The Hyaenas

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The Hyaenas
by Rudyard Kipling

First published in The Years Between (1919).


After the burial-parties leave
  And the baffled kites have fled;
The wise hyaenas 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 of 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 men –
  Only to God and to those

Who, being soulless, are free from shame,
  Whatever meat they may find.
Nor do they defile the dead man's name –
  That is reserved for his kind.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1928.


The longest-living author of this work died in 1936, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 86 years or less. This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.