The Hyenas


Rudyard Kipling

After the burial-parties leave

And the baffled kites have fled;

The wise hyśnas come out at eve

To take account of our dead.

How he died and why he died

Troubles them not a whit.

They snout the bushes and stones aside

And dig till they come to it.

They are only resolute they shall eat

That they and their mates may thrive,

And they know that the dead are safer meat

Than the weakest thing alive.

(For a goat may butt, and a worm may sting,

And a child will sometimes stand;

But a poor dead soldier of the King

Can never lift a hand.)

They whoop and halloo and scatter the dirt

Until their tushes white

Take good hold in the army shirt,

And tug the corpse to light,

And the pitiful face is shewn again

For an instant ere they close;

But it is not discovered to living menó

Only to God and to those

Who, being soulless, are free from shame,

Whatever meat they may find.

Nor do they defile the dead manís nameó

That is reserved for his kind.

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