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Puck’s Song

[words Rudyard Kipling, music Peter Bellamy; notes on Puck’s Song at the Kipling Society]

Puck’s Song is the first poem from Rudyard Kipling’s book Puck of Pook’s Hill. Peter Bellamy sang it on his second album of songs set to Kipling’s poems, Merlin’s Isle of Gramarye, and the album got its title from this song. He noted:

Puck’s Song opens the book Puck of Pook’s Hill, and sets the theme for all the stories that follow, in that Puck, who has been in England from the very first, is the medium through which history comes to life. The entire piece is in fact a very personal statement on Kipling’s own behalf, explaining his love for England, and particularly for his own corner of his beloved Sussex, through its deep-rooted associations with the past. Most of the features mentioned in the song are still to be seen on and around his property in Burwash, Sussex.

Sam Lee sang Puck’s Song on Folk Police Recordings’ 2011 album of songs from Kipling’s “Puck” stories, Oak Ash Thorn.


Puck’s Song

See you the ferny ride that steals
Into the oak-woods far?
O that was whence they hewed the keels
That rolled to Trafalgar.

And mark you where the ivy clings
To Bayham’s mouldering walls?
O there we cast the stout railings
That stand around St. Paul’s.

See you the dimpled track that runs
All hollow through the wheat?
O that was where they hauled the guns
That smote King Philip’s fleet!

Out of the Weald, the secret Weald,
Men sent in ancient years
The horse-shoes red at Flodden Field,
The arrows at Poitiers.

See you our little mill that clacks,
So busy by the brook?
She has ground her corn and paid her tax
Ever since Domesday Book.

See you our stilly woods of oak,
And the dread ditch beside?
O that was where the Saxons broke,
On the day that Harold died!

See you the windy levels spread
About the gates of Rye?
O that was where the Northmen fled,
When Alfred’s ships came by!

See you our pastures wide and lone,
Where the red oxen browse?
O there was a City thronged and known,
Ere London boasted a house!

And see you, after rain, the trace
Of mound and ditch and wall?
O that was a Legion’s camping-place,
When Caesar sailed from Gaul!

And see you marks that show and fade,
Like shadows on the Downs?
O they are the lines the Flint Men made,
To guard their wondrous towns!

Trackway and Camp and City lost,
Salt Marsh where now is corn;
Old Wars, old Peace, old Arts that cease,
And so was England born!

She is not any common Earth,
Water or Wood or Air,
But Merlin’s Isle of Gramarye,
Where you and I will fare.