Smuggler's Song by Rudyard Kipling (read by Tom O'Bedlam)





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Published on Sep 29, 2012

Kipling was, as Christopher Hitchens said, "A Man of Permanent Contradictions". He was a great literary figure, and hugely entertaining, nobody can deny him that.

I'm affecting a vague impression of a Devon accent.

My own feeling is that the faults attributed to him were not really his, they were the faults of his time. What man can avoid stating what is considered normal and Politically Correct, in order to make a living and be accepted by his peers? Those who judge him harshly are only applying the Politically Correct standards of today. He was as good a man as the world would let him be. I'm sure that he did some good.

Somebody said, I don't know who, something to the effect that Kipling is a comfortable writer, in that he confirms views we already hold. "That's what I've always thought" is our typical reaction. We are entertained but he doesn't change the way we think. He falls short of genius, because better writers are more disturbing, making us reconsider our views and possibly discard them - or, at least, we acknowledge that other viewpoints can exist . It's hard to belive that Sigmund Freud was about 10 years older, and Freud also outlived him by a couple of years. They both died just before WWII.

His portrait was by Riccardo Vecchio.

This poem appears in "'Hal o' the Draft", one of the stories in Puck of Pook's Hill - 1906.

The silhouette comes from Smugglers Songs, French Cinema
Les Chants de Madrin, Rabah Ameur-Zaimeche HD, 97 minutes long.

The painting is Smugglers by George Morland, about 1795.

If you wake at midnight, and hear a horse's feet,
Don't go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street.
Them that ask no questions isn't told a lie.
Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!
Five and twenty ponies,
Trotting through the dark --
Brandy for the Parson,
'Baccy for the Clerk;
Laces for a lady, letters for a spy,
And watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!

Running round the woodlump if you chance to find
Little barrels, roped and tarred, all full of brandy-wine,
Don't you shout to come and look, nor use 'em for your play.
Put the brishwood back again -- and they'll be gone next day!

If you see the stable-door setting open wide;
If you see a tired horse lying down inside;
If your mother mends a coat cut about and tore;
If the lining's wet and warm -- don't you ask no more!

If you meet King George's men, dressed in blue and red,
You be carefull what you say, and mindful what is said.
If they call you "pretty maid," and chuck you 'neath the chin,
Don't you tell where no one is, nor yet where no one's been!

Knocks and footsteps round the house -- whistles after dark --
You've no call for running out till the house-dogs bark.
Trusty's here, and Pincher's here, and see how dumb they lie --
They don't fret to follow when the Gentlemen go by!

If you do as you've been told, 'likely there's a chance,
You'll be given a dainty doll, all the way from France,
With a cap of Valenciennes, and a velvet hood --
A present from the Gentlemen, along o' being good!
Five and twenty ponies,
Trotting through the dark --
Brandy for the Parson,
'Baccy for the Clerk;
Them that asks no questions isn't told a lie --
Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!


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