Rudyard Kipling

(30 December 1865 – 18 January 1936 / Bombay)

The Lost Legion


There's a Legion that never was 'listed,
That carries no colours or crest,
But, split in a thousand detachments,
Is breaking the road for the rest.
Our fathers they left us their blessing --
They taught us, and groomed us, and crammed;
But we've shaken the Clubs and the Messes
To go and find out and be damned
(Dear boys!),
To go and get shot and be damned.

So some of us chivy the slaver,
And some of us cherish the black,
And some of us hunt on the Oil Coast,
And some on -- the Wallaby track:
And some of us drift to Sarawak,
And some of us drift up The Fly,
And some share our tucker with tigers,
And some with the gentle Masai
(Dear boys!),
Take tea with the giddy Masai.

We've painted The Islands vermilion,
We've pearled on half-shares in the Bay,
We've shouted on seven-ounce nuggets,
We've starved on a Seedeeboy's pay;
We've laughed at the world as we found it --
Its women and cities and men --
From Sayyid Burgash in a tantrum
To the smoke-reddened eyes of Loben
(Dear boys!),
We've a little account with Loben.

The ends o' the Earth were our portion,
The ocean at large was our share.
There was never a skirmish to windward
But the Leaderless Legion was there:
Yes, somehow and somewhere and always
We were first when the trouble began,
From a lottery-row in Manila,
To an I.D.B. race on the Pan
(Dear boys!),
With the Mounted Police on the Pan.

We preach in advance of the Army,
We skirmish ahead of the Church,
With never a gunboat to help us
When we're scuppered and left in the lurch.
But we know as the cartridges finish,
And we're filed on our last little shelves,
That the Legion that never was 'listed
Will send us as good as ourselves
(Good men!),
Five hundred as good as ourselves.

Then a health (we must drink it in whispers)
To our wholly unauthorised horde --
To the line of our dusty foreloopers,
The Gentlemen Rovers abroad --
Yes, a health to ourselves ere we scatter,
For the steamer won't wait for the train,
And the Legion that never was 'listed
Goes back into quarters again!
'Regards!
Goes back under canvas again.
Hurrah!
The swag and the billy again.
Here's how!
The trail and the packhorse again.
Salue!
The trek and the laager again.

Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002

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