Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Rudyard Kipling " A Smuggler's Song"

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,
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 careful 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 give 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 ! 

This is such a lovely sweet poem with amazing rhyme and rhythmn, but it's the sinister edge and atmosphere that make it great!

P.S. "Touchdown!" is now out.  School Journal Part 2 No4 2010  "Scene: A spaceship is landing on an alien planet... "

A..J. Ponder 


  1. Alicia, this was one of my favourite poems when I was a kid and I still really like it. Thank you!

  2. Alicia,
    My mum used to recite this to me from about the time I six! I was equally terrified and enamored with the lilting rhythm and the cautionary message. Wonderful! Thanks for posting.

  3. Cheers Elizabeth and Helen - my biggest shock with this poem was that I hadn't blogged it earlier. I absolutely adore it. So have to say - you guys have awesome taste.

    And Helen - I just finished your book -- the middle was amazing, I just couldn't put it down for a bit there!!!!! I was trying to put my finger on why it resonated so strongly and I think it's because the themes and techniques reminded me ever so slightly of George RR Martin's Game of Thrones etc. (That's a high compliment by the way) So congratulations.

  4. Great both to hear it and to read it - it's many years since I last heard that poem. I saw the excellent movie "Winter's Bone" a week or so ago, and one of the characters in that tale of secrets and averted eyes says "Talkin' only leads to witnesses" = a similar sentiment, less eloquently expressed.

  5. See my blog for comment. I loved hearing Kipling read it. Many thanks.