Song of the Galley Slaves

We pulled for you when the wind was against us and the sails
  were low.
  Will you never let us go?
We ate bread and onions when you took towns, or ran aboard
  quickly when you were beaten back by the foe.
The Captains walked up and down the deck in fair weather sing-
  ing songs, but we were below.
We fainted with our chins on the oars and you did not see that
  we were idle, for we still swung to and fro.
  Will you never let us go?
The solt made the oar-hands like shark-skin; our knees were
  cut to the bone with salt-cracks; our hair was stuck to
  our foreheads; and our lips were cut to the gums, and you
  whipped us because we could not row.
  Will you never let us go?
But, in a little time, we shall run out of the port-holes as the water
  runs along the oar-blade, and though you tell the others
  to row after us you will never catch us till you catch the
  oar-thresh and tie up the winds in the belly of the sail.
  Aho!
  Will you never let us go?

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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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"Song of the Galley Slaves" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 3 Jun 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/33345/song-of-the-galley-slaves>.

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