April 17, 2002

Go and find it

I don't feel like leaving my diary on that last, depressing note. One of the
glories of online diaries is being able to reinvent your day just by adding anew
entry. So instead, after that whole entry about why Kipling href="http://dichroic.diaryland.com/kipling.html">doesn't understand women,
let me explain why I like him anyway.

The Explorer


There's no sense in going further -- it's the edge of

So they said, and I believed it -- broke my land and sowed my crop --

Built my barns and strung my fences in the little border station

Tucked away below the foothills where the trails run out and stop.

Till a voice, as bad as Conscience, rang interminable changes

On one everlasting Whisper day and night repeated -- so:

"Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges --

"Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!"

So I went, worn out of patience; never told my nearest neighbours --

Stole away with pack and ponies -- left 'em drinking in the town;

And the faith that moveth mountains didn't seem to help my labours

As I faced the sheer main-ranges, whipping up and leading down.

March by march I puzzled through 'em, turning flanks and dodging shoulders,

Hurried on in hope of water, headed back for lack of grass;

Till I camped above the tree-line -- drifted snow and naked boulders --

Felt free air astir to windward -- knew I'd stumbled on the Pass.

'Thought to name it for the finder: but that night the Norther found me --

Froze and killed the plains-bred ponies; so I called the camp Despair

(It's the Railway Gap to-day, though). Then my Whisper waked to hound me: --

"Something lost behind the Ranges. Over yonder! Go you there!"

Then I knew, the while I doubted -- knew His Hand was certain o'er me.

Still -- it might be self-delusion -- scores of better men had died --

I could reach the township living, but. . . He knows what terror tore me . . .

But I didn't . . . but I didn't. I went down the other side,

Till the snow ran out in flowers, and the flowers turned to aloes,

And the aloes sprung to thickets and a brimming stream ran by;

But the thickets dwined to thorn-scrub, and the water drained to shallows,

And I dropped again on desert -- blasted earth, and blasting sky. . . .

I remember lighting fires; I remember sitting by 'em;

I remember seeing faces, hearing voices, through the smoke;

I remember they were fancy -- for I threw a stone to try 'em.

"Something lost behind the Ranges" was the only word they spoke.

But at last the country altered -- White Man's country past disputing --

Rolling grass and open timber, with a hint of hills behind --

There I found me food and water, and I lay a week recruiting.

Got my strength and lost my nightmares. Then I entered on my find.

Thence I ran my first rough survey -- chose my trees and blazed and ringed 'em --

Week by week I pried and sampled -- week by week my findings grew.

Saul he went to look for donkeys, and by God he found a kingdom!

But by God, who sent His Whisper, I had struck the worth of two!

Up along the hostile mountains, where the hair-poised snowslide shivers --

Down and through the big fat marshes that the virgin ore-bed stains,

Till I heard the mile-wide mutterings of unimagined rivers,

And beyond the nameless timber saw illimitable plains!

'Plotted sites of future cities, traced the easy grades between 'em;

Watched unharnessed rapids wasting fifty thousand head an hour;

Counted leagues of water-frontage through the axe-ripe woods that screen 'em --

Saw the plant to feed a people -- up and waiting for the power!

Well, I know who'll take the credit -- all the clever chaps that followed --

Came, a dozen men together -- never knew my desert-fears;

Tracked me by the camps I'd quitted, used the water-holes I hollowed.

They'll go back and do the talking. They'll be called the Pioneers!

They will find my sites of townships -- not the cities that I set there.

They will rediscover rivers -- not my rivers heard at night.

By my own old marks and bearings they will show me how to get there,

By the lonely cairns I builded they will guide my feet aright.

Have I named one single river? Have I claimed one single acre?

Have I kept one single nugget -- (barring samples)? No, not I!

Because my price was paid me ten times over by my Maker.

But you wouldn't understand it. You go up and occupy.

Ores you'll find there; wood and cattle; water-transit sure and steady

(That should keep the railway rates down), coal and iron at your doors.

God took care to hide that country till He judged His people ready,

Then He chose me for His Whisper, and I've found it, and it's yours!

Yes, your "Never-never country" -- yes, your "edge of cultivation"

And "no sense in going further" -- till I crossed the range to see.

God forgive me! No, I didn't. It's God's present to our nation.

Anybody might have found it but -- His Whisper came to Me!

Yes, I know it reeks of Imperialism -- that and its attendant racism were bred
into the Victorians and Kipling never managed to escape it, though he had a few
moments of glimmering on the verge of insight. But still that repeated phrase,
""Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges --" rings up
and down my spine every time I read it.

Posted by dichroic at April 17, 2002 04:59 PM

Good grief, how on earth does it "reek of imperialism?"

Isn't imperialism about going to someone else's country and taking it over (and usually getting them to do all the work and pocketing the proceeds). This guy, having built his own barns etc wherever he was, went off and found somewhere empty, somewhere with nobody there! (except his hallucinatory voices). Its emptiness was the very point of the tale!

Settling empty ground is what every living creature has always done and must do, although many will grab others' settlements for good measure if they get the chance. Are the Oz Aborigines imperialist? The ancient Brits (the lot before the Angles or the Normans, who were imperialist)? The Innuit?

I grant that the bit about "white man's country", although not necessarily expressing a racist concept (fact: whites don't build barns well in blistering heat or mountain ice), does reflect the language of a racist age in the way its put. But that's a different issue.

Posted by: Gordon Semple at December 10, 2005 12:20 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?