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Rudyard Kipling

(30 December 1865 – 18 January 1936 / Bombay)

The Lesson


1899-1902 -- Boer War


Let us admit it fairly, as a business people should,
We have had no end of a lesson: it will do us no end of good.


Not on a single issue, or in one direction or twain,
But conclusively, comprehensively, and several times and
again,

Were all our most holy illusions knocked higher than Gilde-
roy's kite.
We have had a jolly good lesson, and it serves us jolly well
right !

This was not bestowed us under the trees, nor yet in the shade
of a tent,
But swingingly, over eleven degrees of a bare brown conti-
nent.
From Lamberts to Delagoa Bay, and from Pietersburg to
Sutherland,
Fell the phenomenal lesson we learned-with a fullness ac-
corded no other land.

It was our fault, and our very great fault, and not the judg-
ment of Heaven.
We made an Army in our own image, on an island nine by
seven,
Which faithfully mirrored its makers' ideals, equipment, and
mental attitude--
And so we got our lesson: and we ought to accept it with
gratitude.

We have spent two hundred million pounds to prove the fact
once more,
That horses are quicker than men afoot, since two and two
make four;
And horses have four legs, and men have two legs, and two
into four goes twice,
And nothing over except our lesson--and very cheap at the
price.

For remember (this our children shall know: we are too near
for that knowledge)
Not our mere astonied camps, but Council and Creed and
College--
All the obese, unchallenged old things that stifle and overlie
us--
Have felt the effects of the lesson we got-an advantage no
money could by us!

Then let us develop this marvellous asset which we alone
command,
And which, it may subsequently transpire, will be worth as
much as the Rand.
Let us approach this pivotal fact in a humble yet hopeful
mood--
We have had no end of a lesson, it will do us no end of good!

It was our fault, and our very great fault--and now we must
turn it to use.
We have forty million reasons for failure, but not a single
excuse.
So the more we work and the less we talk the better results
we shall get--
We have had an Imperial lesson; it may make us an Empire
yet!

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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