(Poem #1026) The Prodigal Son
Here come I to my own again, Fed, forgiven and known again, Claimed by bone of my bone again And cheered by flesh of my flesh. The fatted calf is dressed for me, But the husks have greater zest for me, I think my pigs will be best for me, So I'm off to the Yards afresh. I never was very refined, you see, (And it weighs on my brother's mind, you see) But there's no reproach among swine, d'you see, For being a bit of a swine. So I'm off with wallet and staff to eat The bread that is three parts chaff to wheat, But glory be! - there's a laugh to it, Which isn't the case when we dine. My father glooms and advises me, My brother sulks and despises me, And Mother catechises me Till I want to go out and swear. And, in spite of the butler's gravity, I know that the servants have it I Am a monster of moral depravity, And I'm damned if I think it's fair! I wasted my substance, I know I did, On riotous living, so I did, But there's nothing on record to show I did Worse than my betters have done. They talk of the money I spent out there - They hint at the pace that I went out there - But they all forget I was sent out there Alone as a rich man's son. So I was a mark for plunder at once, And lost my cash (can you wonder?) at once, But I didn't give up and knock under at once, I worked in the Yards, for a spell, Where I spent my nights and my days with hogs. And shared their milk and maize with hogs, Till, I guess, I have learned what pays with hogs And - I have that knowledge to sell! So back I go to my job again, Not so easy to rob again, Or quite so ready to sob again On any neck that's around. I'm leaving, Pater. Good-bye to you! God bless you, Mater! I'll write to you! I wouldn't be impolite to you, But, Brother, you are a hound!
Notes: Based on the New Testament parable of the prodigal son (see links) Expanded version of a chapter heading from Kim A delightfully original take on the Prodigal Son story - what I like is how consistent it is with the original parable. All it does is present matters from the son's point of view - sure, he asked his father for his share of his inheritance, and squandered it all, but this is *his* story, and underscores, as the Biblical one doesn't, that ... I didn't give up and knock under at once, I worked in the Yards, for a spell Indeed, the poem highlights both Kipling's talent for presenting the other point of view, and the delightfully picaresque characters he creates. For such a short poem, the prodigal son's character is developed with surprising vividness, and he's definitely someone the reader can sympathise with and cheer for. Formwise, the poem presents yet another approach to the triple rhyme, repeating entire words at the end of consecutive lines. While this may seem vaguely like 'cheating', it is a perfectly valid form of rhyming (indeed, a pure rhyme requires that all syllables after the rhyming one be identical, and what better way to accomplish that?), and quite a bit harder than it appears. There's also a lot of variation on the basic form, including a run of *quadruple* rhymes at one point - not something I can remember seeing attempted elsewhere, though I'd be delighted to be corrected on that score. Unusual here is Kipling's use of the triple rhyme in an essentially serious poem - he gets away with it, true, but the cleverness of the rhymes does obtrude itself upon the foreground in a manner a purist might balk at. The rest of us can, however, feel free to be entertained and charmed - I certainly was. Links: The original Prodigal Son parable (King James Version): [broken link] http://miraclevision.com/quakers/luke1511.html Biography of Kipling: See Poem #17 Possibly my favourite example of today's sort of rhyme scheme is 'Reviewing the Situation', from 'Oliver!': [broken link] http://users.bestweb.net/~foosie/oliver.htm (No internal links; you'll have to scroll down the page) And the theme so far: Poem #1023, W. S. Gilbert, 'The Soldiers of our Queen' Poem #1025, Newman Levy, 'Thais' -martin