Transformation


The only kind that matters.  The rest is fluff.

The ‘eathen in ‘is blindness bows down to wood an’ stone;

‘E don’t obey no orders unless they is ‘is own;

‘E keeps ‘is side-arms awful: ‘e leaves ‘em all about,

An’ then comes up the Regiment an’ pokes the ‘eathen out.

 

All along o’ dirtiness, all along o’ mess,

All along o’ doin’ things rather-more-or-less,

All along of abby-nay, kul, an’ hazar-ho,

Mind you keep your rifle an’ yourself jus’ so!

 

The young recruit is ‘aughty — ‘e draf’s from Gawd knows where;

They bid ‘im show ‘is stockin’s an’ lay ‘is mattress square;

‘E calls it bloomin’ nonsense — ‘e doesn’t know, no more –

An’ then up comes ‘is Company an’kicks’im round the floor!

 

The young recruit is ‘ammered — ‘e takes it very hard;

‘E ‘angs ‘is ‘ead an’ mutters — ‘e sulks about the yard;

‘E talks o’ “cruel tyrants” which ‘e’ll swing for by-an’-by,

An’ the others ‘ears an’ mocks ‘im, an’ the boy goes orf to cry.

 

The young recruit is silly — ‘e thinks o’ suicide.

‘E’s lost ‘is gutter-devil; ‘e ‘asn’t got ‘is pride;

But day by day they kicks ‘im, which ‘elps ‘im on a bit,

Till ‘e finds ‘isself one mornin’ with a full an’ proper kit.

 

Gettin’ clear o’ dirtiness, gettin’ done with mess,

Gettin’ shut o’ doin’ things rather-more-or-less;

Not so fond of abby-nay, kul, nor hazar-ho,

Learns to keep  ‘is ripe an “isself jus’so!

 

The young recruit is ‘appy — ‘e throws a chest to suit;

You see ‘im grow mustaches; you ‘ear ‘im slap’ is boot.

‘E learns to drop the “bloodies” from every word ‘e slings,

An ‘e shows an ‘ealthy brisket when ‘e strips for bars an’ rings.

 

The cruel-tyrant-sergeants they watch ‘im ‘arf a year;

They watch ‘im with ‘is comrades, they watch ‘im with ‘is beer;

They watch ‘im with the women at the regimental dance,

And the cruel-tyrant-sergeants send ‘is name along for “Lance.”

 

An’ now ‘e’s ‘arf o’ nothin’, an’ all a private yet,

‘Is room they up an’ rags ‘im to see what they will get.

They rags ‘im low an’ cunnin’, each dirty trick they can,

But ‘e learns to sweat ‘is temper an ‘e learns to sweat ‘is man.

 

An’, last, a Colour-Sergeant, as such to be obeyed,

‘E schools ‘is men at cricket, ‘e tells ‘em on parade,

They sees ‘im quick an ‘andy, uncommon set an’ smart,

An’ so ‘e talks to orficers which ‘ave the Core at ‘eart.

 

‘E learns to do ‘is watchin’ without it showin’ plain;

‘E learns to save a dummy, an’ shove ‘im straight again;

‘E learns to check a ranker that’s buyin’ leave to shirk;

An ‘e learns to make men like ‘im so they’ll learn to like their work.

 

An’ when it comes to marchin’ he’ll see their socks are right,

An’ when it comes: to action ‘e shows ‘em how to sight.

‘E knows their ways of thinkin’ and just what’s in their mind;

‘E knows when they are takin’ on an’ when they’ve fell be’ind.

 

‘E knows each talkin’ corp’ral that leads a squad astray;

‘E feels ‘is innards ‘eavin’, ‘is bowels givin’ way;

‘E sees the blue-white faces all tryin ‘ard to grin,

An ‘e stands an’ waits an’ suffers till it’s time to cap’em in.

 

An’ now the hugly bullets come peckin’ through the dust,

An’ no one wants to face ‘em, but every beggar must;

So, like a man in irons, which isn’t glad to go,

They moves ‘em off by companies uncommon stiff an’ slow.

 

Of all ‘is five years’ schoolin’ they don’t remember much

Excep’ the not retreatin’, the step an’ keepin’ touch.

It looks like teachin’ wasted when they duck an’ spread an ‘op –

But if ‘e ‘adn’t learned ‘em they’d be all about the shop.

 

An’ now it’s “‘Oo goes backward?” an’ now it’s “‘Oo comes on?”

And now it’s “Get the doolies,” an’ now the Captain’s gone;

An’ now it’s bloody murder, but all the while they ‘ear

‘Is voice, the same as barrick-drill, a-shepherdin’ the rear.

 

‘E’s just as sick as they are, ‘is ‘eart is like to split,

But ‘e works ‘em, works ‘em, works ‘em till he feels them take the bit;

The rest is ‘oldin’ steady till the watchful bugles play,

An ‘e lifts ‘em, lifts ‘em, lifts ‘em through the charge that wins the day!

 

The ‘eathen in ‘is blindness bows down to wood an’ stone –

‘E don’t obey no orders unless they is ‘is own.

The ‘eathen in ‘is blindness must end where ‘e began

But the backbone of the Army is the Non-commissioned Man!

 

Keep away from dirtiness — keep away from mess,

Don’t get into doin’ things rather-more-or-less!

Let’s ha’ done with abby-nay, kul, and hazar-ho;

Mind you keep your rifle an’ yourself jus’ so!


-Rudyard Kipling, "The 'Eathen"
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8 Comments

Filed under Afghanistan, army, history, infantry, iraq, marines, recruiting, Uncategorized, war

8 responses to “Transformation

  1. You know, I’m sure, that Kipling was talking about the Army, not the Marines.

    Just sayin’.

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  2. ultimaratioregis

    QM, one would think RK had all military organizations in mind. And if it was just the Army, it wasn’t ours!

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    • I’m a tad ashamed to admit I’m not much of an RK fan. It’s a hard slog sometimes. The man’s insight was quite keen. It’s just the vernacular is sometimes hard for me to read.
      Having said that, the Marines I’ve known have never been shy about stealing lessons learned from any and all. And of the various magazines published by and for the services, the only one that regularly includes poetry is Leatherneck.

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  3. ultimaratioregis

    Brad, that sounds like I should write a series of Kipling posts highlighting my favorite insights!

    And of course, it reminds me of the best (worst) Muppet Show joke ever.
    (While dancing)
    “Do you like Kipling?”
    “I dunno, I’ve never Kippled!”

    Still funny. Still funny.

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  4. Bill

    I first ran across a verse of this as a chapter heading in Robert Heinlein’s _Starship Troopers_, and liked it enough to go ahead and find the rest of the verse. Given that the arc of _Troopers_ is the turning of a raw recruit into an Infantryman, it is entirely appropriate that Kipling and this poem show up.

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  5. Mark Dunlap SFC Rigger (Ret).

    Kipling….the warrior’s poet. With respect to Maugham and a few Roman & Greek soldiers who’s names escape me at the moment.

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