DEPARTMENTAL DITTIES and BALLADS AND BARRACK ROOM BALLADS
VOLUME I: DEPARTMENTAL DITTIES AND OTHER VERSES
Study of an Elevation, in Indian Ink
A Legend of the Foreign Office
The Story of Uriah
The Post that Fitted
The Man Who Could Write
A Code of Morals
The Last Department
VOLUME II: BALLADS AND BARRACK-ROOM BALLADS
The Ballad of East and West
The Last Suttee
The Ballad of the King's Mercy
The Ballad of the King's Jest
The Ballad of Boh Da Thone
The Lament of the Border Cattle Thief
The Rhyme of the Three Captains
The Ballad of the "Clampherdown"
The Ballad of the "Bolivar"
The English Flag
An Imperial Rescript
The Widow at Windsor
The Young British Soldier
Ford O' Kabul River
I have eaten your bread and salt,
I have drunk your water and wine,
The deaths ye died I have watched beside,
And the lives that ye led were mine.
Was there aught that I did not share
In vigil or toil or ease,
One joy or woe that I did not know,
Dear hearts across the seas?
I have written the tale of our life
For a sheltered people's mirth,
In jesting guise - but ye are wise,
And ye know what the jest is worth.
We are very slightly changed
From the semi-apes who ranged
India's prehistoric clay;
Whoso drew the longest bow,
Ran his brother down, you know,
As we run men down today.
"Dowb," the first of all his race,
Met the Mammoth face to face
On the lake or in the cave,
Stole the steadiest canoe,
Ate the quarry others slew,
Died - and took the finest grave.
When they scratched the reindeer-bone
Someone made the sketch his own,
Filched it from the artist - then,
Even in those early days,
Won a simple Viceroy's praise
Through the toil of other men.
Ere they hewed the Sphinx's visage
Favoritism governed kissage,
Even as it does in this age.
Who shall doubt the secret hid
Under Cheops' pyramid
Was that the contractor did
Cheops out of several millions?
Or that Joseph's sudden rise
To Comptroller of Supplies
Was a fraud of monstrous size
On King Pharoah's swart Civilians?
Thus, the artless songs I sing
Do not deal with anything
New or never said before.
As it was in the beginning,
Is today official sinning,
And shall be forevermore.
Old is the song that I sing -
Old as my unpaid bills -
Old as the chicken that kitmutgars bring
Men at dak-bungalows - old as the Hills.
Ahasuerus Jenkins of the "Operatic Own"
Was dowered with a tenor voice of super-Santley tone.
His views on equitation were, perhaps, a trifle queer;
He had no seat worth mentioning, but oh! he had an ear.
He clubbed his wretched company a dozen times a day,
He used to quit his charger in a parabolic way,
His method of saluting was the joy of all beholders,
But Ahasuerus Jenkins had a head upon his shoulders.
He took two months to Simla when the year was at the spring,
And underneath the deodars eternally did sing.
He warbled like a bulbul, but particularly at
Cornelia Agrippina who was musical and fat.
She controlled a humble husband, who, in turn, controlled a Dept.,
Where Cornelia Agrippina's human singing-birds were kept
From April to October on a plump retaining fee,
Supplied, of course, per mensem, by the Indian Treasury.
Cornelia used to sing with him, and Jenkins used to play;
He praised unblushingly her notes, for he was false as they:
So when the winds of April turned the budding roses brown,
Cornelia told her husband: "Tom, you mustn't send him down."
They haled him from his regiment which didn't much regret him;
They found for him an office-stool, and on that stool they set him,
To play with maps and catalogues three idle hours a day,
And draw his plump retaining fee - which means his double pay.
Now, ever after dinner, when the coffeecups are brought,
Ahasuerus waileth o'er the grand pianoforte;
And, thanks to fair Cornelia, his fame hath waxen great,
And Ahasuerus Jenkins is a power in the State.
STUDY OF AN ELEVATION, IN INDIAN INK
This ditty is a string of lies.
But - how the deuce did Gubbins rise?
POTIPHAR GUBBINS, C. E.,
Stands at the top of the tree;
And I muse in my bed on the reasons that led
To the hoisting of Potiphar G.
Potiphar Gubbins, C. E.,
Is seven years junior to Me;
Each bridge that he makes he either buckles or breaks,
And his work is as rough as he.
Potiphar Gubbins, C. E.,
Is coarse as a chimpanzee;
And I can't understand why you gave him your hand,
Lovely Mehitabel Lee.
Potiphar Gubbins, C. E.,
Is dear to the Powers that Be;
For They bow and They smile in an affable style
Which is seldom accorded to Me.
Potiphar Gubbins, C. E.,
Is certain as certain can be
Of a highly-paid post which is claimed by a host
Of seniors - including Me.
Careless and lazy is he,
Greatly inferior to Me.
What is the spell that you manage so well,
Commonplace Potiphar G.?
Lovely Mehitabel Lee,
Let me inquire of thee,
Should I have riz to what Potiphar is,
Hadst thou been mated to me?
This is the reason why Rustum Beg,
Rajah of Kolazai,
Drinketh the "simpkin" and brandy peg,
Maketh the money to fly,
Vexeth a Government, tender and kind,
Also - but this is a detail - blind.
RUSTUM BEG of Kolazai - slightly backward native state
Lusted for a C. S. I., - so began to sanitate.
Built a Jail and Hospital - nearly built a City drain -
Till his faithful subjects all thought their Ruler was insane.
Strange departures made he then - yea, Departments stranger still,
Half a dozen Englishmen helped the Rajah with a will,
Talked of noble aims and high, hinted of a future fine
For the state of Kolazai, on a strictly Western line.
Rajah Rustum held his peace; lowered octroi dues a half;
Organized a State Police; purified the. Civil Staff;
Settled cess and tax afresh in a very liberal way;
Cut temptations of the flesh - also cut the Bukhshi's pay;
Roused his Secretariat to a fine Mahratta fury,
By a Hookum hinting at supervision of dasturi;
Turned the State of Kolazai very nearly upside-down;
When the end of May was nigh, waited his achievement crown.
When the Birthday Honors came,
Sad to state and sad to see,
Stood against the Rajah's name nothing more than C. I. E.!
* * * * *
Things were lively for a week in the State of Kolazai.
Even now the people speak of that time regretfully.
How he disendowed the Jail - stopped at once the City drain;
Turned to beauty fair and frail - got his senses back again;
Doubled taxes, cesses, all; cleared away each new-built thana;
Turned the two-lakh Hospital into a superb Zenana;
Heaped upon the Bukhshi Sahib wealth and honors manifold;
Clad himself in Eastern garb - squeezed his people as of old.
Happy, happy Kolazai! Never more will Rustum Beg
Play to catch the Viceroy's eye. He prefers the "simpkin" peg.
THE STORY OF URIAH
"Now there were two men in one city;
the one rich and the other poor."
Jack Barrett went to Quetta
Because they told him to.
He left his wife at Simla
On three-fourths his monthly screw:
Jack Barrett died at Quetta
Ere the next month's pay he drew.
Jack Barrett went to Quetta.
He didn't understand
The reason of his transfer
From the pleasant mountain-land:
The season was September,
And it killed him out of hand.
Jack Barrett went to Quetta,
And there gave up the ghost,
Attempting two men's duty
In that very healthy post;
And Mrs. Barrett mourned for him
Five lively months at most.
Jack Barrett's bones at Quetta
Enjoy profound repose;
But I shouldn't be astonished
If now his spirit knows
The reason of his transfer
From the Himalayan snows.
And, when the Last Great Bugle Call
Adown the Hurnal throbs,
When the last grim joke is entered
In the big black Book of Jobs,
And Quetta graveyards give again
Their victims to the air,
I shouldn't like to be the man
Who sent Jack Barrett there.
THE POST THAT FITTED
Though tangled and twisted the course of true love
This ditty explains,
No tangle's so tangled it cannot improve
If the Lover has brains.
Ere the steamer bore him Eastward, Sleary was engaged to marry
An attractive girl at Tunbridge, whom he called "my little Carrie."
Sleary's pay was very modest; Sleary was the other way.
Who can cook a two-plate dinner on eight poor rupees a day?
Long he pondered o'er the question in his scantly furnished quarters -
Then proposed to Minnie Boffkin, eldest of Judge Boffkin's daughters.
Certainly an impecunious Subaltern was not a catch,
But the Boffkins knew that Minnie mightn't make another match.
So they recognised the business and, to feed and clothe the bride,
Got him made a Something Something somewhere on the Bombay side.
Anyhow, the billet carried pay enough for him to marry -
As the artless Sleary put it: - "Just the thing for me and Carrie."
Did he, therefore, jilt Miss Boffkin - impulse of a baser mind?
No! He started epileptic fits of an appalling kind.
[Of his modus operandi only this much I could gather: -
"Pears's shaving sticks will give you little taste and lots of lather."]
Frequently in public places his affliction used to smite
Sleary with distressing vigour - always in the Boffkins' sight.
Ere a week was over Minnie weepingly returned his ring,
Told him his "unhappy weakness" stopped all thought of marrying.
Sleary bore the information with a chastened holy joy, -
Epileptic fits don't matter in Political employ, -
Wired three short words to Carrie - took his ticket, packed his kit -
Bade farewell to Minnie Boffkin in one last, long, lingering fit.
Four weeks later, Carrie Sleary read - and laughed until she wept -
Mrs. Boffkin's warning letter on the "wretched epilept." . . .
Year by year, in pious patience, vengeful Mrs. Boffkin sits
Waiting for the Sleary babies to develop Sleary's fits.
Walpole talks of "a man and his price."
List to a ditty queer -
The sale of a Deputy-Acting-Vice-
Bought like a bullock, hoof and hide,
By the Little Tin Gods on the Mountain Side.
By the Laws of the Family Circle 'tis written in letters of brass
That only a Colonel from Chatham can manage the Railways of State,
Because of the gold on his breeks, and the subjects wherein he must pass;
Because in all matters that deal not with Railways his knowledge is great.
Now Exeter Battleby Tring had laboured from boyhood to eld
On the Lines of the East and the West, and eke of the North and South;
Many Lines had he built and surveyed - important the posts which he held;
And the Lords of the Iron Horse were dumb when he opened his mouth.
Black as the raven his garb, and his heresies jettier still -
Hinting that Railways required lifetimes of study and knowledge -
Never clanked sword by his side - Vauban he knew not nor drill -
Nor was his name on the list of the men who had passed through the "College."
Wherefore the Little Tin Gods harried their little tin souls,
Seeing he came not from Chatham, jingled no spurs at his heels,
Knowing that, nevertheless, was he first on the Government rolls
For the billet of "Railway Instructor to Little Tin Gods on Wheels."
Letters not seldom they wrote him, "having the honour to state,"
It would be better for all men if he were laid on the shelf.
Much would accrue to his bank-book, an he consented to wait
Until the Little Tin Gods built him a berth for himself,
"Special, well paid, and exempt from the Law of the Fifty and Five,
Even to Ninety and Nine" - these were the terms of the pact:
Thus did the Little Tin Gods (long may Their Highnesses thrive!)
Silence his mouth with rupees, keeping their Circle intact;
Appointing a Colonel from Chatham who managed the Bhamo State Line
(The which was one mile and one furlong - a guaranteed twenty-inch gauge),
So Exeter Battleby Tring consented his claims to resign,
And died, on four thousand a month, in the ninetieth year of his age!
We have another viceroy now, - those days are dead and done
Of Delilah Aberyswith and depraved Ulysses Gunne.
Delilah Aberyswith was a lady - not too young -
With a perfect taste in dresses and a badly-bitted tongue,
With a thirst for information, and a greater thirst for praise,
And a little house in Simla in the Prehistoric Days.
By reason of her marriage to a gentleman in power,
Delilah was acquainted with the gossip of the hour;
And many little secrets, of the half-official kind,
Were whispered to Delilah, and she bore them all in mind.
She patronized extensively a man, Ulysses Gunne,
Whose mode of earning money was a low and shameful one.
He wrote for certain papers, which, as everybody knows,
Is worse than serving in a shop or scaring off the crows.
He praised her "queenly beauty" first; and, later on, he hinted
At the "vastness of her intellect" with compliment unstinted.
He went with her a-riding, and his love for her was such
That he lent her all his horses and - she galled them very much.
One day, THEY brewed a secret of a fine financial sort;
It related to Appointments, to a Man and a Report.
'Twas almost worth the keeping, - only seven people knew it -
And Gunne rose up to seek the truth and patiently pursue it.
It was a Viceroy's Secret, but - perhaps the wine was red -
Perhaps an Aged Councillor had lost his aged head -
Perhaps Delilah's eyes were bright - Delilah's whispers sweet -
The Aged Member told her what 'twere treason to repeat.
Ulysses went a-riding, and they talked of love and flowers;
Ulysses went a-calling, and he called for several hours;
Ulysses went a-waltzing, and Delilah helped him dance -
Ulysses let the waltzes go, and waited for his chance.
The summer sun was setting, and the summer air was still,
The couple went a-walking in the shade of Summer Hill.
The wasteful sunset faded out in Turkish-green and gold,
Ulysses pleaded softly, and - that bad Delilah told!
Next morn, a startled Empire learnt the all-important news;
Next week, the Aged Councillor was shaking in his shoes.
Next month, I met Delilah and she did not show the least
Hesitation in affirming that Ulysses was a "beast."
* * * * *
We have another Viceroy now, those days are dead and done -
Of Delilah Aberyswith and most mean Ulysses Gunne!
Hurree Chunder Mookerjee, pride of Bow Bazaar,
Owner of a native press, "Barrishter-at-Lar,"
Waited on the Government with a claim to wear
Sabres by the bucketful, rifles by the pair.
Then the Indian Government winked a wicked wink,
Said to Chunder Mookerjee: "Stick to pen and ink.
They are safer implements, but, if you insist,
We will let you carry arms wheresoe'er you list."
Hurree Chunder Mookerjee sought the gunsmith and
Bought the tubes of Lancaster, Ballard, Dean, and Bland,
Bought a shiny bowie-knife, bought a town-made sword,
Jingled like a carriage-horse when he went abroad.
But the Indian Government, always keen to please,
Also gave permission to horrid men like these -
Yar Mahommed Yusufzai, down to kill or steal,
Chimbu Singh from Bikaneer, Tantia the Bhil;
Killar Khan the Marri chief, Jowar Singh the Sikh,
Nubbee Baksh Punjabi Jat, Abdul Huq Rafiq -
He was a Wahabi; last, little Boh Hla-oo
Took advantage of the Act - took a Snider too.
They were unenlightened men, Ballard knew them not.
They procured their swords and guns chiefly on the spot;
And the lore of centuries, plus a hundred fights,
Made them slow to disregard one another's rights.
With a unanimity dear to patriot hearts
All those hairy gentlemen out of foreign parts
Said: "The good old days are back - let us go to war!"
Swaggered down the Grand Trunk Road into Bow Bazaar,
Nubbee Baksh Punjabi Jat found a hide-bound flail;
Chimbu Singh from Bikaneer oiled his Tonk jezail;
Yar Mahommed Yusufzai spat and grinned with glee
As he ground the butcher-knife of the Khyberee.
Jowar Singh the Sikh procured sabre, quoit, and mace,
Abdul Huq, Wahabi, jerked his dagger from its place,
While amid the jungle-grass danced and grinned and jabbered
Little Boh Hla-oo and cleared his dah-blade from the scabbard.
What became of Mookerjee? Soothly, who can say?
Yar Mahommed only grins in a nasty way,
Jowar Singh is reticent, Chimbu Singh is mute.
But the belts of all of them simply bulge with loot.
What became of Ballard's guns? Afghans black and grubby
Sell them for their silver weight to the men of Pubbi;
And the shiny bowie-knife and the town-made sword are
Hanging in a Marri camp just across the Border.
What became of Mookerjee? Ask Mahommed Yar
Prodding Siva's sacred bull down the Bow Bazaar.
Speak to placid Nubbee Baksh - question land and sea -
Ask the Indian Congressmen - only don't ask me!
"They are fools who kiss and tell" -
Wisely has the poet sung.
Man may hold all sorts of posts
If he'll only hold his tongue.
Jenny and Me were engaged, you see,
On the eve of the Fancy Ball;
So a kiss or two was nothing to you
Or any one else at all.
Jenny would go in a domino -
Pretty and pink but warm;
While I attended, clad in a splendid
Now we had arranged, through notes exchanged
Early that afternoon,
At Number Four to waltz no more,
But to sit in the dusk and spoon.
I wish you to see that Jenny and Me
Had barely exchanged our troth;
So a kiss or two was strictly due
By, from, and between us both.
When Three was over, an eager lover,
I fled to the gloom outside;
And a Domino came out also
Whom I took for my future bride.
That is to say, in a casual way,
I slipped my arm around her;
With a kiss or two (which is nothing to you),
And ready to kiss I found her.
She turned her head and the name she said
Was certainly not my own;
But ere I could speak, with a smothered shriek
She fled and left me alone.
Then Jenny came, and I saw with shame
She'd doffed her domino;
And I had embraced an alien waist -
But I did not tell her so.
Next morn I knew that there were two
Dominoes pink, and one
Had cloaked the spouse of Sir Julian House,
Our big Political gun.
Sir J. was old, and her hair was gold,
And her eye was a blue cerulean;
And the name she said when she turned her head
Was not in the least like "Julian."
THE MAN WHO COULD WRITE
Shun - shun the Bowl! That fatal, facile drink
Has ruined many geese who dipped their quills in 't;
Bribe, murder, marry, but steer clear of Ink
Save when you write receipts for paid-up bills in 't.
There may be silver in the "blue-black" - all
I know of is the iron and the gall.
Boanerges Blitzen, servant of the Queen,
Is a dismal failure - is a Might-have-been.
In a luckless moment he discovered men
Rise to high position through a ready pen.
Boanerges Blitzen argued therefore - "I,
With the selfsame weapon, can attain as high."
Only he did not possess when he made the trial,
Wicked wit of C-lv-n, irony of L - l.
[Men who spar with Government need, to back their blows,
Something more than ordinary journalistic prose.]
Never young Civilian's prospects were so bright,
Till an Indian paper found that he could write:
Never young Civilian's prospects were so dark,
When the wretched Blitzen wrote to make his mark.
Certainly he scored it, bold, and black, and firm,
In that Indian paper - made his seniors squirm,
Quoted office scandals, wrote the tactless truth -
Was there ever known a more misguided youth?
When the Rag he wrote for praised his plucky game,
Boanerges Blitzen felt that this was Fame;
When the men he wrote of shook their heads and swore,
Boanerges Blitzen only wrote the more:
Posed as Young Ithuriel, resolute and grim,
Till he found promotion didn't come to him;
Till he found that reprimands weekly were his lot,
And his many Districts curiously hot.
Till he found his furlough strangely hard to win,
Boanerges Blitzen didn't care to pin:
Then it seemed to dawn on him something wasn't right -
Boanerges Blitzen put it down to "spite";
Languished in a District desolate and dry;
Watched the Local Government yearly pass him by;
Wondered where the hitch was; called it most unfair.
* * * * * * * * *
That was seven years ago - and he still is there!
"Why is my District death-rate low?"
Said Binks of Hezabad.
"Well, drains, and sewage-outfalls are
"My own peculiar fad.
"I learnt a lesson once, It ran
"Thus," quoth that most veracious man: -
It was an August evening and, in snowy garments clad,
I paid a round of visits in the lines of Hezabad;
When, presently, my Waler saw, and did not like at all,
A Commissariat elephant careering down the Mall.
I couldn't see the driver, and across my mind it rushed
That that Commissariat elephant had suddenly gone musth.
I didn't care to meet him, and I couldn't well get down,
So I let the Waler have it, and we headed for the town.
The buggy was a new one and, praise Dykes, it stood the strain,
Till the Waler jumped a bullock just above the City Drain;
And the next that I remember was a hurricane of squeals,
And the creature making toothpicks of my five-foot patent wheels.
He seemed to want the owner, so I fled, distraught with fear,
To the Main Drain sewage-outfall while he snorted in my ear -
Reached the four-foot drain-head safely and, in darkness and despair,
Felt the brute's proboscis fingering my terror-stiffened hair.
Heard it trumpet on my shoulder - tried to crawl a little higher -
Found the Main Drain sewage outfall blocked, some eight feet up, with mire;
And, for twenty reeking minutes, Sir, my very marrow froze,
While the trunk was feeling blindly for a purchase on my toes!
It missed me by a fraction, but my hair was turning grey
Before they called the drivers up and dragged the brute away.
Then I sought the City Elders, and my words were very plain.
They flushed that four-foot drain-head and - it never choked again!
You may hold with surface-drainage, and the sun-for-garbage cure,
Till you've been a periwinkle shrinking coyly up a sewer.
I believe in well-flushed culverts. . . .
This is why the death-rate's small;
And, if you don't believe me, get shikarred yourself. That's all.
A CODE OF MORALS
Lest you should think this story true
I merely mention I
Evolved it lately. 'Tis a most
Now Jones had left his new-wed bride to keep his house in order,
And hied away to the Hurrum Hills above the Afghan border,
To sit on a rock with a heliograph; but ere he left he taught
His wife the working of the Code that sets the miles at naught.
And Love had made him very sage, as Nature made her fair;
So Cupid and Apollo linked, per heliograph, the pair.
At dawn, across the Hurrum Hills, he flashed her counsel wise -
At e'en, the dying sunset bore her husband's homilies.
He warned her 'gainst seductive youths in scarlet clad and gold,
As much as 'gainst the blandishments paternal of the old;
But kept his gravest warnings for (hereby the ditty hangs)
That snowy-haired Lothario, Lieutenant-General Bangs.
'Twas General Bangs, with Aide and Staff, who tittupped on the way,
When they beheld a heliograph tempestuously at play.
They thought of Border risings, and of stations sacked and burnt -
So stopped to take the message down - and this is what they learnt -
"Dash dot dot, dot, dot dash, dot dash dot" twice. The General swore.
"Was ever General Officer addressed as 'dear' before?
"'My Love,' i' faith! 'My Duck,' Gadzooks! 'My darling popsy-wop!'
"Spirit of great Lord Wolseley, who is on that mountaintop?"
The artless Aide-de-camp was mute; the gilded Staff were still,
As, dumb with pent-up mirth, they booked that message from the hill;
For clear as summer lightning-flare, the husband's warning ran: -
"Don't dance or ride with General Bangs - a most immoral man."
[At dawn, across the Hurrum Hills, he flashed her counsel wise -
But, howsoever Love be blind, the world at large hath eyes.]
With damnatory dot and dash he heliographed his wife
Some interesting details of the General's private life.
The artless Aide-de-camp was mute, the shining Staff were still,