Treasure Island

Rudyard Kipling

(30 December 1865 – 18 January 1936 / Bombay)

La Nuit Blanche

A much-discerning Public hold
The Singer generally sings
And prints and sells his past for gold.

Whatever I may here disclaim,
The very clever folk I sing to
Will most indubitably cling to
Their pet delusion, just the same.

I had seen, as the dawn was breaking
And I staggered to my rest,
Tari Devi softly shaking
From the Cart Road to the crest.
I had seen the spurs of Jakko
Heave and quiver, swell and sink.
Was it Earthquake or tobacco,
Day of Doom, or Night of Drink?

In the full, fresh fragrant morning
I observed a camel crawl,
Laws of gravitation scorning,
On the ceiling and the wall;
Then I watched a fender walking,
And I heard grey leeches sing,
And a red-hot monkey talking
Did not seem the proper thing.

Then a Creature, skinned and crimson,
Ran about the floor and cried,
And they said that I had the "jims" on,
And they dosed me with bromide,
And they locked me in my bedroom --
Me and one wee Blood Red Mouse --
Though I said: "To give my head room
You had best unroof the house."

But my words were all unheeded,
Though I told the grave M.D.
That the treatment really needed
Was a dip in open sea
That was lapping just below me,
Smooth as silver, white as snow,
And it took three men to throw me
When I found I could not go.

Half the night I watched the Heavens
Fizz like '81 champagne --
Fly to sixes and to sevens,
Wheel and thunder back again;
And when all was peace and order
Save one planet nailed askew,
Much I wept because my warder
Would not let me sit it true.

After frenzied hours of wating,
When the Earth and Skies were dumb,
Pealed an awful voice dictating
An interminable sum,
Changing to a tangle story --
"What she said you said I said" --
Till the Moon arose in glory,
And I found her . . . in my head;

Then a Face came, blind and weeping,
And It couldn't wipe its eyes,
And It muttered I was keeping
Back the moonlight from the skies;
So I patted it for pity,
But it whistled shrill with wrath,
And a huge black Devil City
Poured its peoples on my path.

So I fled with steps uncertain
On a thousand-year long race,
But the bellying of the curtain
Kept me always in one place;
While the tumult rose and maddened
To the roar of Earth on fire,
Ere it ebbed and sank and saddened
To a whisper tense as wire.

In tolerable stillness
Rose one little, little star,
And it chuckled at my illness,
And it mocked me from afar;
And its breathren came and eyed me,
Called the Universe to aid,
Till I lay, with naught to hide me,
'Neath' the Scorn of All Things Made.

Dun and saffron, robed and splendid,
Broke the solemn, pitying Day,
And I knew my pains were ended,
And I turned and tried to pray;
But my speech was shattered wholly,
And I wept as children weep.
Till the dawn-wind, softly, slowly,
Brought to burning eyelids sleep.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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