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Perceval Gibbon (1879-1926)

Homeward Bound


              1It's goodbye now to Africa, but kiss your hand again
              2To the upland trek and the old trade road and kop and kloof and plain;
              3    There's another trek instead for us,
              4    And a long strange road ahead for us,
              5But never the old home outspan, however the team may strain.

              6I'm thinking now of the lonely day when first I landed here;
              7The clouds were down on the mountain -- a rainy day and drear,
              8    And in all the voices greeting us,
              9    And in all the people meeting us,
            10There was never a soul to welcome me, and never a word of cheer.

            11And I'm thinking, too, of the long lean years and the uphill fight I made,
            12The good grim faith in the end of it and the footing dearly paid,
            13    The joy and the pain and the vice of it,
            14    The loss and the gain and the price of it,
            15And the jerrybuilt gods I trusted in and the darkling ways I strayed.

            16But all the same, I wouldn't forego the curious things I've seen,
            17The roofless nights and foodless days and the purple in between.
            18    It's over late to fret for it,
            19    And the world shall pay me yet for it,
            20But the rough-and-tumble left me brown where the handshake found me green.

            21There are many things you come to see when the final crust is gone:
            22The rotting souls of splendid men and truth with nothing on,
            23    Life and the sorry way of it,
            24    The world and the devious lay of it;
            25Only half of them honest brawn and the rest is what they don.

            26And it's fine to think, when you've time to think, of the wonderful things you do,
            27With a grin for the worst, and a nod for the best, and grit to hold you to,
            28    Till you face your job and are one with it,
            29    Till you tackle your share and are done with it,
            30Till you stand to the odds with an appetite and see the lost fight through.

            31It's soft we come and hard we go, and little enough we get,
            32But we win a streak of ore within that will pan out colour yet.
            33    With nothing in the hand and bluffing it,
            34    With nothing in the purse and roughing it,
            35We play big stakes with Africa and leave the game in debt.

            36And now we're leaving Africa! Oh, kiss your hand once more,
            37To the good old, tough old, grand old land that lies beyond the shore;
            38    And to-night, dear heart, we'll be dreaming of it,
            39    And to-morrow we'll be sad for the seeming of it:
            40There's a life and a love astern of us, but Lord knows what before.

Notes

2] kop: hill.
kloof: deep gorge or ravine separating valleys.

5] outspan: encampment, place of outspanning or unyoking the oxen team.

15] jerrybuilt: quickly put together, flimsily built (not in OED).


Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Perceval Gibbon, African Items: A Volume of Verse (London: Elliott Stock, 1903): 78-80. 011651.l.98 British Library
First publication date: 1901
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 2000.
Recent editing: 2:2002/4/17

Rhyme: aabba


Other poems by Perceval Gibbon