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Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling

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!

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