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Kipling: Song of the Men's Side
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Another poem by Kipling. This one comes from Rewards and Fairies, which was the sequel to Puck of Pook's Hill. Both of these books contain short stories interspersed with poems, all relating to the theme of bringing history to life through the physical traces we find in the landscape. All of these poems were originally written as songs, and Peter Bellamy finally did them justice by putting them to music. Look out for two of Bellamy's CDs: Oak, Ash and Thorn, and also Merlin's Isle of Gramarye. The following poem is beautifully interpreted on the latter.

What is rare about this poem is that it takes the perspective of Neolithic Man, impressed by the discovery of metal, rather than the perspective of the intellectual looking back through time.

Song of the Men's Side
Rudyard Kipling


ONCE we feared The Beast—when he followed us we ran,
Ran very fast though we knew
It was not right that The Beast should master Man;
But what could we Flint-workers do?
The Beast only grinned at our spears round his ears—
Grinned at the hammers that we made;
But now we will hunt him for the life with the Knife—
And this is the Buyer of the Blade!
Room for his shadow on the grass—let it pass
To left and right—stand clear!
This is the Buyer of the Blade—be afraid!
This is the great god Tyr!

Tyr thought hard till he hammered out a plan,
For he knew it was not right
(And it is not right) that The Beast should master Man;
So he went to the Children of the Night.
He begged a Magic Knife of their make for our sake.
When he begged for the Knife they said:
"The price of the Knife you would buy is an eye!"
And that was the price he paid.

Tell it to the Barrows of the Dead—run ahead!
Shout it so the Women's Side can hear!
This is the Buyer of the Blade—be afraid!
This is the great god Tyr!

Our women and our little ones may walk on the Chalk,
As far as we can see them and beyond.
We shall not be anxious for our sheep when we keep
Tally at the shearing-pond.
We can eat with both our elbows on our knees, if we please,
We can sleep after meals in the sun,
For Shepherd of the Twilight is dismayed at the Blade,
Feet-in-the-Night have run!
Dog-without-a-Master goes away (Hai, Tyr, aie!),
Devil-in-the-Dusk has run!

Room for his shadow on the grass—let it pass!
To left and right—stand clear!.
This is the Buyer of the Blade—be afraid!
This is the great god Tyr!

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Nick Tasker
Posted by Nick Tasker
31st August 2005ce

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Rudyard Kipling (Littlestone)

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