Cold Iron

Gold is for the mistress — silver for the maid —
Copper for the craftsman cunning at his trade.”
“Good!” said the Baron, sitting in his hall,
“But Iron — Cold Iron — is master of them all.”

So he made rebellion ‘gainst the King his liege,
Camped before his citadel and summoned it to siege.
“Nay!” said the cannoneer on the castle wall,
“But Iron — Cold Iron — shall be master of you all!”

Woe for the Baron and his knights so strong,
When the cruel cannon-balls laid ’em all along;
He was taken prisoner, he was cast in thrall,
And Iron — Cold Iron — was master of it all!

Yet his King spake kindly (ah, how kind a Lord!)
“What if I release thee now and give thee back thy sword?”
“Nay!” said the Baron, “mock not at my fall,
For Iron — Cold Iron — is master of men all.”

“Tears are for the craven, prayers are for the clown —
Halters for the silly neck that cannot keep a crown.”
“As my loss is grievous, so my hope is small,
For Iron — Cold Iron — must be master of men all!”

Yet his King made answer (few such Kings there be!)
“Here is Bread and here is Wine — sit and sup with me.
Eat and drink in Mary’s Name, the whiles I do recall
How Iron — Cold Iron — can be master of men all!”

He took the Wine and blessed it. He blessed and brake the Bread.
With His own Hands He served Them, and presently He said:
“See! These Hands they pierced with nails, outside My city wall,
Show Iron — Cold Iron — to be master of men all.”

“Wounds are for the desperate, blows are for the strong.
Balm and oil for weary hearts all cut and bruised with wrong.
I forgive thy treason — I redeem thy fall —
For Iron — Cold Iron — must be master of men all!”

“Crowns are for the valiant — sceptres for the bold!
Thrones and powers for mighty men who dare to take and hold!”
“Nay!” said the Baron, kneeling in his hall,
“But Iron — Cold Iron — is master of men all!
Iron out of Calvary is master of men all!”

Rudyard Kipling


  1. This is a poem is favorite of Bill Bagwell. One of three men who started the American Bladesmith Society. And author of “Bowies, Big Knives and the Best of Battle Blades” (Re: “The Best of Battle Blades” that used to be a running article in Soldier of Fortune magazine.) He created the Hell’s Belle fighting bowie knife and makes them by hand in his shop.
    He also cites the case of John Cockburn vs STATE (Texas) 1859:

    “The right to carry a “Bowie Knife for lawful defense is secured and must be admitted. It
    is an exceeding destructive weapon. It is difficult to defend against it by any degree of bravery
    or any amount of skill. The gun or pistol may miss its aim, and when discharged, its dangerous character is lost, or diminished at least. The sword may be parried. With these weapons men fight for the sake of combat, to satisfy the laws of honor, not necessarily with the intention to kill, or with a certainty of killing, when the intention exists. The Bowie-Knife differs from these in its device and design: it is the instrument of almost certain death.”

    I believe it was Judge Cockburn who used his bowie to kill two Commanches who had been sentenced to hang and decided to make a break for it.
    If you don’t agree with Judge Cockburns technical evaluation of the combat potential of a custom made bowie with an 11 inch razor sharp blade from point to hilt (and the back edge,) remember he lived in a different time. Of single shot pistols and rifles. And when men regularly fought duels over comments we shrug off today. They had real world edged weapon knowledge that has been lost for all time—or at least until we gain it back some time in the future when we regress to the culture and technology of the ante-bellum South. Read Bagwells book for a fascinating look at the violence, fighting, piracy and dueling culture of New Orleans 1830’s to the Civil War.
    One of my prized possessions is a bowie by Bagwell with a 10 /2″ damascus blade. And a hllt made out of Osage Orange. Cut from a big stump near a chicken shack in what were the slave quarters of a plantation. You can stand on the stump and see the island where Jim Bowie fought the Vidalia Sandbar duel. And the stump is supposed to have been a tree then.
    17 men were involved. The conflict concerned two wealthy familes disputing financial interests and vote fixing. September 17, 1827. The site was chosen as it was thought to be outside the jurisdiction on law enforcement. The two duelist had been friends but there were major problems between their heavily armed friends. The relationship between two of the hangers-on, Jim Bowie and former Sheriff Norris Wright was poor: Norris had shot Bowie who was restrained from killing Wright, but afterwards carried a large sheath knife made specifically for a rematch. (Origin of the bowie.)
    The duelists each fired two shots, all missed , and they resolved their duel with a handshake.
    Their was a brawl anyway. A man named Crain shot Bowie in the hip. Bowie got to his feet and charged Crain with his knife. Crain hit him so hard that he broke his pistol on Bowie’s head. Wright shot at Bowie and missed. Then Wright drew a sword cane and stabbed Bowie in the chest, and got it stuck in his sternum. As Wright tried to yank his sword out, Bowie pulled him down into the point of his bowie knife. Wright dies, Bowie is shot again and stabbed. He stood and was shot in the arm. Bowie then cut off the end of another man’s arm.
    Crain helped carry Bowie away, with Bowie supposed to have said: “Colonel Crain, I do not think, under the circumstances, you should have shot me.”
    Eight eyewitnesses described the fight which was picked up by the national paper.
    Bowie had an “interesting” life. Pioneer, soldier, smuggler, slave trader and land speculator, ending with his role in the Texas revolution and his death at the Alamo.

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