“FAREWELL, Romance!” the Cave-men said;
“With bone well carved he went away,
Flint arms the ignoble arrowhead,
And jasper tips the spear to-day.
Changed are the Gods of Hunt and Dance,
And he with these. Farewell, Romance!”
“Farewell, Romance!” the Lake-folk sighed;
“We lift the weight of flatling years;
The caverns of the mountain-side
Hold him who scorns our hutted piers.
Lost hills whereby we dare not dwell,
Guard ye his rest. Romance, farewell!”
“Farewell, Romance!” the Soldier spoke;
“By sleight of sword we may not win,
But scuffle ’mid uncleanly smoke
Of arquebus and culverin.
Honour is lost, and none may tell
Who paid good blows. Romance, farewell!”
“Farewell, Romance!” the Traders cried;
“Our keels ha’ lain with every sea;
The dull-returning wind and tide
Heave up the wharf where we would be;
The known and noted breezes swell
Our trudging sail. Romance, farewell!”
“Good-bye, Romance!” the Skipper said;
“He vanished with the coal we burn;
Our dial marks full steam ahead,
Our speed is timed to half a turn.
Sure as the ferried barge we ply
’Twixt port and port. Romance, good-bye!”
“Romance!” the season-tickets mourn,
“He never ran to catch his train,
But passed with coach and guard and horn—
And left the local—late again!”
Confound Romance! . . . And all unseen
Romance brought up the nine-fifteen.
His hand was on the lever laid,
His oil-can soothed the worrying cranks,
His whistle waked the snowbound grade,
His fog-horn cut the reeking Banks;
By dock and deep and mine and mill
The Boy-god reckless laboured still!
Robed, crowned and throned, he wove his spell,
Where heart-blood beat or hearth-smoke curled,
With unconsidered miracle,
Hedged in a backward-gazing world;
Then taught his chosen bard to say:
“Our King was with us—yesterday!”
About this poem
‘The King’ was first published as ‘Romance’ in anthology called Under Lochnagar (1893), an anthology produced in aid of the rebuilding of Crathie parish church, on Deeside. The Kipling Society’s note to the poem explores this background.