   No longer Brown reverses Smith's appeals,
Or Jones records his Minute of Dissent.

And One, long since a "pillar of the Court"
As mud between the beams thereof is wrought;
   And One who wrote on phosphates for the crops
Is subject-matter of his own Report.

[These be the glorious ends whereto we pass--
Let Him who Is, go call on Him who Was;
   And He shall see the mallie steals the slab
For currie-grinder, and for goats the grass.]

A breath of wind, a Border bullet's flight,
A draught of water, or a horse's fright--
   The droning of the fat Sheristadar
Ceases, the punkah stops, and falls the night

For you or Me. Do those who live decline
The step that offers, or their work resign?
   Trust me, Today's Most Indispensables,
Five hundred men can take your place or mine.

Glossary: punkah (already indexed)
Glossary: Sheristadar (Hindustani) Court officer
Glossary: malli (malhi) (Hindustani) Gardener
Glossary: pukka (already indexed)

 

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  1. 4 13 1886 The Last Department