Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Hymn of Breaking Strain

by Rudyard Kipling, 1935

The careful text-books measure
    (Let all who build beware!)
The load, the shock, the pressure
    Material can bear.
So, when the buckled girder
    Lets down the grinding span,
The blame of loss, or murder,
    Is laid upon the man.
        Not of the Stuff - the Man!

But, in our daily dealing
    With stone and steel, we find
The Gods have no such feeling
    Of justice toward mankind.
To no set guage they make us, -
    For no laid course prepare -
And presently o'ertake us
    With loads we cannot bear:
        Too merciless to bear.

The prudent text-books give it
    In tables at the end -
The stress that shears a rivet
    Or makes a tie-bar bend -
What traffic wrecks macadam -
    What concrete should endure -
But we, poor Sons of Adam,
    Have no such literaure,
        To warn us or make sure!

We hold all Earth to plunder -
    All Time and Space as well -
Too wonder-stale to wonder
    At each new miracle;
Till in the mid-illusion
    Of Godhead 'neath our hand,
Falls multiple confusion
    On all we did or planned -
        The mighty works we planned.

We only of Creation
    (Oh, luckier bridge and rail!)
Abide the twin-damnation -
    To fail and know we fail.
Yet we - by which sole token
    We know we once were Gods -
Take shame in being broken
    However great the odds -
        The Burden or the Odds.

Oh, veiled and secret Power
    Whose paths we seek in vain,
Be with us in our hour
    Of overthrow and pain;
That we - by which sure token
    We know Thy ways are true -
In spite of being broken,
    Because of being broken,
        May rise and build anew.
        Stand up and build anew!

Bit of poem found in today's WSJ review of new book: To Forgive Design.


Kevin McAllister said...

I'd probably read more poetry if I'd come across more Kipling as a younger man. Thanks for this.

Lynne said...

Thanks for commenting, Kevin. I really like a lot of Kipling's poetry. While I haven't made a complete study of his work, I was surprised that I was unfamiliar with this poem until today.

Jenn Casey said...

I've been in a Kipling state of mind lately. I'd never read this one, so it was a pleasure to find. And it really spoke to me. Thanks.

Lynne said...

Like the Tacoma Narrows bridge, it resonates - but in a good way.