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Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling

A Song of French Roads

1923
"The National Roads of France are numbered 
throughout, and carry their numbers upon each 
kilometre stone. By following these indications, 
comprehensible even to strangers, the tourist 
can see at a glance if he is on the correct road. 
For example, Route Nationale No. 20 conducts 
from Paris to the Spanish frontier at Bourg-
Madame, in the Eastern Pyrenees; and No. 10 
to the same frontier at Hendaye, on the Bay of 
Biscay: "-GUIDE BOOK.

Now praise the Gods of Time and Chance 
That bring a heart's desire,
And lay the joyous roads of France 
Once more beneath the tyre-
So numbered by Napoleon,
The veriest ass can spy
How Twenty takes to Bourg-Madame 
And Ten is for Hendaye.

Sixteen hath fed our fighting-line 
From Dunkirk to Peronne,
And Thirty-nine and Twenty-nine 
Can show where it has gone, 
Which slant through Arras and Bapaume, 
And join outside Cambrai,
While Twenty takes to Bourg-Madame, 
And Ten is for Hendaye!

The crops and houses spring once more 
Where Thirty-seven ran,
And even ghostly Forty-four 
Is all restored to man.
Oh, swift as shell-hole poppies pass 
The blurring years go by,
And Twenty takes to Bourg-Madame, 
And Ten is for Hendaye!

And you desire that sheeted snow 
Where chill Mont Louis stands?
And we the rounder gales that blow 
Full-lunged across the Landes-
So you will use the Orleans Gate, 
While we slip through Versailles; 
Since Twenty takes to Bourg-Madame, 
And Ten is for Hendaye.

Sou'-West by South-and South by West-
On every vine appear
Those four first cautious leaves that test 
The temper of the year;
The dust is white at Angouleme, 
The sun is warm at Blaye;
And Twenty takes to Bourg-Madame, 
And Ten is for Hendaye.

Broad and unbridled, mile on mile, 
The highway drops her line
Past Langon down that grey-walled aisle 
Of resin-scented pine;
And ninety to the lawless hour 
The kilometres fly-
What was your pace to Bourg-Madame? 
We sauntered to Hendaye.

Now Fontarabia marks our goal, 
And Bidassoa shows,
At issue with each whispering shoal 
In violet, pearl and rose,
Ere crimson over ocean's edge 
The sunset banners die . . . 
Yes-Twenty takes to Bourg-Madame, 
But Ten is for Hendaye!

Oh, praise the Gods of Time and Chance
That ease the long control
And bring the glorious soul of France
Once more to cheer our soul 
With beauty, change and valiancy
Of sun and soil and sky,
Where Twenty takes to Bourg-Madame, 
And Ten is for Hendaye! 

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