The Disciple

James Bell
  1. The Disciple -:-- / 03:29

“But his own disciple shall wound him worst of all…”


I have a complicated relationship with Rudyard Kipling, which I might bore you with some other time. But I believe this poem, which accompanies Kipling’s story The Church that was at Antioch, from the 1932 book Limits And Renewals, perfectly and succinctly captures why it is that religions get corrupted. There’s an element of doom to it, as though it doesn’t matter how well intentioned the founder of a religion may be. And here is a life tip: if you want to brainwash billions of people, don’t start a religion. Find a religion where the founder has just died. And become the chief disciple.


He that hath a Gospel
To loose upon Mankind,
Though he serve it utterly —
Body, soul and mind —
Though he go to Calvary
Daily for its gain —
It is His Disciple
Shall make his labour vain.
He that hath a Gospel
For all earth to own —
Though he etch it on the steel,
Or carve it on the stone —
Not to be misdoubted
Through the after-days —
It is His Disciple
Shall read it many ways.
It is His Disciple
(Ere Those Bones are dust)
Who shall change the Charter,
Who shall split the Trust —
Amplify distinctions,
Rationalize the Claim;
Preaching that the Master
Would have done the same.
It is His Disciple
Who shall tell us how
Much the Master would have scrapped
Had he lived till now —
What he would have modified
Of what he said before.
It is His Disciple
Shall do this and more….
He that hath a Gospel
Whereby Heaven is won
(Carpenter, or cameleer,
Or Maya’s dreaming son),
Many swords shall pierce Him,
Mingling blood with gall;
But His Own Disciple
Shall wound Him worst of all!

Credits & Copyright

Words by Rudyard Kipling, music by James Bell. Released in November 2009. Remastered in March 2017. (C) & (P) House of Lyra. All rights reserved.
Image: ‘Study for Portrait of Pope Innocent X after Velasquez’ by Francis Bacon