> Peter Bellamy > Songs > The Prodigal Son

The Prodigal Son

[words Rudyard Kipling, music Peter Bellamy; notes on The Prodigal Son at the Kipling Society]

Rudyard Kipling wrote The Prodigal Son in 1901. Peter Bellamy sang it in 1989 on his album Rudyard Kipling Made Exceedingly Good Songs. He noted:

The first stanza of this tongue-in-cheek version of the biblical story appeared as a chapter heading in Kim, the complete piece only surfacing in Songs From Books (1913), where it is parenthetically subtitled ‘Western Version’!


The Prodigal Son

(Western Version)

Here I come to my own again,
Fed, forgiven and known again,
Claimed by bone of my bone again
And cheered by flesh of my flesh.
The fatted calf is dressed for me,
But the husks have greater zest for me,
I think my pigs will be best for me,
So I’m off to the yards afresh.

I never was very refined, you see,
(And it weighs on my brother’s mind, you see)
But there’s no reproach among swine, d’you see,
For being a bit of a swine.
So I’m off with my wallet and staff to eat
The bread that is three parts chaff to wheat,
But glory be!—there’s a laugh to it,
Which isn’t the case when we dine.

My father glooms and advises me,
My brother sulks and despises me,
M< Mother catechises me
Till I want to go out and swear.
And, in spite of the butler’s gravity,
I know that the servants have it I
Am a monster of moral depravity,
And I’m damned if I think it is fair!

Oh I wasted my substance, I know I did,
On riotous living, so I did,
But there’s nothing on record to show I did
More than my betters have done.
They talk of the money I spent out there—
They hint at the pace that I went out there—
But they all forget I was sent out there
Alone as a rich man’s son.

So I was a mark for plunder at once,
And lost my cash (can you wonder?) at once,
But I didn’t give up and knock under at once,
I worked in the yards, for a spell.
Where I spent my nights and my days with hogs,
And I shared their milk and maize with hogs,
Till, I guess, I have learned what pays with hogs
And—I have that knowledge to sell!

So here I go to my job again,
Not so easy to rob again,
Or quite so ready to sob again
On any neck that’s around.
I’m leaving, Pater. Good-bye to you!
God bless you, Mater! I’ll write to you…
Oh, I wouldn’t be impolite to you,
But, Brother, you are a hound!