Kipling: McAndrew’s Hymn

Lord, Thou hast made this world below the shadow of a dream, 
An’, taught by time, I tak’ it so – exceptin’ always Steam. 
From coupler-flange to spindle-guide I see Thy Hand, O God –
Predestination in the stride o’ yon connectin’-rod. 
John Calvin might ha’ forged the same – enorrmous, certain, slow –
Ay, wrought it in the furnace-flame – my “Institutio.” 
I cannot get my sleep to-night; old bones are hard to please;
I’ll stand the middle watch up here – alone wi’ God an’ these 
My engines, after ninety days o’ race an’ rack an’ strain 
Through all the seas of all Thy world, slam-bangin’ home again. 
Slam-bang too much – they knock a wee – the crosshead-gibs are loose;
But thirty thousand mile o’ sea has gied them fair excuse….
Fine, clear an’ dark – a full-draught breeze, wi’ Ushant out o’ sight, 
An’ Ferguson relievin’ Hay. Old girl, ye’ll walk to-night! 
His wife’s at Plymouth…. Seventy-One-Two-Three since he began – 
Three turns for Mistress Ferguson…. an’ who’s to blame the man?
There’s none at any port for me, by drivin’ fast or slow,
Since Elsie Campbell went to Thee, Lord, thirty years ago. 
(The year the ‘Sarah Sands’ was burned. Oh roads we used to tread, 
Fra’ Maryhill to Pollokshaws – fra’ Govan to Parkhead!) 
Not but they’re ceevil on the Board. Ye’ll hear Sir Kenneth say: 
“Good morrn, McAndrew! Back again? An’ how’s your bilge to-day?”
Miscallin’ technicalities but handin’ me my chair 
To drink Madeira wi’ three Earls – the auld Fleet Engineer,
That started as a boiler-whelp – when steam and he were low. 
I mind the time we used to serve a broken pipe wi’ tow. 

The whole poem is here.

6 thoughts on “Kipling: McAndrew’s Hymn”

  1. Alas, Kipling has been cast into that dark drawer to join Zane Grey and others who have run afoul of the party line.

  2. So he has been – most unfortunately, because he was a much more observant and sympathetic writer than he has been given credit for in PC opinion since the 1940s. Wretchard, at the Belmont Club is a fan, too. A couple of post ago, it came up at Sarah Hoyt’s blog, that there ought to be some sort of high-sign for unacquainted libertarians and conservatives to recognize each other in the midst of a crowd. For me, it’s liking – no, loving Kipling. Love the poems and the short stories? No matter what else, in my eyes, that person is a spiritual sibling. Call him racist, jingoistic and all the other PC terms of condemnation; OK then. No spiritual kin of mine.

  3. McAndrew’s Hymn does a great job of not only telling the story of a man’s life, but also of his thoughts. We learn of McAndrew’s boyhood poverty, his love for his trade, the esteem in which he is held by his employers, his religious faith and the brief loss thereof, the loss of his human love, his gentle and wistful envy of Ferguson, who is hastening to meet his own life….I think the poem is quite an accomplishment.

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