Rhymes of the East
BY D U M-D U M
AUTHOR OF 'AT ODD MOMENTS' 'IN THE HILLS'
LONDON ARCHIBALD CONSTABLE AND COMPANY, LTD. 1905
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Nearly all the verses that now make their first appearance in book form are reprinted from Punch, by kind permission of Messrs. Bradbury and Agnew. The rest I have taken from two little books that were published in Bombay during my last (and, I suppose, final) tour of service in India. They contained a good deal of work that was too local or topical in interest to stand reproduction, and—especially the elder, which is out of print—some that I would sooner bury than perpetuate. The rest I have overhauled, and included in this re-collection.
Readers in, or of, India have been kind enough to regard my previous efforts with favour. I hope that this little volume will find them no less benevolently disposed, and that at the same time it may not be without interest to those whose knowledge of the Shiny East is derived from hearsay.
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NOCTURNE WRITTEN IN AN INDIAN GARDEN,
TO HIS PECULIAR FRIEND WITHIN-DOORS,
VALEDICTION TO THE SS. 'ARABIA,' WHEN RETURNING WITH HER PASSENGERS FROM THE DELHI DURBAR,
A SOLDIER OF WEIGHT,
ODE TO THE TIME-GUN OF GURRUMBAD,
OMAR OUT OF DATE,
ODE ON A DISTANT PROSPECT OF EVER GETTING TO THE HILLS,
A SOMBRE RETROSPECT,
SONG OF BELLS,
A BALLAD OF BUTTONRY,
THE IRON HAND,
THE WOOIN' O' TUMMAS,
TO AN ELEPHANT,
VISIONARY, ON THE ADVANTAGES OF AN 'ASTRAL BODY,'
SUMMER PORTENTS, ELYSIUM,
TO MY LADY OF THE HILLS,
THE SHORES OF NOTHING,
THE LAST HOCKEY,
A HAPPY NEW YEAR,
ELEGY ON A RHINOCEROS,
IN SEVERAL KEYS. NO. 1—'MARIE,'
IN SEVERAL KEYS. NO. 2—THE BALLAD OF MORBID MOTHERS,
THE STORY OF RUD.,
THE HAPPY ENDING
STANZAS WRITTEN IN DEJECTION,
THE FINEST VIEW,
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NOCTURNE WRITTEN IN AN INDIAN GARDEN
'Where ignorance is bliss, 'Tis folly to be wise.'
The time-gun rolls his nerve-destroying bray; The toiling moon rides slowly o'er the trees; The weary diners cast their cares away, And seek the lawn for coolness and for ease.
Now spreads the gathering stillness like a pall, And melancholy silence rules the scene, Save where the bugler sounds his homing call, And thirsty THOMAS leaves the wet canteen;
Save that from yonder lines in deepest gloom Th' ambiguous mule does of the stick bewail, Whose dunder craft forbids him to consume His proper blanket, or his neighbour's tail.
[Footnote 1: The dunder-stick—an ingenious instrument devised to defeat this extraordinary appetite.]
Beneath those jagged tiles, that low-built roof (Whose inmost secret deeps let none divine!), Each to his master's cry supremely proof, The Aryan Brothers of our household dine.
Let not Presumption mock their joyless pile,— The cold boiled rice, in native butter greased; Nor scorn, with rising gorge and painful smile, The cheap but filling flapjacks of the East.
Full many a gem of highest Art-cuisine Those dark unfathomed dogmatists eschew; Full many a 'dish to set before the Queen' Would waste its sweetness on the mild Hindoo.
Nor you, their lords, expect of these the toil, When o'er their minds a soft oblivion steals, And through the long-drawn hookah's pliant coil They soothe their senses, and digest their meals.
For Knowledge to their ears her ample store, Rich with the latest news, does then impart, Whose source, when known, shall chill you to the core, And freeze the genial cockles of the heart.
For once, to dumb Neglectfulness a prey, Resentment led me undetected near, To know the reason of this cool delay, And teach my trusty pluralist to hear.
There to my vassals' ruminating throng Some total stranger, seated on a pail, Perused, translating as he went along, My private letters by the current mail.
One moment, horror baulked my strong intent; Next o'er the compound wall we saw him go, While uncouth moan, with hapless gesture blent, Deplored the pressing tribute of the toe.
To you, fresh youths, with round unblushing cheeks, Some moral tag this closing verse applies; E'en from the old the voice of Wisdom speaks— Even the youngest are not always wise!
No further seek to probe the Best Unknown, From Exploration's curious arts refrain; Lest Melancholy mark you for her own, And you should learn—nor ever smile again.
TO HIS PECULIAR FRIEND WITHIN-DOORS
After R. H.
A strong discomfort in the dress Dwindling the clothes to nothingness Saving, for due decorum placed, A huckaback about the waist, Or wanton towel-et, whose touch Haply may spare to chafe o'ermuch: A languid frame, from head to feet Prankt in the arduous prickle-heat: An erring fly, that here and there Enwraths the crimsoned sufferer: An upward toe, whose skill enjoys The slipper's curious equipoise: A punkah wantoning, whereby Papers do flow confoundedly: By such comportment, and th' offence Of thy fantastic eloquence, Dost thou, my WILLIAM, make it known That thou art warm, and best alone.
TO THE SS. 'ARABIA,' WHEN RETURNING WITH HER PASSENGERS FROM THE DELHI DURBAR
Now the busy screw is churning, Now the horrid sirens blow; Now are India's guests returning Home from India's Greatest Show; Now the gleeful Asiatic Speeds them on their wild career, And, though normally phlegmatic, Gives a half-unconscious cheer.
India's years were years of leanness, Till the Late Performance drew These, whose confidential greenness She has run for all she knew. Gladly rose the land to bid them Welcome for a fleeting spell— Nobly took them in and did them— And has done extremely well.
Peace be theirs, important Packet, Genial skies and happy calms— No derogatory racket, No humiliating qualms! Gales, I charge you, shun to rouse and Lash the seas to angry foam, While Britannia's Great Ten Thousand Sweep, with huge enjoyment, home!
Let the spiced and salty zephyr Build them up in frame and mind, Till they feel as fresh and effer- vescent as their hearts are kind, And in triumph close their Indian Tour on far Massilia's quay, Never having known too windy an Offing, too disturbed a sea.
So, when English snows are falling, When the fogs are growing dense, They shall hear the East a-calling, And shall come, and blow expense. Every year shall bring his Argo; Every year a grateful East Shall receive her golden Cargo, And restore the Gilded—Fleeced!
A SOLDIER OF WEIGHT
In the dim and distant ages, in the half-forgotten days, Ere the East became the fashion and an Indian tour the craze, Lived a certain Major-General, renowned throughout the State As a soldier of distinction and considerable weight.
But though weightiness of mind is an invaluable trait, When applied to adiposity it's all the other way; And our hero was confronted with an ever-growing lack Of the necessary charger and the hygienic hack.
He had bought them by the dozen, he had tried them by the score, But not one of them was equal to the burden that he bore; They were conscious of the honour, they were sound in wind and limb, They could carry a cathedral, but they drew the line at him.
But he stuck to it, till finally his pressing needs were filled By the mammoth of his species, a Leviathan in build, A superb upstanding brown, of unexceptionable bone, And phenomenally qualified to carry twenty stone.
And the General was happy; for the noble creature showed An unruffled acquiescence with the nature of his load; Till without the slightest warning, that superb upstanding brown Thought it time to make a protest, which he did by lying down.
They appealed to him, reproached him, gave him sugar, cut his feed, But in vain; for almost daily that inexorable steed, When he heard his master coming, looked insultingly around, And with cool deliberation laid him down upon the ground.
But they fought it out between them, till the undefeated brute Made a humorous obeisance at the General Salute! Then his owner kicked him wildly in the stomach for his pranks, Said he'd stand the beast no longer, and returned him to the ranks.
(An interval of about three years.)
Time has dulled our hero's anguish; time has raised our man of weight To an even higher office in the service of the State; And we find him at his yearly tour, inspecting at his ease A distinguished corps of cavalry, the Someone's Own D. G.'s.
And our fat but famous man of war, accoutred to the nines, Was engaged in making rude remarks, and going round the lines, When he suddenly beheld across an intervening space A Leviathan of horseflesh, the Behemoth of his race.
'Colonel Robinson,' he shouted, with enthusiastic force, 'A remarkably fine horse, sir!' The remarkably fine horse Gave a reminiscent shudder, looked insultingly around, And with cold deliberation laid him down upon the ground!
ODE TO THE TIME-GUN OF GURRUMBAD
[Time-guns are of invariable pattern and extreme antiquity. Other species come and go; their ancestor remains always. One is to be found in each cantonment: he generally occupies a position of unsheltered and pathetic loneliness in a corner of the local parade-ground. The writer has never seen one herded in the Gun-park with his kind.]
Strong scion of the sturdy past When simpler methods ruled the fray, At whose demoralising blast The stoutest foe recoiled aghast, How fall'n art thou to-day!
Thy power the little children mock; Thy voice, that shook the serried line, But supplements the morning cock At—roughly speaking—one o'clock, And—broadly—half-past nine.
(Saving when THOMAS' deep employ Th' attendant closing hour postpones, And he, the undefeated boy, To gain a temporary joy, Hath stuffed thee up with stones.)
Thy kindred of a mushroom 'Mark,' Young guns, intolerably spruce, Have cast thee from the social 'park'; Which, to their humbled patriarch, Must be the very deuce.
Their little toils with leisure crowned, They, in their turn, will seek the Vale Of Rest that thou hast never found; What wonder if thy daily Round Is very like a Wail?
Yet many love thee. Though his clutch Be heavy, Time doth still afford That fine consolatory touch— It hardly seems to go for much, But cannot be ignored.
For him that braves the midday fare Thou hast the immemorial task Of booming forth at one—or there- abouts—which saves the wear and tear Of yelling out to ask.
So, when athwart the glooming flats Thy hoarse, nocturnal whispers stray— Much to the horror of the bats— We're one day nearer home, and that's A comfort, anyway!
Then courage! Guns may come and go, But him alone we hold divine Whose task it is to let us know The hours of one o'clock—or so— And—roundly—half-past nine.
OMAR OUT OF DATE
BY A RENEGADE DISCIPLE
Wake! for Reveillee scatters into flight The flagging Rearguard of a ruined Night, And hark! the meagre Champion of the Roost Has flung a matins to the Throne of Light.
Here, while the first beam smites the sullen Sky, With silent feet Hajam comes stealing nigh, Bearing the Brush, the Vessel, and the Blade, These sallow cheeks of mine to scarify.
How often, oh, how often have I sworn Myself myself to shave th' ensuing Morn! And then—and then comes Guest-night, and Hajam Appears unbidden, and is gladly borne.
Come, fill the Cup! The nerve-restoring Ti Shall woo me with the Leaf of far Bohi; What matter that to some the Koko makes Appeal, to some the Cingalese Kofi?
For in a minute Toil, that ever thrives, Awaits me with her Shackles and her Gyves, And ever crieth Folly in the streets: 'To work! for needs ye must when Shaitan drives.'
Alas! that I did yesternight disport With certain fellows of the baser Sort, Unheedful of the living consequence When Drinks are long, and Pockets all too short!
With them the game of Poka did I play, And in wild session turned the Night to Day; And many a Chip I dropped upon the Board, And many a Moistener poured upon the Clay.
I put my Pile against th' Improbable, And with a Full Hand thought to make it swell; And this was all the Profit that I reaped: A Full of Kings is Heaven—and Fours are Hell!
Then to the Mountain Dew I turned to seek New courage for the Vengeance I should wreak; And once again came Fours, again the Flesh Was willing, and the Spirits far from weak.
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O Friend of pseudo-philosophic Calm, Who found within the Cup a life's Aram, Thy counsel, howsoever fair to read, Were passing bad to follow, friend Khayyam!
Was it not Suleiman the Wise that said: Look not upon the Wine when it is red? And Suleiman the Wise knew What was Which, Though that great Heart of his outmatched his Head!
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Ah! with the Pledge a Door of Refuge ope To wean my footsteps from the facile Slope, And write me down, fulfilled of Self-esteem, A Prop and Pillar of the Band of Hope;
That in the Club, should whilom Comrades try To lure me to a Roister on the sly, The necessary Zeal I may not lack To turn away, nor wink the Other Eye!
ON A DISTANT PROSPECT OF EVER GETTING TO THE HILLS
After T. G.
Ye distant Hills, ye smiling glades, In decent foliage drest, Where green Sylvanus proudly shades The Sirkar's haughty crest, And ye, that in your wider reign Like bold adventurers disdain The limit set for common clay, Whose luck, whose pen, whose power of song, Distinguish from the vulgar throng To walk the flowery way:
Ah happy Hills! Ah genial sky! Ah Goal where all would end! Where once, and only once, did I Go largely on the bend; E'en now the tales that from ye flow A fragmentary bliss bestow, Till, once again a doedal boy, In dreaming dimly of the first I seem to take a second burst, And snatch a tearful joy.
But tell me, Jakko, dost thou see The same old sprightly crew Disport with unembarrassed glee, As we were wont to do? What youth, in brazen armour cased, With pliant arm the yielding waist To arduous dalliance ensnares? Who, foremost of his peers, exalts The labours of the devious waltz By sitting out the squares?
Does Prudence, gentle Matron, force On Folly in her 'teens The value of a stalking-horse When hunting Rank and Means? And is the Summer Widow's mind Aggrieved and horrified to find That, as her male acquaintance grows, Her female circle pass her by With Innuendo's outraged eye, And Virtue's injured nose?
Lo, in the Vale of Tears beneath A grilling troop is seen Whom Failure gnaws with rankling teeth, While Envy turns them green. This racks the head, that scars the pelt, These bore beneath the ample belt, Those in the deeper vitals burn: Lo, Want of Leave, to fill the cup, Hath drunken all our juices up, And topped the whole concern.
To each his billet; some succeed, And some are left to groan; The latter serve their country's need, The former serve their own. Then let the maiden try her wing, The youth enjoy his roomy fling, The Single Matron dry her eyes! As Fate is blind, and Life is short, If Ignorance can give them sport, 'Twere folly to be wise.
A SOMBRE RETROSPECT
Long, long ago, in that heroic time When I, a coy and modest youth, was shot Out on this dust-heap of careers and crime To try and learn what's what,
I had a servitor, a swarthy knave, Who showed an almost irreligious taste For wearing nothing but a turban, save A rag about the waist.
This apparition gave me such a start, That I endowed him with a cast-off pair Of inexpressibles, and said, 'Depart, And be no longer bare.'
He took the offering with broken thanks; But day succeeded day, and still revealed Those sombre and attenuated shanks Intensely unconcealed;
Until at last the climax came when I Resolved to bring this matter to an end, And when I saw him passing, shouted, 'Hi! Where are your trousers, friend?'
Halting, he gave a deferential bow; Then, to my horror, beamingly replied, 'Master not see? I wearing trousers now!' I would have said he lied,
But could not. As I shaped the glowing phrase, I looked upon his turban—looked again— Mine own familiar pattern met my gaze, And all the truth was plain!
Th' unhappy creature, Eastern to the core, Holding my gift in superstitious dread, Had made a turban out of it, and wore His trousers—on his head!
(BY WALTYARD WHIPMING)
A song of Mandalay! Allons, Camerados, Desperadoes, Amontillados! Hear my Recitative, my Romanza, my Spring Onion!
You three-striped sergeants, you corporals, non-commissioned officers, and men with one or more good-conduct badges, You indifferent and bad characters, am I not also one with you? And will you not then hear my song? This for prelude.
You, O Mandalay, I sing! For I see the pagoda, the Moulmein and essentially wotto pagoda, And the pagoda is above the trees, But the trees are below the pagoda.
I see the flying-fish sitting on the branches, I hear them sing, and they fly and mate and build their nests in the branches; I see a dun-coloured aboriginal she-female, mongolianee, petite, squat-faced, And she has a cast in her sinister optic and a snub nose but her heart is true; And I gaze into her heart (which is true), and I find that she is musing (as indeed I often muse) on ME, Me Prononce, Me Imperturbe, Me Inconscionabilamente.
I see [a page or so unavoidably omitted for lack of space,—refer to guide-book] and ... the wind, and the palm-trees idly swaying to and fro in the wind (now to, now fro), and I hear the bells of a temple, and I know that they are singing, and what it is that they would say.
What is it that they would say do you ask Me?
How shall I tell you, how shall I make you understand? For I know that you do not love Me, you do not comprehend Me, you say that this sort of thing does you harm; But I will even now do my darndest (as indeed I always do more or less), and if you do not like it, Waal, Soldados?
Behold, I will write it as a song and put it in italics, so that even you will know that it is a song; So listen, listen, Camerados! for I am about to spout and my song shall be masculine and virile. A bas your metre, a la lanterne your rhyme, conspuez your punctuation, I say pooh-pooh!
SONG OF BELLS
Allons! Allons! Tra-la-la! Hear my Bellata! Why do you not return to Mandalay O soldier? Do you not remember the boats, and the paddles as they chunked outside the boats? Do you not remember the elephants, the mighty elephants, strong, mysterious, impalpable (no, not impalpable), pachydermatous, and the extraordinary accuracy with which they succeeded in balancing trees or parts of trees, branches, logs, beams, planks, ... etc., ... with their trunks (the beams carefully supported at their centre of gravity, the logs carefully supported at their centre of gravity, the elephants without a smile at their centre of gravity) From Rangoon to Mandalay?
On the road to Mandalay the flying-fishes play, But there are no omnibuses to ply. Is there not a thirst here, and are there any ten commandments? O you commandments! you first, second, third ... and tenth commandments! What has Mandalay to do with you, and what have you to do with Mandalay?
Ha! What is that?
Is it a sound, is it the thunder, the sudden thunder, strepitant, tonant? Is it the midday (twelve o'clock) cannon?
Is it not then the ocean, the storm of the ocean?
Divil a bit!
Return, return then O soldiers, Return, you that have been discharged with pensions, as time-expired men, or as incorrigible and worthless, Return, for it is the dawn, and it is calling to you as it comes up from China, Though why from China do you ask me? Then ask me another!
A BALLAD OF BUTTONRY
Clothes and the Man I sing. Reformers, note These of the Subaltern who owned a Coat.
He was what veterans miscall, for short, By that objectionable term, a wart:
The Coat an item of the 'sealed' attire Wrung from his helpless but reluctant sire;
Also the tails were long; and, for the pride Thereof, were buttons on the after-side;
Majestic orbs, whose gilded obverse bore The bossy symbol of his future corps.
The youth, ere sailing for a distant land, Did, in the interval, receive command
[Footnote 2: A last-joined young officer.—Military Definitions.]
To join a 'Course,' where men of grave repute Instruct the young idea how to shoot.
Thither he sped, and on the opening day Rose, and, empanoplied in brave array,
(Ample of flowing skirt, and with great craft And pomp of blazoned buttonry abaft)
Won to the mess, and preened his fledgling plumes Both in the breakfast and the ante-rooms.
Awhile he moved in rapture, and awhile Thrilled in the old, inevitable style
To that stern joy which youthful warriors feel In wearing garments worthy of their zeal;
Then came the seneschal upon the scenes, And knocked his infant pride to smithereens.
For out, alack! the Fathers of the mess Strictly prohibited that form of dress,
Being by sad experience led to find Disaster in the buttonry behind,
Which tore and scratched the leather-cushioned chairs, And cost a perfect fortune in repairs!
It was a crushing blow. That Subaltern Discovered that he had a lot to learn;
Removed his Coat, and laid it, weeping, in Its long sarcophagus of beaten tin:
Buried it deep, and drew it thence no more; Finished his Course, and sought an alien shore.
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So runs the tale. I had it from the youth Himself, and I suppose he told the truth.
(The words alone are mine; I need but hint That his were too emotional for print.)
And as in India, though the chairs are hard, His Coat—delicious irony—is barred;
Being designed for cooler zones, and not For one inadequately known as 'hot';
And, furthermore, as bold Sir Fashion brings Changes, yea, even to the soldier's things:
He questions if the Coat were worth the price, Seeing that he will hardly wear it twice.
THE IRON HAND
'The Government of India has been pleased to sanction the infliction of a fine of ..., etc.'
To him that reads with careless eyes My present theme affords But little scope for enterprise In buttering one's lords: Fines, he would urge, have always bulked Largely to Those that rule, For, plainly, every man They mulct Contributes to the pool.
But when in ages dead and gone Our fathers fought with Sin, However hard they laid it on, They didn't rub it in; While These not only bring to bear Their dark prerogatives, But diabolically air The pleasure that it gives!
Here is the Iron Hand that builds Our realms beyond the sea; No suaviter in modo gilds Their fortiter in re; Here is no washy velvet glove To pad the Fist of Fear— None of your guiding charms of Love— None of your hogwash here!
No. From Their thrones amid the stars They glower athwart the land Implacable, with 'eye like Mars To threaten and command.' Too cold, too truculent, to stay The awful bolt They fling, They make no bones about it—They Are pleased to do this thing!
Blind to the victim's mask of woe, Deaf to his poignant howls, No pity stirs Their bosoms, no Reluctance wrings Their bow'ls! By prompt and ready cash alone Their wrath shall be appeased Who pile it on like gods, and own, Like men, to being pleased.
THE WOOIN' O' TUMMAS
After R. B.
Tummas Katt cam' roun' to woo, Ha, ha, the wooin' o't; Lichtly sang ta lang nicht thro', Ha, ha, the mewin' o't; Tabbie, winsome, tim'rous beast, Speakit: 'Tummas, hand tha' weist! Girt auld Tummas 'gan inseest; Ha, ha, the doin' o't!
Tabbie laucht, an' brawly fleired, Ha, ha, the fleirin' o't; Tummas,—ech! but Tummas speired Ha, ha, the speirin' o't; Sic an awesome, fearfu' screep, Wakin' a' aroun' frae sleep; Fegs, it gar'd the Gudeman weep! Ha, ha, the hearin' o't!
Quoth the Gudeman: 'Dairm his een!' Ha, ha, the swearin' o't; 'Muckle fasht was I yestreen, A' thro' the bearin' o't! Ere the sonsie moon was bricht, Clean awa' till mornin' licht, Mickle sleep was mine the nicht; Ha, ha, the wearin' o't!'
'Where are noo ma booties twa? Ha, ha, the stoppin' o't; 'Tis mysel' shall gar him fa'; Ha, ha, the coppin' o't! 'Gin a bootie, strang an' stoot, Sneckit Tummas roun' ta snoot, Winna Tummas gang frae oot? Ha, ha, the droppin' o't!'
Swuft the pawky booties came, Ha, ha, the flittin' o't: Tummas scraught, an' lit for hame, Ha, ha, the spittin' o't; Lauchit Tabbs to see him fa'; Leapit frae ta gairden wa'; Quoth the Gudeman: 'Dairm it a'! What price the hittin' o't?'
Christmas comes but once a year. Though by nature snappy, Let us, as we may, appear Merry, friend, and happy! Buckle to; and when you meet your Thunderstricken fellow-creature, Show the broad, indulgent smile Of th' ingenuous crocodile! Look as if you'd backed a winner! Laugh, you miserable sinner!
Brother, Christmas Day has come. Can't you seek for inspi- ration in the turkey, plum- pudding, beef, and mince-pie? Brave it out, and tho' you sit on Tenterhooks, remain a Briton; You can only do your best; Boxing Day's a day of rest! Throw aside your small digestive Eccentricities. Be festive!
Christmas Day is on the wing. Are you feeling wroth with Any one for anything? Beg his pardon forthwith! Though the right is all on your side, Say it isn't; say 'Of course I'd No intention—very rude— Shocking taste—but misconstrued'— Then (while I admit it's horri- fying) tell the man you're sorry!
Christmas Day will soon have flown. If, despite persuasion, You resolve to be alone On the glad occasion, Better (do as I have done!) Vanish with a scatter-gun; If you have to see it through, (Better do what I shall do!) Dining quietly at the Club'll Save us from a world of trouble!
['Never do To-day what can be postponed till To-morrow, save at the dictates of your personal convenience.'—Maxims of the Wicked, No. 3.]
Sweet Word, by whose unwearying assistance We of the Ruling Race, when sorely tried, Can keep intrusive persons at a distance, And let unseasonable matters slide; Thou at whose blast the powers of irritation Yield to a soft and gentlemanly lull Of solid peace and flat Procrastination, These to thy praise and honour, good old Kal!
For we are greatly plagued by sacrilegious Monsters in human form, who care for naught Save with incessant papers to besiege us, E'en to the solemn hour of silent thought; They draw no line; the frightful joy of giving Pain is their guerdon; but for Thee alone, Life would be hardly worth the bore of living, No one could call his very soul his own.
But in thy Name th' importunate besetter Meets a repelling force that none can stem; Varlets may come (they do) and go (they'd better!), Kal is the word that always does for them! To-morrow they may join the usual muster; To-day shall pass inviolably by; BEELZEBUB Himself, for all his bluster, Would get the same old sickening reply.
And, for thine aid in baffling the malignant, Who, with unholy art, conspire to see Our ease dis-eased, our dignity indignant, We do Thee homage on the bended knee. And I would add a word of common gratitude To those thy coadjutors, ao and lao, Who take, with Thee, th' uncompromising attitude From which the dullest mind deduces jao.
[Footnote 3: Kal-ao'return to-morrow'; kal-lao'bring it back to-morrow.' Each of these phrases is the euphemistic equivalent of jao, that is, 'go away, (and stay there).']
TO AN ELEPHANT
ON HIS TONIC QUALITIES
Solace of mine hours of anguish, Peace-imparting View, when I, Sick of Hindo-Sturm-und-Drang, wish I could lay me down and die,
Very present help in trouble, Never-failing anodyne For the blows that knock us double, Here's towards thee, Hathi mine!
As, 'tis said, the dolorous Jack Tar Turns to view the watery Vast, When he mourns his frail charac-tar, Or deplores his jagged Past,
Climbs a cliff, and breathes his sighs on That appalling breast until, Borne from off the far horizon, Voices whisper, 'Cheer up, Bill!'
So when evil chance or dark as- persions crush the bosom's lord, When discomfort rends the car-cass, When we're sorry, sick, or bored,
When the year is at its hottest, And our life with sorrow crowned, Gazing thee-wards, where thou blottest Out the landscape, pulls us round,
Gives us peace, some nameless modi- cum of cheer to mind and eye: Something that can soothe a body Like a blessed lullaby.
Sweet it is to watch thee, Hathi, Through the stertorous afternoons, Wond'ring why so stout a party Wears such baggy pantaloons:
Sweet, again, to steal a-nigh and Watch thee, ere thy meals begin, Deftly weigh th' unleavened viand, Lest thou be deceived therein:
Sweet to mark thee gravely dining: Grand, when day has nearly gone, 'Tis to view yon Orb declining Down behind thee, broadside on:
Ay! and when thy vassals tub thee, And thou writhest 'neath the brick Wherewithal they take and scrub thee, 'Twere a sight to heal the sick!
Not a pose but serves to ward off Pangs that had of yore prevailed; E'en the stab of being scored off Owns the charm, old Double-Tailed!
But, O Thou that giv'st the flabby Strength, and stingo'st up the weak:- Restful as a grand old Abbey— Bracing as a Mountain Peak:—
All the bonds of Age were slackened, And my years were out of sight, When I burst upon thy back end As thou kneeled'st yesternight!
Head and frame were hidden. Only Loomed a black, colossal Seat, Taut, magnificent, and lonely, O'er a pair of suppliant feet
To th' astounded mind conveying Dreams from which my manhood shrank, Of a very fat man praying, Whom a boy would love to spank.
And I felt my fingers twitching, And my sinews turned to wire, And my palm was itching, itching, With the old, unhallowed fire.
While the twofold voice within me Urged their long-forgotten feud, One to do thee shame would win me,— One that whispered, 'Don't be rude!'
Till, by heaven! thy pleading beauty Drove those carnal thoughts away, And the friend that came to scruti- nise was left behind to pray:—
For I shamed thee not, nor spanked thee; But to rearward, on the plain, Hathi, on my knees I thanked thee That I felt a boy again!
ON THE ADVANTAGES OF AN 'ASTRAL BODY'
It is told, in Buddhi-theosophic Schools There are rules By observing which when mundane matter irks, Or the world has gone amiss, you Can incontinently issue From the circumscribing tissue Of your Works.
That the body and the gentleman inside Can divide, And the latter, if acquainted with the plan, Can alleviate the tension By remaining 'in suspension' As a kind of fourth dimension Bogie man.
And to such as mourn an Indian Solar Crime At its prime, 'Twere a stratagem so luminously fit, That tho' doctrinaires deny it, And Academicians guy it, I, for one, would like to try it For a bit.
Just to leave one's earthly tenement asleep In a heap, And detachedly to watch it as it lies, With an epidermis pickled Where the prickly heat has prickled, And a sense of being tickled By the flies.
And to sit and loaf and idle till the day Dies away, In a duplicate ethereally cool, Or around the place to potter, (Tho' the flesh could hardly totter,) As contented as an otter In a pool!
'Let the pestilent mosquito do his worst Till he burst, Let him bore and burrow, morning, noon, and night, If he finds the diet sweet, oh, Who am I to place a veto On the pestilent mosquito?— Let him bite!'
O my cumbersome misfit of bone and skin, Could I win To the wisdom that would render me exempt From the grosser bonds that tether You and Astral Me together, I should simply treat the weather With contempt;
I should contemplate its horrors with entire Lack of ire, And pursuant to my comfortable aim, With a snap at every shackle I should quit my tabernacle, And serenely sit and cackle At the game!
But, alas! the 'mystic glory swims away,' And the clay Is as vulgarly persistent as of yore, And the cuticle is pickled Where the prickly heat has prickled, And the nose and ears are tickled As before;
And until the Buddhi-theosophic Schools Print the rules That will bring our tale of sorrows to a close, Body mine, though others chide thee, And consistently deride thee, I shall have to stay inside thee, I suppose!
Come, let us quaff the brimming cup Of sorrow, bitterness, and pain; For clearly, things are warming up Again.
Observe with what awakened powers The vulgar Sun resumes the right Of rising in the hallowed hours Of night.
Bound to the village water-wheel, The motive bullock bows his crest, And signals forth a mute appeal For rest.
His neck is galled beneath the yoke: His patient eyes are very dim: Life is a dismal sort of joke To him.
Yet one there is, to whom the ox Is kin; who knows, as habitat, The cold, unsympathetic box, Or mat;
Who urges on, with wearied arms, The punkah's rhythmic, laboured sweep, Nor dares to contemplate the charms Of sleep.
Now 'mid a host of lesser things That pasture through the heaving nights, The sharp mosquito flaps his wings, And bites;
With other Anthropophagi, Such as that microscopic brand The common Sand-fly (or the fly Of sand),
Who, with a hideous lust uncurbed By clappings of the frequent palm, Devours one's ankles, undisturbed, And calm.
The scorpion nips one unaware: The lizard flops upon the head: And cobras, uninvited, share One's bed.
Oh, if I only had the luck To feel the grand Olympic fire That thrilled the Greater when they struck The lyre!
When Homer wrote of this and that: When Dante sang like one possessed: When Milton groaned and laboured at His Best!
Had I the swelling rise and fall, Whereof the Bo'sun's quivering moan Derives a breezy fragrance all Its own:
Oh, I would pour such passion out— Good gracious me!—I would so sing That you should know the facts about This thing!
Then w-w-wake, my Lyre! O halting lilt! O miserable, broken lay! It may not be: I am not built That way.
Yet other gifts the gods bestow. I do not weep, I do not grieve. Far from it. I shall simply go On leave.
From the dust, and the drought, and the heat, I am borne on the pinions of leave, From the things that are bad to repeat To the things that are good to receive.
From the glare of the day at its height On a land that was blinding to see, From the wearisome hiss of the night, By a turn of the wheel I am free.
I have passed to the heart of the Hills, For a season of halcyon hours, 'Mid the music of murmurous rills, And the delicate odours of flowers;
And I walk in an exquisite shade, Where the fern-tasselled boughs interlace; And the verdurous fringe of the glade Is a marvel of fairylike grace;
And with never an aim or a plan I can wander in uttermost ease, Where the only reminders of Man Are the monkeys aloft in the trees;
Or, perchance, on the 'silvery mere,' In a 'shallop' I lazily float, With—it's possible—some one to steer, Or with no one (which lightens the boat).
O the glorious gift of release From the chains that encircle the thrall, To be quiet, and cool, and at peace, And to loaf, and do nothing at all!
I am clear of that infamous lark; I am far from the blare of the Band; And the bugles are silent, the bark Of the Colonel is hushed in the land.
And—I say it again—I am free, In the valleys of wandering bliss; And most gratefully 'own, if there be An Elysium on earth, it is this!'
TO MY LADY OF THE HILLS
'... O she, To me myself, for some three careless moons, The summer pilot of an empty heart Unto the shores of Nothing.'—Tennyson.
'Tis the hour when golden slumbers Through th' Hesperian portals creep, And the youth who lisps in numbers Dreams of novel rhymes to 'sleep'; I shall merely note, at starting, That responsive Nature thrills To the twilight hour of parting From my Lady of the Hills.
Lady, 'neath the deepening umbrage We have wandered near and far, To the ludicrously dumb rage Of your truculent Mamma; We have urged the long-tailed gallop; Lightly danced the still night through; Smacked the ball, and oared the shallop (In a vis-a-vis canoe);
We have walked this fair Oasis, Keeping, more by skill than chance, To the non-committal basis Of indefinite romance; Till, as love within me ripened, I have wept the hours away, Brooding on my meagre stipend, Mourning mine exiguous pay.
Dear, 'tis hard, indeed, to stifle Fervour such as mine has grown, And I 'd freely give a trifle Could I win you for mine own; But the question simply narrows Down to one persistent fact, That we cannot say we're sparrows, And we oughtn't so to act.
Married bliss is born of incomes; While to drag the long years through Till some hypothetic tin comes, Seems a childish thing to do; Rather let us own as lasting Our unpardonable crime, Giving thanks, with prayer and fasting, For so very high a time.
Fare you well. Your dreadful Mother, If I know that woman's mind, Has her eye upon Another Vice me, my dear, resigned; And I see you mated shortly To some covenanted swain, Not objectionably portly, Not prohibitively plain.
Take his gifts, and ask a blessing. Meddle not with minor cares. Trust me, your unprepossessing Dam soon settles those affairs! Then will I, with honeyed suasion, Pinch some thriftless man of bills Of a mark of the occasion For my Lady of the Hills.
THE SHORES OF NOTHING
There's a little lake that lies In a valley, where the skies Kiss the mountains, as they rise, On the crown; And the heaven-born elite Are accustomed to retreat From the pestilential heat Lower down.
Where the Mighty, for a space, Mix with Beauty, Rank, and Grace, (I myself was in the place, At my best!) And the atmosphere's divine, While the deodar and pine Are particularly fine For the chest.
And a little month ago, When the sun was lying low, And the water lay aglow Like a pearl, I, remarkably arrayed, Dipped an unobtrusive blade In the lake—and in the shade— With a girl.
O 'twas pleasant thus to glide On the 'softly-flowing tide' (Which it's not!) and, undescried, Take a hand In the sweet, idyllic sports That are known in such resorts, To the sympathetic snorts Of the Band.
Till, when o'er the 'still lagoon' Passed the golden afternoon, The preposterous bassoon, Growling deep, Saved the King and knelled the day As the crimson changed to grey And the little valley lay Half asleep.
It is finished. She was kind. 'Out of sight is out of mind.' But the taste remains behind, (And the bills,) And I'd give the world to know If there's some one else in tow With my love (a month ago) In the Hills!
O ye valleys, tell me, pray, Was she on the lake to-day? Does she foot it in the gay, Social whirl? O ye Mountains of Gilboa, Send a bird, or kindly blow a Breeze to tell me all you know a- bout that girl!
THE LAST HOCKEY
After A. T.
So for the last great Hockey of the Hills, —Damsel v. Dame—by ruder cynics called The Tournament of the Dead Dignities, We gained the lists, and I, thro' humorous lens, Perused the revels. Here on autumn grass Leapt the lithe-elbowed Spin, and strongly merged In scrimmage with the comfortable Wife And temporary Widow,—know you not, Such trifles are the merest commonplace In loftier contours?—Twenty-two in all They numbered, and none other trod the field Save one, the bold Sir Referee, whose charge It was to keep fair order in the lists, And peace 'twixt Dame and Damsel: married, he.
O brothers, had ye seen them! O the games! Fleet-footed some: lightly they leapt, and drave Or missed the pellet; then, perchance, would turn With hand that sought their tresses. Others moved Careless, in half disdain, nor urged pursuit; Yet ever and anon would shriek, and miss The pellet, while the bold Sir Referee Skipt in avoidance. From the factions came The cry of voices shrilling woman-wise, The clash of stick on stick, the muffled shin, The sudden whistle, and the murmurous note Of mutual disaffection. Otherwhere The myriad coolie chortled, knightly palms Clapped, and the whole vale echoed to the noise Of ladies, who in session to the West Sat with the light behind them, self-approved.
Fortune with equal favour poised the scale, And loudlier rang the trouble, till I heard 'A Susan! Ho! A Susan!'—She, oh she, One whom myself had picked from out the crowd Of hot girl-athletes with their tousled hair, Was on the ball. Deftly she smote, and drave On, and so paddled swiftly in its wake. The good ash gleamed and fell; the forward ranks Gave passage; once again she smote, again Paddled, nor passed, but paddling ever neared The mournful guardian of the Sacred Goal, Hewing and hacking. Little need to tell Of Susan in her glory; whom she smote She felled, and whom she shocked she overthrew; And, shrieking, passed exultant to her doom.
For Susan, while she clove a devious course, Moved crab-like, in a strange diagonal, And, driving, crossed the frontiers. Thither came The bold Sir Referee, and shrilled abroad The tremulous, momentary 'touch.' But she, Heaving with unaccustomed exercise, Blinded and baffled, wild with all despair, Stood sweeping, as a churl that sweeps the scythe In earlier pastures. Twice he skipped, and poured The desperate whistle. Once again, and he, Skipping, diffused the whistle. But at last, So shrewd a blow she dealt him on the shin, That had he stood reverse-wise on his head, Not on his feet, I know not what had chanced. Then to the shuddering Orient skies there rose A marvellous great shriek, the splintering noise Of shattered ash-plant and of battered shank, Mixed with a higher. For Susan, overwrought, Lost footing, and with one clear dolorous wail Fell headlong, only more so. And I saw, Clothed in black stockings, mystic, wonderful, That which I saw. The coolies yelled. The crowd Closed round, and so the tourney reached an end.
Then home they bore the bold Sir Referee In Susan's litter; and they tended him With curious tendance; and they drowned his views On Susan, and the tourney, and the place Whither he'd see them ere again he ruled Such functions, with a sweet, small song (I call It sweet that should not!). This is how it ran:—
'Our Referee has fall'n, has fall'n. The stick, The little stick he leapt at in the lists Has riven and cleft the bark, and raised a bulk Of crescent span, that spreads on every side A thousand hues, all flushing into one.
'Our Referee has fall'n, has fall'n. She came, The woman with her ash, and lo the wound! But we will make a bandage for the limb, And swathe it, heel to knee, with splints and wool, And embrocations for the hurts of man.
'Our Referee has fall'n, has fall'n; he wailed; With our own ears we heard him, and we knew There dwelt an iron nature in the grain! The splintering ash was cloven on his limb; His limb was battered to the cannon-bone.'
So passed that stout but choleric knight away; And we, by certain wandering instincts led, Made for a small pavilion, where we found Viands and what not, and the thirsty flower Of mountain knighthood gathered at the board. And entering, here we lingered, and discussed The what not, and the viands, and in time Drew to the tourney, giving each his views;— But mostly wondering what the coolies thought To see these ladies of the Ruling Race, 'Yoked in all exercise of noble end,' And Public Exhibition. Was it wise? Some questioned; others, was it quite the thing?
And here indeed we left it, for the shades Deepened, the high, swift-narrowing crest of day Brake from the hills, and down the path we went, Well pleased, for it was guest-night at the Club.
'Farewell. What a subject! How sweet It looks to the careless observer! So simple; so easy to treat With tenderness, mark you, and fervour. Farewell. It's a poem; the song Of nightingales crying and calling!' O Reader, you're utterly wrong. It's not. It's appalling!
And yet when she asked me to send Some trifle of verse to remind her Of days that had come to an end, And one she was leaving behind her, It looked, as we stood on the shore, A theme so entirely delightsome That I, like a lunatic, swore (Quite calmly) to write some.
I've toiled with unwavering pluck; I've struggled if ever a man did; Infringed every postulate, stuck At nothing,—nay, once, to be candid, I shifted the cadence—designed A fresh but unauthorised fare-well; 'Twas plausible, too, but I find The thing doesn't wear well.
I know that it shouldn't be hard; That dozens, who claim to be poets, Could scribble off stuff by the yard And fare very well; and I know it's A theme that the Masters of Rhyme Have written some excellent verse on, Which proves, as I take it, that I'm Not that sort of person.
But that we can leave. It remains To state that my present appearance Is something too awful, my brains Are tending to wild incoherence; My mental condition's absurd; My thoughts are at sixes and sevens, Inextrica—lord! what a word! Inextri—good heavens!
My dear, you can do what you like,— Forgive, or despise, or abuse me— But frankly, I'm going on strike, And really you'll have to excuse me. Indeed it's my only resource, For, sure as I stuck to my promise, I'd Be booked in a week for a course Of sui-cum-homicide.
A HAPPY NEW YEAR
11.30 P.M., DEC. 31
Friend, when the year is on the wing, 'Tis held a fair and comely thing To turn reflective glances Over the days' forbidden Scroll, See if we're better on the whole, And average our chances.
Yet 'tis an awful thing to drag Each separate deed from out the bag That up till now has hidden 't, And bring before the shuddering view All that we swore we wouldn't do, Or should have done, but didn't.
The broken code, the baffled laws Our little private faults and flaws, And every naughty habit, Come whistling through the Waste of Life, Until one longs to take a knife, Feel for his heart, and stab it.
Unchanged, exultant, one and all Rise up spontaneous to the call, And bring their stings behind them; But when the search is duly plied For items on the credit side, One has a job to find them!
I know not why they change. I know— None better—how one's feelings grow Distinctly kin to mutiny, To see one's assets limping in, All too preposterously thin To stand a moment's scrutiny.
I know that shock must follow shock, Until the sole remaining Rock That all one's hopes exist on, Crumbles beneath the crushing force Of Conscience, kicking like a horse, And pounding like a piston.
Hardly a little year has past Since you, I take it, swore to cast Aside the bonds that girt you, And thought to stun the dazzled earth, A pillared Miracle of Worth, Raised on a plinth of Virtue.
One always does. One wonders why. One knows that, as the years go by, One finds the same old blunders, The same old acts, the same old words; And as one trots them out in herds, Or one by one, one wonders;
* * * * *
Another year,—a touch of grey,— A little stiffness,—day by day We feel the need of, shall we say, Goggles to face the sun with,— A little loss of youthful bloom,— A little nearer to the Tomb! (Pardon this momentary gloom) Bang go the bells. That's done with!
EXCERPTS FROM AN INCONGRUITY
After A. C. S.
In Spring there are lashings of new books, In Autumn fresh novels are sold, They are many, but my shelf has few books, My comrades, the favourites of old; Tho' the roll of the cata-logues vary, Thou alone art unchangeably dear, O bibulous, beautiful Sairey, Our Lady of Cheer.
By the whites of thine eyes that were yellow, By the folds of thy duplicate chin, By thy voice that was husky but mellow With gin, with the richness of gin, By thy scorn of the boy that was Bragian, By thy wealth of perambulate swoons, O matchless and mystical Magian, Beguile us with boons.
For thou scatterest the evil before us With grave humours and exquisite speech, Till we heed not the 'new men that bore us,' Nor regard the new women that screech; We are weak, but thy hand shall refresh us; We are faint, but we know thee sublime; More priceless than pills, and more precious Than draughts that are slime.
Thou hast lifted us forth from the melly, Thou hast told, with thick heavings of pride, Of the Package in Jonadge's belly, And the Camel that rich folks may ride; From the mire and the murk of a stern Age In the Font of St. Polge we are clean, O Gold as has passed through the Furnage, Our Lady and Queen.
* * * * *
In thy chamber where Holborn is highest, At the banquet, ere night had begun, Thou wert seated with her that was nighest Thy heart, save the Only, the One; For the hours of thy labour were ended, And the spirit of peace was within, And the fumes from the teapot ascended Of unsweetened gin.
Dost thou dream in dim dusk when light lingers, Of Betsy, the bage, the despiged, Who with snap of imperious fingers Haricina, thy figment, deniged? Dost thou gasp at the shock of the blow sich As she, in her tantrum, let fall, Who 'didn't believe there was no sich A person' at all?
Fear not! Though the torters be frightful, Though the words that thou took'st unawares Be as serpiants that twine and are spiteful, O thou best of good creeturs, who cares? For the curse hath recoiled, and the stigma Thou hast turned to her sorrer and shame, While thy cryptic and sombre Enigma Is shrined in a Name.
* * * * *
And our wine shall not lack for thy throttle, Nor at night shall our portals be cloged, And thy lips thou shalt place to the bottle On our chimley, when so thou'rt dispoged; We have pickled 'intensely' our salmon; To thy moods are great cowcumbers dressed, O Daughter of Gumption and Gammon, Our Mistress and Guest!
And in hours when our lamp-ile has dwindled In deep walleys of uttermost pain, When our hopes to grey ashes are kindled, We are fain of thee still, we are fain; In this Piljian's Projiss of Woe, in This Wale of white shadders and damp, O Roge all a-blowin' and growin', We open our Gamp!
After W. W.
An adventure of the Author's, and one designed to show that grievances may be met with in the cottages of the humblest, and may take the most unexpected forms.
When in my white-washed walls confined Till eve her freedom brings, I often turn a musing mind To think awhile of things,
And thus about the noontide glow To-day my thoughts recalled Old Adam, whom I once did know, A dear old thing, though bald.
A village Gravedigger was he With Newgate fringe of grey, The only man that one could see At work on Saturday!
For on those evenings (which provide A due release to toil) He shovelled wearily, and plied His task upon the soil.
Therein a sorrow Adam had, And when he knew me well He told this tale, and made me sad, Which now to you I tell.
For once my feet did chance to stray Across the old churchyard, And Adam sighed, and paused to say 'It's werry, werry hard.'
I marvelled much to hear him sigh, And when he paused again, 'Come, come, you quaint old thing,' said I, 'Why thus this tone of pain?'
In silence Adam rose, and gained A seat amid the stones, And thus the veteran complained, The dear old bag of bones.
'Down by the wall the Village goes, How horrid sounds their glee, On Saturdays they early close, They have their Sundays free;
'And here, on this depressing spot, I cannot choose but moan That I, a labouring man, have not An hour to call my own.
'The Blacksmith in his Sunday things, The Clerk that leaves his till, Can give their thoughts of labour wings, And frolic as they will.
'To me they—drat 'em!—never give A thought; they wander by, An irritation while they live, A nuisance when they die.
'If there be one that needs lament The way these folks behave, 'Tis he whose holidays are spent In digging someone's grave,
'For when a person takes and dies, On Monday though it be, They never hold his obsequies Till Sunday after three.
'And thus it fares through their delay, That I may not begin To dig the grave till Saturday,— On Sunday fill it in.
'My Sabbath ease is broken through, My Saturdays destroyed; Many employ me; very few Have left me unemployed!'
Again did Adam murmur 'Drat!' And smote the old-churchyard, And said, as on his hands he spat, 'It's werry, werry hard!'
And as I rose, the path to take That led me home again, My head was in my wideawake, His words were in my brain.
ELEGY ON A RHINOCEROS
Come, let us weep for Begum; he is dead. Dead; and afar, where Thamis' waters lave The busy marge, he lies unvisited, Unsung; above no cypress branches wave, Nor tributary blossoms fringe his grave; Only would these poor numbers advertise His copious charms, and mourn for his demise.
Blithesome was he and beautiful; the Zoo Hath nought to match with Begum. He was one Of infinite humour; well indeed he knew To catch with mobile lips th' impetuous bun Tossed him-ward by some sire-encouraged son, Half-fearful, yet of pride fulfilled to note The dough, swift-homing down th' exultant throat.
Whilom he pensive stood, infoliate Of comfortable mud, and idly stirred His tiny caudal, disproportionate But not ungraceful, while a wanton herd Of revellers the mystic lens preferred; Whereof the focus rightly they addrest; And, Phoebus being kind, the button prest.
Then, being frolic, he, as one distraught, Would blindly, stumbling, seek the watery verge And sink, nor rise again. But when, untaught In craft, the mourners raised the untimely dirge, Lo! otherwhere himself would swift emerge Incontinent, and crisp his tasselled ears; And, all vivacious, own the sounding cheers.
Nothing of dark suspicion nor of guile Was limned on Begum; his the mirthful glance, The genial port, the comprehensive smile:— The very sunbeams shimmering loved to dance Within that honest, open countenance;— And far as eye could pierce, his roomy grin Was pink, as 'twere Aurora dwelt therein.
Yet he is dead! Whether the froward cates Some lawless lodgment found, nor coughs released: Or if adown those hospitable gates Drave the strong North, or shrilled the ravening East, And, ill-requiting, slew the wretched beast, We nothing know; only the news is cried, Begum is dead: we know not how he died.
Still, though the callous bards neglect to hymn Thy praises, Begum; though, on dross intent, The hireling sculptor pauseth not to limn Thy spacious visage, kindly hands are bent E'en now to stuff thy frail integument. Then sleep in peace, Beloved; blest Sultan Of some Rhinokeraunian Devachan.
IN SEVERAL KEYS
We hear the opening refrain, Marie! We thought so; here you are again, Marie! A simple tune, in simple thirds, Beloved of after-dinner birds; A legend, self-condemned as 'words,' Marie!
She lingers by the flowing tide, Marie; A 'fisher-lad' is close beside Marie; He gazes in her 'eyes so blue'; Marie, Marie, my heart is true; And then,—you do, you know you do, Marie!—
But vain is every mortal wish, Marie; And 'fisher-lads' have got to fish, Marie; O blinding tears! O cheeks 'so' wet! Marie, I come again! And yet I shouldn't feel disposed to bet, Marie!
A tempest drives across the wave, Marie; With triplets in the treble stave, Marie; The player pounds. With bulging eyes Th' excited vocalist replies; The maddened octaves drown his cries, Marie!
The storm is past. We hear again, Marie, The simple thirds, the waltz refrain, Marie; We only see some drifting wrack, An empty bunk, a battered smack, Alas! Alas!! Alack!!! Alack!!!! Marie!
O good old words, O 'tears that rise,' Marie! O good young fisher-lad that dies, Marie! We leave you on the lonely shore;— You wave your hands for evermore, A bleak, disgusted semaphore, Marie!
IN SEVERAL KEYS
THE BALLAD OF MORBID MOTHERS
Why do you sit in the churchyard weeping? Why do you cling to the dear old graves, When the dim, drear mists of the dusk are creeping Out of the marshes in wan, white waves? Darling, I know you're a slave to sorrow; Dearie, I know that the world is cruel; But you'll be in bed with a cold to-morrow, I shall be running upstairs with gruel.
Why do you weep on a tombstone, Mammy, Sobbing alone in the drizzling sleet, When the chill mists rise, and the wind strikes clammy? Think of your bones, and your poor old feet! Darling, I know that you feel lugubrious; Dearie, I know you must work this off; But graveyards are not, as a rule, salubrious, Whence the expression, a 'churchyard cough.'
[The Old Lady explains her eccentric behaviour.]
Why do I ululate, dear my dearie, Coiled on a nastily mildewed tomb, When the horned owl hoots, and the world is weary, Weary of sorrow, and swamped in gloom? Childie my child, 'tis a cogent question; Dearie my dear, if you wish to know, Tis not that I suffer from indigestion, But that the Public ordains it so.
Babies, and Aunties, and dying brothers, Boom for a season, as 'loves' may part; But the old shop-ballad of Morbid Mothers Dives to the depths of the Public's heart. Dearie, with booms, at the best, precarious, All but the permanent needs must fail; And Childie, if Mammy became hilarious, Mammy would never command a sale.
THE STORY OF RUD.
Once for a tight little Island, fonder of ha'pence than kicks, Rud., a maker of verses, sang of an Empire of Bricks, Sang of the Sons of that Empire—told them they came of the Blood— Rubbing it under their noses. Read ye the Story of Rud!
Pleased was the Public to hear it—rose in their hundreds to sing— Swallowed it, chewed it, and gurgled: 'Verily, this is the thing! Thus do we wallop our foemen—roll 'em away in the mud— This is the People that we are. Glory and laurels for Rud.!'
Later he pictured a Panic—later he pictured a Scare, Pictured the burning of coast towns—skies in a reddening glare— Pictured the Mafficking Million—collared, abortive, alone— Out of the duty he owed them, pictured them down to the bone.
Sick was the Public to read it—passed it along to 'the Sports'— 'Fools in the full-flannelled breeches, oafs in the muddy-patched shorts'— Loafers and talkers and writers, furtively whispering low— 'Say that it's like 'em—it may be—nobody ever need know.
'Rud.,—would he drive us to Barracks—make of us militant hordes— Broke to the spit of the pom-pom—trained to the flashing of swords?— Pooh! It is these that he goes for—Sport is the bubble he pricks— Doubt not but we are The People—Bricks of an Empire of Bricks!'
What of that maker of verses? Did he not answer the call: 'Loafers and talkers and writers, children or knaves are ye all; Look at the lines ere ye quote them: read, ere ye cackle as geese!'? Nay. But he passed from The People—left them to stew in their grease.
* * * * *
But a hyphen-ish growl makes answer: 'Ye that would take from the whole The one line robbed of the context, nor win to the straight-set Goal, Is it thus ye will fend the warning—thus ye will move the shame From the Mob that watch by the thousand, to the dozens that play the game? Still will ye pay at the turnstile—thronging the rope-ringed Match, Where the half-back fumbles the leather, or the deep-field butters the catch? Will ye thank your gods (being 'umble) that the fool and the oaf are found In the field, at the goal or the wicket, and not in the seats around? Not in the Saturday Squallers—men of a higher grade— That lay down a law they know not, of a game that they have not played? Holding the folly of flannel, still will ye teach the Schools That Wisdom is dressed in shoddy, and how should the Wise be fools? Not doubting but ye are The People—ye are the Sons of The Blood? Loafers and talkers and writers,—Read ye the Verses of Rud.!'
THE HAPPY ENDING
STANZAS WRITTEN IN DEJECTION
I am tired of the day with its profitless labours, And tired of the night with its lack of repose, I am sick of myself, my surroundings, and neighbours, Especially Aryan Brothers and crows; O land of illusory hope for the needy, O centre of soldiering, thirst, and shikar, When a broken-down exile begins to get seedy, What a beast of a country you are!
There are many, I know, that have honestly drawn a Most moving description of pleasures to win By the exquisite carnage of such of your fauna As Nature provides with a 'head' or a 'skin'; I know that a pig is magnificent sticking; But good as you are in the matter of sports, When a person's alive, so to put it, and kicking, You're a brute when a man's out of sorts.
For the moment he feels the effects of the weather— A mild go of fever—a touch of the sun— He arrives with a jerk at the end of his tether, And finds your attractions a bit overdone; Impatiently conscious of boredom and worry, He sits in his misery, scowling at grief, With a face like a pallid rechauffee of curry, And a head like a lump of boiled beef.
I am sick of the day (as I happened to mention), And sick of the night (as I stated before), And it's oh, for the wings of a dove or a pension To carry me home to a happier shore! And oh, to be off, homeward bound, on the briny, Away from the tropics—away from the heat, And to take off a shocking old hat to the Shiny, As I shake off her dust from my feet!
THE FINEST VIEW
Away, away! The plains of Ind Have set their victim free; I give my sorrows to the wind, My sun-hat to the sea; And, standing with a chosen few, I watch a dying glow, The passing of the Finest View That all the world can show.
It would not fire an artist's eye, This View whereof I sing; Poets, no doubt, would pass it by As quite a common thing; The Tourist with belittling sniff Would find no beauties there— He couldn't if he would, and if He could he wouldn't care.
Only for him that turns the back On dark and evil days It throws a glory down his track That sets his heart ablaze; A charm to make the wounded whole, Which wearied eyes may draw Luxuriously through the soul, Like cocktails through a straw.
I have seen strong men moved to tears When gazing o'er the deep, Hard men, whom I have known for years, Nor dreamt that they could weep; Even myself, though stern and cold Beyond the common line, Cannot, for very joy, withhold The tribute of my brine.
Farewell, farewell, thou best of Views! I leave thee to thy pain, And, while I have the power to choose, We shall not meet again; But, 'mid the scenes of joy and mirth, My fancies oft will turn Back to the Finest Sight on Earth, The Bombay Lights—astern!
Here, in mine old-time harbourage installed, Lulled by the murmurous hum of London's traffic To that full calm which may be justly called Seraphic,
I praise the gods; and vow, for my escape From the hard grip of premature Jehannun, One golden-tissued bottle of the grape Per annum.
For on this day, from Orient toils enlarged, Kneeling, I kissed the parent soil at Dover, Where a huge porter in his orbit charged Me over;
Flashed in the train by Shorncliffe's draughty camp; Gazed on the hurrying landscape's pastoral graces, Old farms, and happy fields (a trifle damp In places);
Passed the grim suburbs, indigent and bare Of natural foliage, but bravely flying Frank garlandry of last week's underwear Out drying;
And so to Town; and with that blessed sight I, a poor fevered wreck, forgot to shiver— Forgot to mourn the Burden of my White Man's Liver;
And felt my bosom heave, my breast expand, With thoughts too sweet, too deep for empty cackle, Such thoughts as nothing but a first-class Band Could tackle:
Till, from its deeps, my celebrated smile (Which friends called Marvel) clove my jaws asunder, Lucid, intense, and all men stood awhile In wonder!
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Let none approach me now, for I have dined; The fire is bright; Havana's choice aroma Infects my being with a pleasant kind Of coma;
Calmly I contemplate my future lot: I reconstruct the past—it fails to strike me With aught of horror (pity there are not More like me!)—
My bosom's lord sits lightly on my breast; The East grows dim; and every hour I stuck to it Imparts a richer brightness to the West, Good luck to it!
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