Page:Departmental Ditties and Ballads and Barrack-Room Ballads, Kipling, 1899.djvu/124

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And his last ray turns to jeer us shackled in a life-long tether
That drags us back howe'er so far we roam.
Hard her service, poor her payment—she in ancient, tattered raiment—
India, she the grim stepmother of our kind.
If a year of life be lent her, if her temple's shrine we enter,
The door is shut—we may not look behind.

Black night behind the tamarisks—the owls begin their chorus—
As the conches from the temple scream and bray
With the fruitless years behind us and the hopeless years before us,
Let us honour, oh my brothers, Christmas Day!
Call a truce, then, to our labours—let us feast with friends and neighbours,
And be merry as the custom of our caste;
For, if "faint and forced the laughter," and if sadness follow after,
We are richer by one mocking Christmas past.