The Lesson – Rudyard Kipling

1899-1902 — Boer War

Let us admit it fairly, as a business people should,

We have had no end of a lesson: it will do us no end of good.
Not on a single issue, or in one direction or twain,

But conclusively, comprehensively, and several times and

again,
Were all our most holy illusions knocked higher than Gilde-

roy’s kite.

We have had a jolly good lesson, and it serves us jolly well

right !
This was not bestowed us under the trees, nor yet in the shade

of a tent,

But swingingly, over eleven degrees of a bare brown conti-

nent.

From Lamberts to Delagoa Bay, and from Pietersburg to

Sutherland,

Fell the phenomenal lesson we learned-with a fullness ac-

corded no other land.
It was our fault, and our very great fault, and not the judg-

ment of Heaven.

We made an Army in our own image, on an island nine by

seven,

Which faithfully mirrored its makers’ ideals, equipment, and

mental attitude–

And so we got our lesson: and we ought to accept it with

gratitude.
We have spent two hundred million pounds to prove the fact

once more,

That horses are quicker than men afoot, since two and two

make four;

And horses have four legs, and men have two legs, and two

into four goes twice,

And nothing over except our lesson–and very cheap at the

price.
For remember (this our children shall know: we are too near

for that knowledge)

Not our mere astonied camps, but Council and Creed and

College–

All the obese, unchallenged old things that stifle and overlie

us–

Have felt the effects of the lesson we got-an advantage no

money could by us!
Then let us develop this marvellous asset which we alone

command,

And which, it may subsequently transpire, will be worth as

much as the Rand.

Let us approach this pivotal fact in a humble yet hopeful

mood–

We have had no end of a lesson, it will do us no end of good!
It was our fault, and our very great fault–and now we must

turn it to use.

We have forty million reasons for failure, but not a single

excuse.

So the more we work and the less we talk the better results

we shall get–

We have had an Imperial lesson; it may make us an Empire

yet!