Now the New Year, reviving last Year's Debt,
The Thoughtful Fisher casteth wide his Net;
So I with begging Dish and ready Tongue
Assail all Men for all that I can get.
Imports indeed are gone with all their Dues—
Lo! Salt a Lever that I dare not use,
Nor may I ask the Tillers in Bengal—
Surely my Kith and Kin will not refuse!
Pay—and I promise by the Dust of Spring,
Retrenchment. If my Promises can bring
Comfort, Ye have Them now a thousand fold
By Allah! I will promise Anything.
Indeed indeed, Retrenchment oft before
I swore—but did I mean it when I swore?
And then, and then, We wandered to the Hills.
And so the Little Less became Much More.
Whether at Boileaugunge or Babylon,
I know not how the wretched Thing is done.
The Items of Receipt grow surely small;
The Items of Expense mount one by one.
I cannot help it—What have I to do
With One and Five or Four, or Three or Two?
Let Scribes spit Blood and Sulphur as they please,
Or Statesmen call me foolish—Heed not you.
Behold, I promise—Anything You will.
Behold, I greet You with an empty Till—
Ah! fellow Sinners, of you charity
Seek not the reason of the Dearth but fill.
For if I sinned and fell, where lies the Gain
Of knowledge? Would it ease You of your Pain
To know the tangled Threads of Revenue
I ravel deeper in a hopeless Skein?
"Who hath not Prudence"—what was it I said,
Of her who paints her Eyes and tires her Head,
And jibes and mocks the People in the street,
And fawns upon them for her thriftless Bread?
Accursed is She of Eve's daughters—She
Hath cast off Prudence, and her end shall be
Destruction . . Brethren, of your Bounty grant
Some portion of your daily bread to Me.
Place-name: Bengal (probably in index already)
Place-name: Boileaugunge Road. Name of a road in central Simla
Link for notes:
Kipling Society is pretty comprehensive on this one.