Half-Ballad of Waterval

Rudyard Kipling 1865 (Mumbai) – 1936 (London)

(Non-commissioned Officers in Charge of Prisoners)

When by the labor of my 'ands
I've 'elped to pack a transport tight
With prisoners for foreign lands,
I ain't transported with delight.
I know it's only just an' right,
But yet it somehow sickens me,
For I 'ave learned at Waterval
The meanin' of captivity.

Be'ind the pegged barb-wire strands,
Beneath the tall electric light,
We used to walk in bare-'ead bands,
Explainin' 'ow we lost our fight;
An' that is what they'll do to-night
Upon the steamer out at sea,
If I 'ave learned at Waterval
The meanin' of captivity.

They'll never know the shame that brands--
Black shame no livin' down makes white--
The mockin' from the sentry-stands,
The women's laugh, the gaoler's spite.
We are too bloomin'-much polite,
But that is 'ow I'd 'ave us be . . .
Since I 'ave learned at Waterval
The meanin' of captivity.

They'll get those draggin' days all right,
Spent as a foreigner commands,
An' 'orrors of the locked-up night,
With 'Ell's own thinkin' on their 'ands.
I'd give the gold o' twenty Rands
(If it was mine) to set 'em free
For I 'ave learned at Waterval
The meanin' of captivity!

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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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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    "Half-Ballad of Waterval" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 20 Sep. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/33230/half-ballad-of-waterval>.

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