Friday, March 22, 2013

Alnaschar and the Oxen, by Rudyard Kipling



Alnaschar and the Oxen
by Rudyard Kipling

"The Bull That Thought"
THERE'S a pasture in a valley where the hanging woods divide, 
   And a Herd lies down and ruminates in peace;
Where the pheasant rules the nooning, and the owl the twilight-tide,
   And the war-cries of our world die out and cease.
Here I cast aside the burden that each weary week-day brings 
   And, delivered from the shadows I pursue,
On peaceful, postless Sabbaths I consider Weighty Things-
   Such as Sussex Cattle feeding in the dew!

At the gate beside the river where the trouty shallows brawl, 
   I know the pride that Lobengula felt,
When he bade the bars be lowered of the Royal Cattle Kraal, 
   And fifteen miles of oxen took the veldt.
From the walls of Bulawayo in unbroken file they came 
   To where the Mount of Council cuts the blue ...
I have only six and twenty, but the principle's the same 
   With my Sussex Cattle feeding in the dew!

To a luscious sound of tearing, where the clovered herbage rips, 
    Level-backed and level-bellied watch 'em move-
See those shoulders, guess that heart-girth, praise those loins, 
         admire those hips,
   And the tail set low for flesh to make above!
Count the broad unblemished muzzles, test the kindly mellow skin,
   And, where yon heifer lifts her head at call,
Mark the bosom's just abundance 'neath the gay and clean chin,
   And those eyes of Juno, overlooking all!

Here is colour, form and substance! I will put it to the proud 
   And, next season, in my lodges shall be born
Some very Bull of Mithras, flawless from his agate hoof 
   To his even-branching, ivory, dusk-tipped horn.
He shall mate with block-square virgins-kings shall seek his like
         in vain,
   While I multiply his stock a thousandfold,
Till an hungry world extol me, builder of a lofty strain 
   That turns one standard ton at two years old!

There's a valley, under oakwood, where a man may dream his dream,
   In the milky breath of cattle laid at ease,
Till the moon o'ertops the alders, and her image chills the stream, 
   And the river-mist runs silver round their knees!
Now the footpaths fade and vanish; now the ferny clumps deceive;
   Now the hedgerow-folk possess their fields anew;
Now the Herd is lost in darkness, and 1 bless them as I leave, 
   My Sussex Cattle feeding in the dew!
by Rudyard Kipling

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