The Three-decker (Poem by Rudyard Kipling)

Poem Examples

The Three-decker
"The three-volume novel is extinct"
By Rudyard Kipling


Full thirty foot she towered from waterline to rail.
It cost a watch to steer her, and a week to shorten sail;
But, spite all modern notions, I found her first and best — 
The only certain packet for the Islands of the Blest.

Fair held our breeze behind us — 'twas warm with lovers' prayers:
We'd stolen wills for ballast and a crew of missing heirs;
They shipped as Able Bastards till the Wicked Nurse confessed,
And they worked the old three-decker to the Islands of the Blest.

Carambas and serap├ęs we waved to every wind,
We smoked good Corpo Bacco when our sweethearts proved unkind;
With maids of matchless beauty and parentage unguessed
We also took our manners to the Islands of the Blest.

We asked no social questions — we pumped no hidden shame — 
We never talked obstetrics when the little stranger came:
We left the Lord in Heaven, we left the fiends in Hell.
We weren't exactly Yussufs, but — Zuleika didn't tell!

No moral doubt assailed us, so when the port we neared,
The villain got his flogging at the gangway, and we cheered.
'Twas fiddles in the foc'sle — 'twas garlands on the mast,
For every one got married, and I went ashore at last.

I left 'em all in couples akissing on the decks.
I left the lovers loving and the parents signing checks.
In endless English comfort by county-folk caressed,
I left the old three-decker at the Islands of the Blest!

That route is barred to steamers: you'll never lift again
Our purple-painted headlands or the lordly keeps of Spain.
They're just beyond the skyline, howe'er so far you cruise
In a ram-you-damn-you liner with a brace of bucking screws.

Swing round your aching search-light — 'twill show no haven's peace!
Ay, blow your shrieking sirens to the deaf, gray-bearded seas!
Boom out the dripping oil-bags to skin the deep's unrest — 
But you aren't a knot the nearer to the Islands of the Blest.

And when you're threshing, crippled, with broken bridge and rail,
On a drogue of dead convictions to hold you head to gale,
Calm as the Flying Dutchman, from truck to taffrail dressed,
You'll see the old three-decker for the Islands of the Blest.

You'll see her tiering canvas in sheeted silver spread;
You'll hear the long-drawn thunder 'neath her leaping figure-head;
While far, so far above you, her tall poop-lanterns shine
Unvexed by wind or weather like the candles round a shrine.

Hull down — hull down and under — she dwindles to a speck,
With noise of pleasant music and dancing on her deck.
All's well — all's well aboard her — she's dropped you far behind,
With a scent of old-world roses through the fog that ties you blind.

Her crew are babes or madmen? Her port is all to make?
You're manned by Truth and Science, and you steam for steaming's sake?
Well, tinker up your engines — you know your business best — 
She's taking tired people to the Islands of the Blest!

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