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."
* * * * *