The Secret of the Machines

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The Secret of the Machines
by Rudyard Kipling

First published in A School History of England (1911) as "The Secret of the Machines". Later subtitled "Modern Machinery", and alternately known as "The Song of the Machines".

The Secret of the Machines.


We were taken from the ore-bed and the mine, We were melted in the furnace and the pit— We were cast and wrought and hammered to design, We were cut and filed and tooled and gauged to fit. Some water, coal, and oil is all we ask, And a thousandth of an inch to give us play, And now if you will set us to our task, We will serve you four and twenty hours a day!

We can pull and haul and push and lift and drive, We can print and plough and weave and heat and light, We can run and jump and swim and fly and dive, We can see and hear and count and read and write!

Wireless telegraphs.Would you call a friend from half across the world? If you’ll let us have his name and town and state, You shall see and hear your crackling question hurled Across the arch of heaven while you wait. Marine engines.Has he answered? Does he need you at his side? You can start this very evening if you choose, And take the Western Ocean in the stride Of thirty thousand horses and some screws!

The boat-express is waiting your command! You will find the Mauretania at the quay, Till her captain turns the lever ’neath his hand, And the monstrous nine-decked city goes to sea.

Locomotives, pumps and mining tools.Do you wish to make the mountains bare their head And lay their new-cut forests at your feet? Do you want to turn a river in its bed, And plant a barren wilderness with wheat? Shall we pipe aloft and bring you water down From the never-failing cisterns of the snows, To work the mills and tramways in your town, And irrigate your orchards as it flows?

It is easy! Give us dynamite and drills! Watch the iron-shouldered rocks lie down and quake As the thirsty desert-level floods and fills, And the valley we have dammed becomes a lake!

All together.But remember, please, the Law by which we live, We are not built to comprehend a lie, We can neither love nor pity nor forgive, If you make a slip in handling us you die! We are greater than the Peoples or the Kings— Be humble, as you crawl beneath our rods!— Our touch can alter all created things, We are everything on earth—except The Gods!

Though our smoke may hide the Heavens from your eyes, It will vanish and the stars will shine again, Because, for all our power and weight and size, We are nothing more than children of your brain!



This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1926.


The author died in 1936, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also 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.