The Totem


Ere the mother's milk had dried
On my lips, the Brethren came,
Tore me from my nurse's side,
And bestowed on me a name

Infamously overtrue,
Such as "Bunny," "Stinker," "Podge";
But, whatever I should do,
Mine for ever in the Lodge.

Then they taught with palm and toe,
Then I learned with yelps and tears,
All the Armoured Man should know
Through his Seven Secret Years...

Last, oppressing as oppressed,
I was loosed to go my ways
With a Totem on my breast
Governing my nights and days,

Ancient and unbribeable,
By the virtue of its Name,
Which, however oft I fell,
Lashed me back into The Game.

And the World, that never knew,
Saw no more beneath my chin
Than a patch of rainbow-hue,
Mixed as Life and crude as Sin.


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Return to the Rudyard Kipling library , or . . . Read the next poem; The Tour

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