Sometimes we are walking distractedly down a story when we stumble on a passage that is remarkable and precious.
It’s the case with Rudyard Kipling’s Puck of Pook’s Hill. The story of the Roman centurion is very enjoyable, but when we come to this piece of poetry, we are surprised and delighted to see a 19th-century Englishman proclaiming the truth of an ancient Eastern religion — and of all religions along with it.
A Song to Mithras
Mithras, God of the Morning, our trumpets waken the Wall! “Rome is above the Nations, but Thou art over all!” Now as the names are answered, and the guards are marched away, Mithras, also a soldier, give us strength for the day! Mithras, God of the Noontide, the heather swims in the heat, Our helmets scorch our foreheads, our sandals burn our feet. Now in the ungirt hour, now ere we blink and drowse, Mithras, also a soldier, keep us true to our vows! Mithras, God of the Sunset, low on the Western main, Thou descending immortal, immortal to rise again! Now when the watch is ended, now when the wine is drawn, Mithras, also a soldier, keep us pure till the dawn! Mithras, God of the Midnight, here where the great Bull dies, Look on Thy children in darkness, oh, take our sacrifice! Many roads Thou hast fashioned – all of them lead to the Light! Mithras, also a soldier, teach us to die aright!
If you like this poem, check also this surprising passage where Sherlock Holmes speaks roses… and something else.
Image: “Parsee priests”. Wikimedia Commons.