A Counting-Out Song

What is the song the children sing,
When doorway lilacs bloom in Spring,
And the Schools are loosed, and the games are played
That were deadly earnest when Earth was made?
Hear them chattering, shrill and hard,
After dinner-time, out in the yard,
As the sides are chosen and all submit
To the chance of the lot that shall make them "It."
(Singing) "Eenee, Meenee, Mainee, Mo!
Catch a nigger by the toe!
(If he hollers let him go!)
Eenee, Meenee. Mainee, Mo!
You-are-It!"

Eenee, Meenee, Mainee, and Mo
Were the First Big Four of the Long Ago,
When the Pole of the Earth sloped thirty degrees,
And Central Europe began to freeze,
And they needed Ambassadors staunch and stark
To steady the Tribes in the gathering dark:
But the frost was fierce and flesh was frail,
So they launched a Magic that could not fail.
(Singing) "Eenee, Meenee, Mainee, Mo!
Hear the wolves across the snow!
Some one has to kill 'em--so
Eenee, Meenee, Mainee, Mo
Make--you--It!"

Slow ly the Glacial Epoch passed,
Central Europe thawed out at last;
And, under the slush of the melting snows
The first dim shapes of the Nations rose.
Rome, Britannia, Belgium, Gaul--
Flood and avalanche fathered them all;
And the First Big Four, as they watched the mess,
Pitied Man in his helplessness.
(Singing) "Eenee, Meenee, Mainee, Mo!
Trouble starts When Nations grow,
Some one has to stop it--so
Eenee, Meenee, Mainee, Mo!
Make-you-It!"

Thus it happened, but none can tell
What was the Power behind the spell--
Fear, or Duty, or Pride, or Faith--
That sent men shuddering out to death--
To cold and watching, and, worse than these,
Work, more work, when they looked for ease--
To the days discomfort, the nights despair,
In the hope of a prize that they never could share,
(Singing) "Eenee, Meenee, Mainee, Mo!
Man is born to Toil and Woe.
One will cure another--so
Eenee, Meenee, Mainee, Mo
Make--you--It!"

Once and again, as the Ice went North
The grass crept up to the Firth of Forth.
Once and again, as the Ice came South
The glaciers ground over Lossiemouth.
But, grass or glacier, cold or hot,
The men went out who would rather not,
And fought with the Tiger, the Pig and the Ape,
To hammer the world into decent shape.
(Singing) "Eenee, Meenee, Mainee, Mo!
What's the use of doing so?
Ask the Gods, for we don't know;
But Eenee, Meenee, Mainee, Mo
Make-us-It!"

Nothing is left of that terrible rune
But a tag of gibberish tacked to a tune
That ends the waiting and settles the claims
Of children arguing over their games;
For never yet has a boy been found
To shirk his turn when the turn came round;
Nor even a girl has been known to say
"If you laugh at me I shan't play."
For-- "Eenee, Meenee, Mainee, Mo,
(Don't you let the grown-ups know!)
You may hate it ever so,
But if you're chose you're bound to go,
When Eenee, Meenee, Mainee, Mo
Make-you-It!"

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Rudyard Kipling

Joseph Rudyard Kipling was an English short-story writer, poet, and novelist chiefly remembered for his tales and poems of British soldiers in India and his tales for children. more…

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"A Counting-Out Song" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2019. Web. 17 Jun 2019. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/33114/a-counting-out-song>.

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