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MacDonough’s Song

I stumbled across this in an old collection of SF short stories. I hope it isn’t something everyone has seen before…

Whether the State can loose and bind
In Heaven as well as on Earth:
If it be wiser to kill mankind
Before or after the birth-
These are matters of high concern
Where State-kept schoolmen are;
But Holy State (we have lived to learn)
Endeth in Holy War.

Whether The People be led by The Lord,
Or lured by the loudest throat:
If it be quicker to die by the sword
Or cheaper to die by vote-
These are things we have dealt with once,
(And they will not rise from their grave)
For Holy People, however it runs,
Endeth in wholly Slave.

Whatsoever, for any cause,
Seeketh to take or give
Power above or beyond the Laws,
Suffer it not to live!
Holy State or Holy King-
Or Holy People’s Will-
Have no truck with the senseless thing.
Order the guns and kill!
Saying – after -me -

Once there was The People -Terror gave it birth;
Once there was The People and it made a Hell of Earth
Earth arose and crushed it. Listen, 0 ye slain!
Once there was The People -it shall never be again!

- Rudyard Kipling, 1912


  1. jameshigham says:

    I can assure you I haven’t seen it before. :)

  2. CountingCats says:

    I haven’t read that for years and years. Not since I last went through a Kipling phase.

    Thank you.

  3. Kevin B says:

    If anyone’s interested in reading the the short story from which it came, have fun.

    Of course searching through a site full of Kipling stuff I came across plenty of old friends including this one:

    “If the home we never write to, and the oaths we never keep,
    And all we know most distant and most dear,
    Across the snoring barrack-room return to break our sleep,
    Can you blame us if we soak ourselves in beer?
    When the drunken comrade mutters and the great guard-lantern gutters
    And the horror of our fall is written plain,
    Every secret, self-revealing on the aching white-washed ceiling,
    Do you wonder that we drug ourselves from pain?

    We have done with Hope and Honour, we are lost to Love and Truth,
    We are dropping down the ladder rung by rung,
    And the measure of our torment is the measure of our youth.
    God help us, for we knew the worst too young!
    Our shame is clean repentance for the crime that brought the sentence,
    Our pride it is to know no spur of pride,
    And the Curse of Reuben holds us till an alien turf enfolds us
    And we die, and none can tell Them where we died.
    We’re poor little lambs who’ve lost our way,
    Baa! Baa! Baa!
    We’re little black sheep who’ve gone astray,
    Gentlemen-rankers out on the spree,
    Damned from here to Eternity,
    God ha’ mercy on such as we,
    Baa! Yah! Bah!”

    There, that’s cheered us all up, hasn’t it.

  4. Andrew says:

    I have long been a fan of Kipling’s two science fiction short stories, “Easy as ABC” and “With the Night Mail”. MacDonough’s song, of course, was the rally-song of the people of the future who had rejected centralized government…

  5. DachtorStrange says:

    A song for those who love liberty more than security. May such people triumph over the sheeple.

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