A Song Of French Roads

By Rudyard Kipling

    Now praise the Gods of Time and Chance
    That bring a heart’s desire,
    And lay the joyous roads of France
    Once more beneath the tyre,
    So numbered by Napoleon,
    The veriest ass can spy
    How Twenty takes to Bourg-Madame
    And Ten is for Hendaye.

    Sixteen hath fed our fighting-line
    From Dunkirk to P’ronne,
    And Thirty-nine and Twenty-nine
    Can show where it has gone,
    Which slant through Arras and Bapaume,
    And join outside Cambrai,
    While Twenty takes to Bourg-Madame,
    And Ten is for Hendaye.

    The crops and houses spring once more
    Where Thirty-seven ran,
    And even ghostly Forty-four
    Is all restored to man.
    Oh, swift as shell-hole poppies pass
    The blurring years go by,
    And Twenty takes to Bourg-Madame,
    And Ten is for Hendaye!

    And you desire that sheeted snow
    Where chill Mont Louis stands?
    And we the rounder gales that blow
    Full-lunged across the Landes,
    So you will use the Orleans Gate,
    While we slip through Versailles;
    Since Twenty takes to Bourg-Madame,
    And Ten is for Hendaye.

    Sou’-West by South, and South by West,
    On every vine appear
    Those four first cautious leaves that test
    The temper of the year;
    The dust is white at Angoul’me,
    The sun is warm at Blaye;
    And Twenty takes to Bourg-Madame,
    And Ten is for Hendaye.

    Broad and unbridled, mile on mile,
    The highway drops her line
    Past Langon down that grey-walled aisle
    Of resin-scented pine;
    And ninety to the lawless hour
    The kilometres fly,
    What was your pace to Bourg-Madame?
    We sauntered to Hendaye.

    Now Fontarabia marks our goal,
    And Bidassoa shows,
    At issue with each whispering shoal
    In violet, pearl and rose,
    Ere crimson over ocean’s edge
    The sunset banners die . . .
    Yes, Twenty takes to Bourg-Madame,
    But Ten is for Hendaye!

    Oh, praise the Gods of Time and Chance
    That ease the long control,
    And bring the glorious soul of France
    Once more to cheer our soul
    With beauty, change and valiancy
    Of sun and soil and sky,
    Where Twenty takes to Bourg-Madame,
    And Ten is for Hendaye!

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