The Sons of Martha
BY RUDYARD KIPLING
The Sons of Mary seldom bother, for they have inherited “that good part,”
But the Sons of Martha favor their mother, of the careful soul and the troubled heart.
And because she lost her temper once, and because she was rude to the Lord her guest,
Her sons must wait upon Mary’s sons, world without end, repose or rest.
It is their care in all the ages, to take the buffet and cushion the shock,
It is their care that the gear engages it is their care that the switches lock;
It is their care that the wheels run truly; it is their care to embark and entrain,
Tally, transport and deliver duly duly, the Sons of Mary, by land and main.
They say to the mountains, “Be ye removed.” They say to the lesser floods “Run Dry.”
Under their rods are the rocks reproved; they are not afraid of that which is high.
Then do the hill-tops shake to the summit, then is the bed of the deep laid bare,
That the Sons of Mary may overcome it, pleasantly sleeping and unaware.
They finger Death at their gloves’ ends when they piece and repiece the living wires.
He rears against the gates they tend; they feed him hungry behind their fires.
Early at dawn, e’er men see clear, they stumble into his terrible stall;
And hale him forth life a haltered steer, and goad and turn him till evenfall.
To these from birth is Belief forbidden; to these till death is relief afar;
They are concerned with matters hidden; under the earth line their alters are;
The sacred fountains to follow up; waters withdrawn to restore to the mouth;
Yea! And gather the floods in a cup, and pour them again at a city’s drouth.
They do not preach that their God will rouse them a little before the nuts work loose;
They do not teach that His pay allows them to leave their work whenever they choose,
As in the thronged and lightened ways, so in the dark an desert they stand,
Wary and watchful all their days that their brethrens days may be long in the land.
Lift ye the stone or cleave the wood, to make a path more fair or flat,
Lo! It is black already with blood, some Sons of Martha spilled for that.
Not as a ladder from earth to heaven, not as an altar to any creed,
But simple service, simply given to his own kind in their common need.
And the Sons of Mary smile and are blessed; they know the angels are on their side;
They know in them is the faith confessed; for them are the mercies multiplied.
They sit at the feet and they hear the word; they know how truly the promise runs;
They cast their burden upon the Lord, and the Lord He lays it on Martha’s sons.