The Last Department





Twelve hundred million men are spread
About this Earth, and I and You
Wonder, when You and I are dead,
"What will those luckless millions do?"


"None whole or clean," we cry, "or free from stain
Of favour." Wait awhile, till we attain
The Last Department where nor fraud nor fools,
Nor grade nor greed, shall trouble us again.

Fear, Favour, or Affection–what are these
To the grim Head who claims our services?
I never knew a wife or interest yet
Delay that pukka step, miscalled "decease";

When leave, long overdue, none can deny;
When idleness of all Eternity
Becomes our furlough, and the marigold
Our thriftless, bullion-minting Treasury.

Transferred to the Eternal Settlement,
Each in his strait, wood-scantled office pent,
No longer Brown reverses Smith's appeals,
Or Jones records his Minute of Dissent.

And One, long since a pillar of the Court,
As mud between the beams thereof is wrought;
And One who wrote on phosphates for the crops
Is subject-matter of his own Report.

These be the glorious ends whereto we pass–
Let Him who Is, go call on Him who Was;
And He shall see the mallie steals the slab
For currie-grinder, and for goats the grass.

A breath of wind, a Border bullet's flight,
A draught of water, or a horse's fright–
The droning of the fat Sheristadar
Ceases, the punkah stops, and falls the night

For you or Me. Do those who live decline
The step that offers, or their work resign?
Trust me, To-day's Most Indispensables,
Five hundred men can take your place or mine.