Page images
PDF
EPUB

And gratitude and love gave high reward :-
The Veteran gained a son, the youth a sire,
And young Phoolranee's love endeared the bond.

At eve before his cot the Veteran sat,
In cheerful talk with all his gladsome groupe :
His wife beloved, his young

Phoolranee's child,
And her, his idol late (who now but gave
Divided love), beside her husband placed;
And there, while beamed affection's tranquil smile
In every eye, loved each, with grateful heart,
His train of ills endured, in turn to tell,
Which thus to wearied minds had brought repose.

And first, to friends around, the veteran loved
To trace the wide campaign his steps had passed,
His hardships felt, his train of changes seen;
And long, and strange, I wot, the various tale,
In wonders rife, and versed in names deceased.
On many a feat of war his youth had gone
With old commanders, now forgotten all;
And many a favouring witness he could cite
Of young exploits, and arduous duty done,
From names his younger auditors but know
In history; so fleet the passing crowds
Arrive, perform their parts, return, or die,
On stage of Indian life. His age prolonged,
Has seen each circle, man by man, decay,
And every place by newer men supplied,
Till all the ranks were new-and new again-
Like

crops of withering leaves successive shed !
What contrast strange the passing years have brought
To Hubert's hoary age ! he tells of wars
With hostile princes, whose successors now
Are Britain's firmest allies :-vanquished kings
That private now in peaceful splendour live,
Forgot as kings—with British merchants long
Familiar neighbours : --tells of marches far,
Through foeman's land, to countries lying now
Embosomed round by Britain's sole domain ;
Of castle, gained by long and fierce assault
From warlike bands of prowling ravagers,
That now, dismantled, sleeps on rocky hill,
Unnoted seen from villages secure;
While 'mid its ruined walls the scrambling goat
Seeks, perched on hinder legs, at leisure round
The tufts of grass from mouldering crevices,
*Mid breach once moistened red with soldier's blood ;
And ’neath its arch, whose threatening portals once
Were wont to pour abroad the greedy bands
Of swarming robbers, now froin upinost stone
The hiving bees, like bunch of ripening grapes,
Wave pendulous unharmed, as glides the breeze
Along that grass-grown porch : around its tank
Where ready bandits mustered once their steeds,
To sweep in thunder down the trembling vale,
The herdsman stalks at noon, and marks the depth
Where bathes his sluggish buffalo, concealed
Beneath the level flood, absorbing glad
The watery caolness through his mammoth bulk,
A quiet ruin all ; where Hubert once
Had seen the demon terror hold his den,
And send his minions forth to work of death,

How changed the better scene !-The troublous wars
(That once in chaos wide had strewed the plain
With wrecks of kingdoms) now have cleared a place
Where British skill has reared, in giant strength,
Mid Indian anarchy, the bulwarks high
Of civil order. Hubert's youth had passed
With those who, mid the fierce turmoil of war,
Those bulwarks high (like him who Salem's walls*
Amid her foes erected) watchful built,
With girded swords, and warders set to watch
Marauding foemen's spear; and now he saw
The splendid structure raised to firmest strength ;-
Saw kings, that once in proud defiance fought
To baulk the rising power, imploring now
Her friendly, shield, to check marauding storm
By former allies poured, whose plundering sword
As yet untamed, its choicest riches seeks
In spoils of peaceful vale or labouring town.
And oft th' exulting Veteran loved to point
Where daily still the choice of India's tribes
From all her troubled countries, seek the shade
Of British power, industrious there to ply,
Unawed by despot greed, their arts of wealth.
As flock from beating waves and seas of foam
The frightened ocean-birds, to some vast rock
That rises safe amid the wildest storm.

Such theme the Veteran told. Then loved his wife
(Goonkulee once, the maid of Indian cot,
Now Maryt named) to paint the various scenes
Of all her chequered life. How peaceful first,
With sire and mother loved, her life had passed
In native cot on Agimerian fields;
Where level plains bid gladdened farmers spread
Wide inundation feeding all the land,
For ricy culture rich; while safely stored
Mid loftiest arms of branchy village tree,
Their gathered corn defies the flooding rain,
In yearly wealth :-There o'er the boundless plain
The white pagoda meets the onward view,
O’er guava groves and fields of marshy rice,
Bright glittering seen from all the fruitful plain,
Like distant sail on ocean's edge descried.
There too, in playful youth she oft had marked,
Upraised on tree mid village-garden placed,
Blue hills, emerging low, like clouds of eve,
Afar beyond the plain ; and oft had shrunk
(Rejoicing still in native home secure)
As matrons told how mid those mountains far

See the fine description of the re-building of the walls of Jerusalem, in the book of Nehemiah. Never were simplicity of expression, and energy of action, so admirably exemplified. See particularly chapter fourth, from the thirteenth verse to the end.

† The Indians generally assume the name of some saint of the Romish calendar on professing Christianity. The Catholic priests (for that is the sect into which the few converts generally enter) are particularly anxious to enforce this practice, as it not only points out the change of religion, but indicates their part and right in the convert.

I The culture of rice, which requires the fields to be laid under water during a part of the year, is pursued to the greatest advantage in very flat countries. Such lands being, at certain seasons, subjected to deep inundations, the peasants frequently secure their hay, &c. amid the branches of trees. The appearance of these stilted ricks, in the absence of all romantic features in the country, give a sort of peculiarity to the landscape which is not unpleasing.

To sweep

2

Wild men held savage dens, who (aided oft
By power of genii) rushed on fields beneath
With wings of fire, and gave in plunder all
Their quiet bomes to death. Alas! the storm
Whose pictures oft, in fancy's wildness dressed,
Had pleased with wondrous tale her childish years,
In horror real approached. Some rajah's band,
Whom hill-closed wilds had fed to savage strength,
Burst every bar that wont of yore to stop
Their fierce descent, and rushed along the plain

their

prey, and spoil with track of fire
The peopled country far--whose scattered cots
By wreaths of rising smoke might now be marked,
Erst hid by groves of fruit. Her hapless sire,
With all his infant children, driven from home,
Had wandered houseless far; o'er toilsome hills
And roaring mountain-streams, to her unknown,
And strangest seeming all, their paths were urged ;
Dark height of rocks and depth of savage vales
Had hid their restless flight, when death itself
Seemed less terrific far than such escape,
When chanced her Hubert-stranger then-to spy
(As came his friendlier troop to chase the foe)
Amid the rugged hills their tattered booth,
With palm-tree's gathered boughs for shelter made,
And peeping low from forest's wild recess;
While she in terror near the portal sat,
Repast to cook of herbs, uncertain culled
Amid the wilderness. He came and smiled,
As she, with all her crowd of sisters young,
(Who sought from her the care of mother lost)
Fled stranger's* kind approach : but soon her sire
From search of fruits returned, his friendship knew,
And she, by kindness won, had learned to love
The Christian stranger. Thence had peaceful rest
Returned to bless her sire ; for Hubert's love
Had taught his age the sure protection given
Beneath the British power, and all her friends
Mid scenes of thriving toil had placed secure ;
While she through years of many a troublous war
Had shared his love, and grateful soothed his cares ;
On battle's eve had washed his bleeding wounds;
In lands where strangers die had shewn the herbs
To Indian matrons known; on rugged march
Had washed his feet, and cooked his eve's repast,
And waited duteous near ; nor, oft though urged
In kindred's home to live, had left his side
In toil or fear. His day of honoured rest
Had now arrived, and she with him enjoyed
Reward and peace. No name of kindred else
She sought, and none remained : her aged sire,
Content and glad, had long at ease remained
Beside his sons, and loved to see their wealth
In hoarded savings grow; till came the tale,
That peace at last had blessed again his home,
And slept its wealthy peasant now secure

* The aversion of the Indians to all strangers is well known. The only name by which foreigners (even the British) are known in the inland, is, “ Jungulee,” equivalent to “wild men,” and answering literally to the Dutch Bosch-men, and the uncouth Malay Qurang-outang

Beneath the British shield ; then late revived
The slumbering hope that there his length of days
Yet glad might end: his children, too, rejoiced,
Of gathered wealth enjoyment there to find,
And o'er those scenes to walk, whose fostered charms
In song or tale their sire had loved to paint,
To sooth their infant years in stranger's land.

As thus she spoke, seemed saddest thoughts to cloud
The youthful Briton's eye: her words had led
His wandering mind to England's native shore,
Where he must ne'er return! The love of home
Burst o'er his opening heart like pouring flood,
And swallowed every

thought. The walks endeared
Of earliest days, the scenes of youthful love,
Like living pictures rose. As mid the wild,
Where fainting traveller speeds with Arab guide,
And through the sun-beat desert looks in vain
For place of sheltering rest, the sudden scenes
Of towns and fields in airy vision rise
Before his wondering eye;* he sees the spires,
The river's busy throng, the bustling streets,
And gay surrounding walks, of beauteous town,
His destined place of rest ; and listening tries
To catch the wonted hum that meets the ear,
From busy city near.

Alas! the scene,
Mere shadowy form, by wandering radiance shown,
But cheats with idlest hope his wearied heart,
And mid the desart melts again to air !
Thus o'er the Briton's heart the thoughts of home
In memory's vivid trance came pictured bright,
Recalling wild each hope and latent wish,
That erst had slept unknown. His wife, his child,
So long belov’d, seemed now but chains to bind
His eager steps. The wish was all suppressed,
But, half unconscious, thus his ardent soul
Betrayed to eye of love its working thoughts.

Sweet hopes of native home ! how many a heart
That pines in cities vast or climes afar
Is soothed by thee! Amid the various crowds
Whom Britain's fame around her Indian marts
Continual draws, what heart but fondly looks
To some dear home for rest! The Arab's eye,
With love more deep than even his prophet asked,
To Mecca daily turns:t the Persian's heart
Sends fondest wish with every ship that seeks
His lov'd Iran : to wild Tibetian hills,
||Far Erzeroum, and China's guarded coast,
Ör rich Malaya's isle-bestudded sea,
How many an anxious sigh is daily sent,
By strangers met on Britain's thronged bazars !
Not all the kind protection there bestowed,
Can fill the wistful heart that pants for home,
And seeks but riches here that home to grace.

* This phenomenon is well known by the French name of Mirage. + The injunction of Muhummud to his followers, to pray with their faces towards the Kibk (direction,--Scotticé, airth) of Mecca, is well known.

#Iran, the oriental name of Persia.

|| Erzeroum is the principal town of Armenia. The influence of the Armenian priesthood over their brethren, the rich mercha nts of that country dispersed over all Asia, has long been he subject of remark.

each eager

Suck hopes as these the stout Telinga cheer,
Amid his days of toil: the sire, the wife,
Are all intent to earn ;

hand
To full employment called, the door is latched,
And all the busy family abroad,
Save grandam blind, or sire of silvered hair :
Even softest damsels ply the willing thrift,
Allured by hopes of home; and eager toil
Beneath the mid-day sun in cheerful groupe,
While gladdening song recalls the scenes beloved
Of native mountains dear, and vallies wild.
Such
song

the traveller stills his pace to hear,
But may not gaze-for, like the cuckoo wild,
Whose fairy note from prying footstep flies,
Their bashful ditty shuns the stranger's gaze,
And drops to timid silence. Busier ply
The maiden groupe their toil, as traveller charmed,
Awaits their syren note, unconscious they
Of all the free simplicity of dress
That gives their forms unveiled a softer grace
In stranger's eye, and bids his fancy dream
Of primal times of innocence and love.
But near the bashful groupe of damsels young
Some aged matron sits, of mien composed,
And careful eye, to awe unlicenced gaze
And, haply too, some infant child to guard,
Whose new-wed mother plies her customed toil
Amid companions yet of maiden life ;
While oft with fondest care her eye is turned
To where her infant sleeps, and lists her ear
If chance the sable urchin whimpering wake.
But all in careless sleep that infant lies,
From slanting poles in airy hammock swung,
Secure from speckled snake, and shaded cool
By densest leaves of banian's spreading bough-
And thence at times, with head upraised, he peeps
To catch his mother's smile ; as high from nest,
Amid the rocky steep securely placed,
The swallow's youngling eyes its coming dam,
And looks with wondering gaze on all the scene
Of world as yet untried—where many a wing
Thrids swift and strange the airy space

below.
Thus thought the youth, but sooth even whilst he thought
His purpose all was lost; amidst the words,
Where first his wandering speech had found its theme,
His eye had met Phoolranee's gaze' of love,
That seemed in anxious grief to scan his thoughts,
And know his hidden wish for home beloved,
Herself but hindrance felt; and whilst she gazed,
Her child, that saw her grief, had left his lap
To wipe her starting tear, and kiss her cheek,
Inquiring why she wept. The infant's deed
Was more than strong reproof; and love like her's
What dream of native land could c'er restore?
He owned her worth, and bade her terrors cease-
Her land was now his home. Old Hubert smiled
In sympathy with him, and love to her ;
Then sought in cheerful tale his son to lead
To gladder thoughts; or kindliest sought to tell
With what attentive hand his country tries
To bless the age of veterans old and worn,

« PreviousContinue »