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The drum-wave island, and other verses of the China Coast online

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Kate Gordon Moore

3)rum*Wa*)e gdfand

tfncf Otfter Verded


BY B. N.








The Drum- Wave Island 4

The ' China Hand ' 5

A Letter on Passage 6

A Port in China 7

My China Garden 8

A White Grave 9

The Land of Tea 10

Buddha's Foot 11

Politeness 13

The Coolie 16

The 'Boy' 17

The Priest 18

The Scholar 19

The 'Griffin' 21

A Fisherman's Grave 22

In Hokkien 23

Taitan Island 27

'To London' 28

' With Apologies ' 29

The * Jamboree ' , . 31


Dragon Boats 33

Confucius 86

Khoan Jit Tai 87

Koxinga, 1662 39

A Solemn Appeal 41

'Maskee' 42

The Lost Heart 43

Confucian Analects 44

To Hongkong from the North.. 45

The Laughing Buddha 46

The English Breeze 48

Far Amoy 49

Mr. Tiger 60

On Shore 51

Finale 54

The Chinese Gong 55

The Falling Dollar 56

Good-bye! 67

Home 68

In Kolongsu 59


The waves come on with an oily sweep, but plunge with a

thunderous blow,
Like a big drum banged by a sturdy hand, certain, and full, and

And Westward from the Drum Wave Island the evening sky's


The deep sea heaves from the distant line, livid, and cold, and

The rocks that strove to resist its course are beaten and whelmed

in spray.
And the shore where once the rice-fields ended bewails the

coming sway.

The glory fades from the Western sky, stirred by a parting

The light deserts these dull dim hills ; what is there left

behind ?
Darkness, and dreary changelessness, and mournfulness resigned.

The sky and the sea are blotted out, they fade in a mist

of tears,
For a rain-cloud meets the dying day, and his tale in pity

And the Warrior of the South's Pagoda l stealthily disappears.

The waves fall down with a roaring crash, though they rose on a

soundless flow,

For Chhan Be 2 in Kolongsu 3 feels the Sea's severest blow,
Booms out like a drum to a skilful hand, measured, and deep,

and slow.

(i) Chinese : Lam Tai Bu, a tall hill S.E. of Amoy.
(a) Literally 'End of the Fields.'
(3) Literally 'Drum Wave Island.'


(Returning Eastward).

There's the hooter screaming out its warning loud,

There's the smoke ascending from our funnels high,
There's a din of voices from that noisy crowd,

Fills all the air with echoes of* Good-bye';

I cannot think how anyone can cry,
When all these signs our quick departure prove,

What need of tearful face or woful sigh ?

We are moving, we are moving, still we move !

There are people standing near with faces bowed,
There are women weeping low, I wonder why ?

There are men whose looks are sad, depressed and cowed,
Good heavens ! Strong indeed must be the tie,
You'd think they were of other race than I

Who, as the shore fades, more and more approve,
For signs of gathering speed I can descry,
We are moving, we are moving, still we move !

It's a dear old land ; of course that is allowed,

But other lands across these billows lie,
And, though of the old mother one is proud,

Her offspring, sure, are quite well worth a try ;

The screw throbs, and the seas are racing by,
The rollers heave, the big ship rides above,

Away to warmer climes and brighter sky

We are moving, we are moving, still we move !


The old sensations fade, old voices die,

I am winning to a newer, gayer love,
For the distance lessens ever as we fly

We are moving, we are moving, still we move !


There's a dance going on, not this side of the deck,

And I sit in the shadow alone,
Though, to tell the plain truth, not at all do I reck

Of the stray sitters-out who are gone.
The music still comes to my ears as I sit,

Though the dancers are hid from my view,

I hear the faint sound of their laughter and wit.

And I'm writing a letter to you.

The boats that are hung just in front of my seat

Permit me a glimpse of the moon,
And she stirs in my breast all the memory sweet

Of that wonderful evening in June
When we strayed out so bitterly, you, love, and I

Till that grandest of moments was come,
And she still sheds a silvery path from the sky
On the waters, to you, love, and home !

I hear the dull throb from the engine-room's heart

That tells me we ceaselessly move,
For the best of all lovers are ever to part

From the best of all girls that they love ;
And the sound is a sign that the heart is to beat

Resistlessly, faithful and true ;
So, to fill up the time when my darling I greet,
I am writing this letter to you.


A blazing sun, a cloudless sky,
And, in the valley, here and there,

A scanty tract of fruitful ground,

A shattered pillar on a mound,

A straggling hedge, a stunted tree,

Dull rock-strewn hills, and whitened graves,
And, far below, the sea.

Hundreds of roofs display the town
From which no towers or spires arise,

Rows upon rows of tilted eaves

That nothing lightens or relieves,
Dark filthy streets that shun the sky

Where crowded shops hold tawdry sway
And thousands live and die.

Beyond, the busy harbour. Here
Smoke rises, and a ceaseless din,

For everywhere some great ship lies

Filling or filled with merchandise,
Yet only rests a briefest space ;

Aside two cruisers silent glower,

The watch-dogs of the place.

Strange contrast this of meeting worlds,
Of deep and unawakened sleep

With busy wakefulness. The East

Spread out, a rich and noble feast
Where all adventurers may call.

Yet she has myriad patient sons,
What lies behind it all ?


In my garden, heaps and heaps of flowers,

Red and blue and purple, white and pink,
Never heed the sunshine, never fade or shrink,

Never droop or wither all the burning hours ;

In my China garden there's no need of showers !

In my garden all the leaves are greener,

Fresher than the old land's meadows steeped in rain ;

None falls here, but our splendour does not wane,
Is it that this breeze is light and that is keener ?

By my China garden the old seems meaner.

Right before my view the blue sea glitters

And, beyond the sea, the white graves climb,
Clear ship-bells mark the passing time.

High above my head a sea-gull flitters ;

In my China garden a swarm of insects twitters.

In my garden butterflies wander

On errant wing, huge to stranger's view,
Black, yellow, red, the long day through ;

One day of life, and all to squander.

That's my China garden, and you live yonder !


A white grave, across the valley gazing

To the distant blue of the sea,
On a rock-strewn hill, in a silence dead, amazing,

Though it spoke to me.

Some fragrant bushes about the head-stone cluster

And their gay fresh flowers unfold,
Like a funeral-wreath for the deep-cut signs that muster

Still a trace of gold.

Some curving eaves in that narrow silent valley

Show that Life's below me still,
And up here is Death ; for the old king keeps his tally

On this grave-yard hill.

A rare sound, a plover passes moaning,

And, its words of sorrow said,
The wind on this strange wild hill now falls to groaning

For the unwept dead !


There are no clouds in the sky
And the wind has ceased to sigh,

But there is no ring of laughter, no sound of mirth and glee
After toil the soul relieving ;
But there's a Quiet, unbelieving,
Like a speechless, hopeless grieving
In the land of Tea.

On the high, bare hills
Something whispers, something thrills,
Like some one word, haply uttered, that stirs a memory.
But the solemn gray mist hovers
And that gentle murmur covers,
For hill and mist are lovers

In the land of Tea.

Then the golden glories fly,
And the tired day must die,

And its life-blood wells out crimson on Western sky and sea,
With a last long gasp it shivers,
As the wind its farewell quivers,
And to-night the rule delivers

In the land of Tea.

In the still deep dark
There are voices calling, hark !
Of innumerable years, gone before we came to be,
Of the dead souls that endeavour
From their sad graves here to sever
And the silent vague ' For Ever,'
In the land of Tea.


" The Temple on the side of the hill has a beautiful view."

Up the crumbled steps above the Temple,
Looking down on the courts below,

By the massive rocks that have stood the shocks
Of centuries of the winds that blow,

On the smooth-worn top of a giant boulder
There's the trace still seen of a spot once trod

By the foot of him whom this country dim
Looks upon as a Lord and God.

When Buddha stood and gazed before him,

He saw extended the fairest scene
And he blessed the place with this clear-seen trace

That in such a pleasaunce a god had been,

So this loved home of the Living Goddess

Whose * mercy lasts through a thousand years,'

Since two such powers have loved its bowers,
Has no more longings and no more fears.

Its heights look down on the Tiger's dwelling
And, 'neath the Tiger, the White Deer's shrine,
And its tall fir trees, swayed in the breeze,

Still guard a place that is all divine.

Beyond the sea, and beyond the mainland,
To the water's margin the hills slope down,

And the graves are here, and the graves are there,
And the Wind and Water are all their own ;


And the blessings rest on the Hill-side Temple.

Ten thousand years, as the sages say,
For it guards the sign of its lord divine

As fresh and clear as upon the day,

That he gazed far over the plain beneath him
To the hills beyond with their tender blue,

And the Western home where he used to roam
All faded out in this * fairest view.'

(7) Soan pin giam the Hill-side Temple or the Temple of Ten
thousand years on Amoy Island , on the rocks above which is
a mark called Buddha's Foot.


Tan Ah Lim was a Chinaman simple
Who flourished and lived in Amoy,

On each of his cheeks was a dimple,
His face was expressive of joy,

He smoked a queer pipe like the branch of a tree

And his days were as happy as happy can be.

He was really a splendid old sinner

With quite a clean (outermost) coat,

He'd have passed at a Kensington dinner
Except for his clearing his throat !

From behind he appeared like an overgrown sack

And a glossy long pigtail hung down on his back.

One day, in the hottest of weather,

Ah Lim took his second-best fan
Which, with the long pigtail together,

Are protection enough for a Man
From the rays of the sun, though a Foreigner would
Be sure to get sunstroke and all for his good !

Ah Lim went to call on another,

A mandarin, quite of the best,
Who lived with his father and mother

And a household of fifty at least
All mixed up together in one little house
With all sorts of beasts from a pig to a mouse !



His friend met Ah Lim in the garden
And conducted him up to the door,

Then each kept on begging for pardon,
Since one must go first, to be sure,

And a Chinaman, here I am sure I am right,

Is nothing at all if he isn't polite.

So Lim, after plenty of pressure,

Sat down and began to enquire.
1 And how is the Household's Chief Treasure ?'

( By which he referred to the sire),
And his friend in a moment replied with a thrill
4 I'm ashamed to confess, the House-Parent is ill !'

Next the visitor asked for the mother,

And it seemed the ( House-Mistress ' was well,
And the { much-to-be-honoured Chief Brother '

Was gone to Malacca to dwell ;

But when he next asked for the Thousands of Gold '
It appeared his friend's daughter had lately been sold !

Then Lim, with a view to alliance,

Next asked for the sons of his friend

f And how are your glorious scions,

(To whom Heaven everything send)?'

But the other replied, quite according to rules,

1 My two little Puppies are nothing but fools !'


Next the other in turn, said each greeting
Like a man of politeness and worth,

And asked (when he'd finished repeating)
Lim's age, and the place of his birth ;

But the latter, it seemed, was disgracefully young

And was born in that 'vilest of places' Emng.

Then they chatted with great animation
Their subject being Dollars and Cash,

'Twas a talk that befitted their station
And all other matters are trash ;

Then tea was brought in and Lim wanted to go,

But he wasn't allowed for an hour or so !

For, whenever he made to be going,

His friend pushed him down in his seat,
Every sort of attention bestowing

As in China is proper and meet ;
But at last he went off, after stopping to dine
On bad eggs, and bird's-nests, and tepid rice-wine !


Round his head his hair is coiled
In a coarse cloth turban-wise,

His dress is ragged and badly soiled
And bloodshot are his eyes.

His jacket, open, displays his chest
A full deep copper-brown

This fellow, pig-tailed Chinaman'
Of Nursery renown.

He wouldn't answer a call of { John,'

He eats no dogs or mice,
The best of the food he lives upon

Is rice, and always rice ;
He doesn't 'savvy ' the pigeon-talk

That we always thought was due
From every pig-tailed Chinaman

Of brightest yellow hue !

He is not child-like, he is not bland,
He wears no guileless smile,

And, if we really could understand,
His words are often vile ;

But he works all right, and he carries loads
That would break a dray-horse down

This Chinaman 'with the almond-eyes'
Of Nursery renown.

1 7 THE <BOY.'

With face of peacefulest joy

The Boy reclines on his bed,
And draws sweet dreams from his Opium Pipe
While the Master yells overhead.
< Lai, lai, lai ! '

He dreams of a happy land,

A land of pilfer and squeeze,
Where Boys may slumber the whole day long
Nor heed such calls as these
c Lai, lai, lai ! '

In that dear, dreamy spot,

The Boy c can do no wrong,'
He lies or steals and it can't be proved,
4 That thing me no belong,'
(Lie! lie! lie!)

And his master's house is his,

And all his family sleep
In a c foreign lodging' and pay no rent

Nor any cash for keep.

(Lai! lai! lai!)

Where is that visional land ?

It strikes the wandering mind
That its best parallel lies where'er

Comes, wafted upon the wind,
1 Lai! lai! lai!'

*Tis only our old Cathay

Of which such things can be said.
But the Master smashes the Opium Pipe

And the boy shrieks, leaping from bed,
'Lai ! lai ! lai!'


In the old temple on the hill-top seen,

By rocks surrounded and by bushes green,

My life is spent. Long days of no avail :

When morning 'gins his course in garments gray

I wake from sleep, and, with the sunlight gay
I pass the long-drawn moments of the day,
Oh, the endless tale !

What use is it for the long-dead to pray ?

Awhile they sleep, and then must needs away,
After a short sweet rest they must prevail

O'er that grim Death that only lulls to sleep ;
Lost for awhile, they'll leave their slumbers deep,

The long watch is for us, the priests, to keep,
Oh, the endless tale !

Happy to rest awhile, one labour done,

Then rise again another course to run,

Again to live, again succeed or fail :

The poor man to be rich, the great man small,

The weak man to be strong, the lord a thrall,
Another cypher joins the sum of all
In the endless tale.

This is a hope to lighten our dull days,

Another lease of life ! And so we praise

Him, who vouchsafed the mystery to unveil.
Even a priest must come one day to Die,

The flesh-pot lover ! as the public cry,

May it be their's in turn this life to try
In the endless tale !


"I have heard of men using the doctrines of our great land to change
Barbarians, but I have never yet heard of any being changed by
Barbarians." Mencius, III., Part I, 4.

Sway, scholar, sway, the streets to-day

Are dry at least if not sweet-scented,
So take your slow and lordly way

Where drains are not as yet invented ;
With pigtail that so glossy swings

A pendulum towards your ankles,
With gown and fan and other things

Your whole appearance in one rankles.

Strut, scholar, strut, you're nothing but

The true result of all your learning,
You merely tread a deep old rut

Life's cleaner, newer highway spurning.
While foreigners around you vie,

Barbarians ! for your wealth contentious,
You merely gaze with sneering eye

And blast them with a text from Mencius !

Sneer, scholar, sneer ; the time is near

When some one else will take the rudder
Which you, who hold the Classics dear,

Can man about as well as Buddha !
Confucius' books and nothing else,

With laws as out-of-date as pillions,
May do for those who live in cells

But cannot rule four hundred millions !



Weep, scholar, weep ; a cleaner sweep

Than ever was within your dwellings
May make your portly form to leap,

And turn your haughty words to yellings ;
Time, swifter than your army, flies,

And soon the Russian, Jap or Aryan
May demonstrate that Mencius lies

When you are * changed ' by the Barbarian !


He comes in the innocent freshness of youth,

His manners are childlike and shy,
But, after a month, there is nothing in truth

That he isn't quite able to buy ;
He swaggers about in the costliest gear,

He riots the evening long,
In London they'd call him a Bounder, I fear,

But he lives as a Lord at H g !

He talks of his Stable, his Mess, and his Wine,

He scatters his Dollars around,
Among the great stars that in myriads shine

He sparkles, contemning the ground ;
No longer but one of the hard-working herds

That people a Bloomsbury stye,
In London he'd travel in Underground Thirds,

But he rides on a horse at S-

He lives with the greatest, he feeds on the best,

The ladies adore him as well,
Though they sometimes retire and give him a rest

At a glittering Uniform's spell ;
But this cannot abash him, for clearly he knows

That the claims of his dollars are strong,
And, when Duty commands, and the Uniform goes

He is always left King at H g !

He has ups, he has downs, for his pocket's a sieve

And the dollars don't always suffice,
So his creditors * down ' him, and then he must live,

Till the Consul releases, on rice ;
But, while he is able, he lives as a Lord,

(He would smack a real Lord in the eye !)
There's a question in London * What can you afford ? '

But it never is raised at S i !


They bring a memory of sandy beaches,

Long yellow beaches, once known and loved by thee,
Of flecked shallow waters and of deep still reaches,

But they've lost the Sea !

They may remind thee of the stormy waters,

Of nights spent with the danger near at hand,

For the Great Sea is indeed a Lord of Slaughters
Like the Great Land.

By them thou may'st remember summers glorious,

Oh ! the deep blue brightness of those summer days !

When a good catch made thee feel a King victorious,
And the glory stays ?

No ! These shells have lost all but the murmur dying,

Of the waves below on the broad beach sporting free,

And with thee here, in thy white-washed lone grave lying,
They have lost the sea !


In Hokkien, below the Blessed City (1)

By many leagues, queening a sweep of bay,
A little island, fairy-like and pretty

Lies in the slumber of a summer day.

The Drum- Wave Isle, upon whose golden beaches

In fair fine weather and in days of gloom,
The gray sea, climbing up in greedy reaches,

Beats out that far-heard, long-drawn, rolling boom.

The Drum-Wave Isle the narrow waters sever

From old Amoy, the famous Palace Gate,
That once was called the Town of Heron's River

A name that rang throughout the Blessed State.

Ah ! But the glory's faded, faded, faded

Like many a symbol on her ancient shrines,

Time in his course relentlessly has raided

Her old-time honours, though the Fame entwines ;

For old Amoy has seen her children's glory,

(As many another town in old Cathay),
Die with the sound of long-won battle's story,

Pass without pang, unsung, unmourned away ;

And, impotent, has seen, from distant places

Undreamed of in her mind's too narrow scope,

Scions of Western, all unheard-of races

Land on her shores buoyed up with greedy hope. (2)

Build on her own green fields their new-world houses,
Using her wealth to swell their countries' gold

Insult that wrath in feeblest mind arouses

And even stirred her spirit weak and old ;

(1) The 'Blessed City ' is Hok-chiu or Fuchow, Capital of the Province of

Hokkien (the Blessed State), usually known as Fuhkien.

(2) The Portuguese and Dutch at Amoy from the i^th Century. Amoy taken

by the English in 1841, but given back when made a Treaty Port.



An easy prey ! She saw her soldiers flying.

Gazed on them helpless as she heard the guns, ,

And straight received a generous foeman, lying
Inert but watchful, saving for her sons.

A scanty remnant of the former power

That guarded once the quiet sister isles,
When, in the stress of China's darker hour,

Her chief alone withstood the Tartar's wiles. (3)

Her chief alone, who fought a fight to finish

That men deemed lost ; who gained as prize of war

A Throne, a Name that never can diminish

Of one who crushed beneath his battle-car,

Those old adventurers from the Western heaven

Whose like, in arms and numbers mightier grown,

Enjoy the larger island's wealth, and even

Seize on the smaller wholly for their own.

Yet still they last, and shall outlast the ages,

Sphinxlike and dark, but lit with many a smile,

Quaintly regarded by their ancient sages

Who left some traces on the Drum-Wave Isle.

For men may talk of Chiang and of Tsoan

As though the Province could not these surpass, (4)

Yet, as the Bramble pales before the Rowan,
Yet as the Diamond outshines dull Glass,

So in the Drum- Wave, Queen of Islands, fairer
In her green gifts and sparkling sands of gold

Than those gray towns, in beauty all the rarer
Shining in contrast with the dim and old.

(3) Koxinga held out for the Ming Dynasty against the Tartars, and occupied

Amoy as his base in Hokkien. He afterward* turned the Dutch out of
Formosa, and became King there.

(4) Local proverb" Chinngchiu and Tsoan-chiu (large towns neighbouring

to Amoy) are the finest places in all Hokkien."


See on the flat face of that great dark boulder
By Sunshine Temple, on the steep hill-side,

Stands out the verdict of an age for older

Than that in which our grandsires lived and died :

" In the whole district called the Heron's River

The Drum- Wave Island is the chiefest place," (5)

Deep-cut the words, as doomed to last for ever,
For eyes of thousands yet unborn to trace,

Words that shall last, in living rock engraven,

As they have stood through years of faith and guile,

Long as the Tiger eyes the Palace Haven,

Long as the Dragon holds the Drum-Wave Isle, (6)

These view for aye the great ships coming, going,

Guards of the Harbour, as old stories say,
Watching the treacherous currents ebbing, flowing,

Now oily smooth, now boiling white with spray.

They see the white graves on the bare hills climbing
By Tiger Temple and the White Deer's shrine, (7)

And they repeat (though not in stanzas rhyming
Or mystic screed) this wondrous tale of thine,

Oh ! strange old country ; who, by years of waiting,
Perhaps may win (but do you care ?) to sway

All these new nations, whose strange customs hating,
You yet receive, you yet enrich to-day ;

(5) Inscription on the Great Rock by Jit Kong Giam (Sunshine Temple) in

Kolongsu=" The Grotto in Ko-long Island is the first place in Lo
Kang " (Heron's River).

(6) Local proverb ' The Tiger and the Dragon guard the entrance to Amoy'',

*'. e. Fungshui influence claimed for two rocks, the former on Amoy, the
latter on Kolon^su.

(7) Ho Ke Giam and Pek Lok Tong, two well known Temples in Amoy



You, who have granted us a place of dwelling,

To some a Hell, to some a Paradise,
Who long have seen the springs of Knowledge welling,

Yet is it Knowledge, though it gains her price ?

To you we cannot hope, or dare, to proffer

Advice (mere words), when all the long years done

Stand out preserved, as gold in buried copper
On every rock where glints the dying sun,

By yon horizon stabbed, as night, approaching

Creeps her chill footsteps on the Drum- Wave Isle,

Image of new things on the Old encroaching,

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Online LibraryB N.The drum-wave island, and other verses of the China Coast → online text (page 1 of 3)