Poem: Alasdair Gray © 2005

11 –  The End Of The Thunderbolt, attributed to Rudyard Kipling


The trappers round the Hudson Bay don’t fear the half-breeds now.

In peaceful Patagonia the farmers drive their plough.

The wily Chinese traders pursue their gains in peace

Under justice dealt out cleanly by unbribable police;

While the founder of this industry, the giver of this gain,

lies dead upon the gun-room floor –  a bullet in his brain.


There’s always room in parliament for nincompoop and knave,

And sentimental radicals who do not love the brave.

A host of lukewarm “realists” like things the way they are,

But feel the men in charge of them have sometimes “gone too far”.

Then there are men responsible, the men who get things done,

And some like Kitchener, we cheer; some curse, like Blessington!

Let radical and “realist” sleep soundly in their bed.

Blessington’s on the gun-room floor – a bullet in his head.


Many a peaceful settlement that Englishmen call home

Was once a howling wilderness where nomads used to roam.

Many a half-tamed tribesman    mines ore, shears sheep, breaks colt

Because his savage forebears were struck by Thunderbolt.

Yes, we scorched them with The Thunderbolt but would not sniff the reek

We lashed them with The Thunderbolt but did not like the shriek.

We split them with The Thunderbolt and, deafened by the crash,

We smashed them with The Thunderbolt. Some shuddered at the smash.

Our kindly English stay-at-homes like things genteel and fair;

They prefer the Danes to Nelson, the blacks to Governor Eyre.

But argosies are bringing England meat, wool, ore and grain:

Sir Aubrey’s on the gun-room floor – a bullet in his brain.