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Poems Every Child Should Know by  Mary E. Burt


 

 

THE OVERLAND-MAIL

[125] "The Overland-Mail" is a most desirable poem for children to learn. When one boy learns it the others want to follow. It takes as a hero the man who gives common service—the one who does not lead or command, but follows the line of duty. (1865-1936.)

In the name of the Empress of India, make way,

O Lords of the Jungle wherever you roam,

The woods are astir at the close of the day—

We exiles are waiting for letters from Home—

Let the robber retreat; let the tiger turn tail,

In the name of the Empress the Overland-Mail!


With a jingle of bells as the dusk gathers in,

He turns to the foot-path that leads up the hill—

The bags on his back, and a cloth round his chin,

And, tucked in his belt, the Post-Office bill;—

"Despatched on this date, as received by the rail,

Per runner, two bags of the Overland-Mail."


Is the torrent in spate? He must ford it or swim.

Has the rain wrecked the road? He must climb by the cliff.

Does the tempest cry "Halt"? What are tempests to him?

The service admits not a "but" or an "if";

While the breath's in his mouth, he must bear without fail,

In the name of the Empress the Overland-Mail.


From aloe to rose-oak, from rose-oak to fir,

From level to upland, from upland to crest,

[126]

From rice-field to rock-ridge, from rock-ridge to spur,

Fly the soft-sandalled feet, strains the brawny brown chest.

From rail to ravine—to the peak from the vale—

Up, up through the night goes the Overland-Mail.


There's a speck on the hillside, a dot on the road—

A jingle of bells on the foot-path below—

There's a scuffle above in the monkeys' abode—

The world is awake, and the clouds are aglow—

For the great Sun himself must attend to the hail;—

In the name of the Empress the Overland-Mail.


RUDYARD KIPLING.


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