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Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling

The Ballad of the Cars

Wardour Street Border Ballad
-- The Muse Among the Motors (1900-1930)

"Now this is the price of a stirrup-cup,"
  The kneeling doctor said.
And syne he bade them take him up,
  For he saw that the man was dead.

They took him up, and they laid him down
   ( And, oh, he did not stir ),
And they had him into the nearest town
  To wait the Coroner.

They drew the dead-cloth over the face,
  They closed the doors upon,
And the cars that were parked in the market-place
  Made talk of it anon.

Then up and spake a Daimler wide,
  That carries the slatted tank: --
"'Tis we must purge the country-side
  And no man will us thank.

"For while they pray at Holy Kirk
 The souls should turn from sin,
We cock our bonnets to the work,
 And gather the drunken in. --

"And if we spare them for the nonce, --
  Or their comrades jack them free, --
They learn more under our dumb-irons
  Than they learned at time mother's knee."

Then up and spake an Armstrong bold,
  And Siddeley, was his name: --
"I saw a man lie stark and cold
  By Grantham as I came.

"There was a blind turn by a brook,
   A guard-rail and a fail:
But the drunken loon that overtook
   He got no hurt at all!

"I ha' trodden the wet road and the dry --
   But and the shady lane;                '
And  why the  guiltless  soul  should die,
   Good reason find I nane."

Then up and spake the Babe Austin --
   Had barely room for two --
"'Tis time and place that make the sin,
   And not the deed they do.

"For when a man drives with his dear,
  I ha' seen it come to pass
That an arm too close or a lip too near
   Has killed  both  lad  and  lass.

"There was a car at eventide
  And a sidelings kiss to steal --
The God knows how the couple died,
  But I mind the inquest weel.

"I have trodden the black tar and the heath --
  But and the cobble-stone;
And why the young go to their death,
  Good reason find I none."

Then spake a Morris from Oxenford,
  ('Was keen to a Cowley Friar ): --
"How shall we judge the ways of the Lord
That are but steel and fire?

"Between the oil-pits under earth
  And the levin-spark from the skies,
We but adventure and go forth
  As our man shall devise:

"And if he have drunken a hoop too deep,
  No kinship can us move
To draw him home in his market-sleep
  Or spare his waiting love.

"There is never a lane in all England
  Where a mellow man can go,
But he must look on either hand
  And back and front also.

"But he must busk him every tide,
  At prick of horn, to leap  
Either to hide in ditch beside
  Or in the bankes steep.

"And whether he walk in drink or muse,
  Or for his love be bound,
We have no wit to mark and chuse,
  But needs must slay or wound."

  .       .       .       .       .       .       .

They drew the dead-cloth from its face.
  The Crowner looked thereon;
And the cars that were parked in the market-place
  Went all their ways anon.

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