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

The Maid of the Meerschaum (Rudyard Kipling)


Nude nymph, when from Neuberg's I led her
        In velvet enshrined and encased;
When with rarest Virginia I fed her,
        And pampered each maidenly taste
On "Old Judge" and "Lone Jack" and brown
        The best that a mortal might get,
Did she know how, from whiteness of curds, I
Should turn her to jet?

She was blond and impassive and stately,
        When first our acquaintance began,
When she smiled from the pipe-bowl sedately
        On the "Stunt" who was scarcely a man.
But labuntur anni fugaces ,
        And changed in due season were we,
For she wears the blackest of faces,
        And I'm a D.C.
Unfailing the comfort she gave me
        In the days when I owned to a heart,
When the charmers that used to enslave me
        For Home or the Hills would depart.
She was Polly or Agnes or Kitty,
        (Whoever, pro tem, was my flame)
And I found her most ready to pity,
And —always the same.

At dawn, when the pig broke from cover,
        At noon, when the pleaders were met,
She clung to the lips of her lover
        As never live maiden did yet.
At the Bund, when I waited the far light
        That brought me my mails o'er the main—
At night, when the tents, in the starlight,
        Showed white on the plain.

And now, though each finely cut feature
        Is flattened and polished away,
I hold her the loveliest creature
        That ever was fashioned from clay.
Let an epitaph thus then be wrought for
        Her tomb, when the smash shall arrive :
"Hic jacet the life's love I bought for
        "Rupees twenty-five."

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