Page images
PDF
EPUB

Whose faithful years in her encounters spent,
Have all those hopes of blissful home forgone
That bid the exile mourn,-whose countries far
In youth or childhood left, are now estranged,
Nor hold one heart, whose pulse would beat with love,
To grant the wanderers home. And oft he sought,
As came the punctual day of month elapsed
That gives such hoary band the stipend due
Of age released from toil, his son to lead,
To meet their gathered groupe. O'er village plain
To neighbouring wood they speed, whose shadowy depth
Is scarcely yet by glimmering dawn illumed,
There waits the veteran band their destined meed
By British hand dispensed. At distance seen
Romantic seems the view like fairy scene,
Where walk the forms of strange Arabian tale,
In world for genii framed. Amid the grove,
Some lean by shadowy banian's rooted bough,
With turbaned listeners drawn attentive round ; +
Whilst some by low enchannelled wall recline,
That guides the hoarded rill from neighbouring tank
The plantains green to feed ; by naked tree,
Whose reddening blossoms deck the leafless branch,
One waiting groupe is seen ; whilst others walk,
In lonely meditation, down the ranks
Of tall columnar palms. Like shadows all
In silence gliding dim, with languid step
Of grave-approaching age, and decked with robe
Of patriarchal time, they seem the ghosts
Of strange Elysian field, to hero shewn
Mid regions wild of death. But nearer come,
And mingling thro' the crowd, the pictured scene
That pleased the idle eye, is sudden lost
In living sympathy : appears around
In social groupes, a venerable band
Of aged men, in every various garb
Of India's hundred tribes, from many a field
And many a lengthened war the remnants left ;
Like dropping leaves that clothe December's oak,
When all the forest round has long been stripped.
They meet and talk; each face recalls to each
À thousand gone ; and all the ceaseless hum
That floats along the breeze from aged tongues
In words of former years, and names of men
Long dead. The present world of living things
Is there forgot ; while hoary memory tells
Her ghostly tale, and all the ancient groupes
Commix their stories wild of other years

* The pensioned veterans assemble monthly, from their different villages, at the nearest British station to receive their allowances. The scene presented on such occasions is extremely interesting ; as well as the exultation with which these Indians are often heard to contrast the punctual regularity of the British payments with the uncertain and scrambling distributions afforded by the native powers to their dependants.

† The water is preserved in wells during the dry season, whence it is drawn by many awkward contrivances for the use of the gardens. The buckets are frequently of earthenware. A number of these are attached to a web of ropes, suspended in the well by passing over a revolving cylinder, by which means they are emptied and filled without assistance from the hand. The water flows from thence into a trough leading to certain small aqueducts, made on walls, which are raised about two feet from the ground; and which afford a sufficient descent to carry the water a considerable distance over the inequalities of the fields or gardens.

VOL. VIII.

And generations gone. Old Hubert sees
In each an ancient friend, and passing reads
In

every face a history, where else,
As strangers see in armies ranged for shew,
Were merely pictures dumb. His ready tale
Thus bids his son the various soldiers know
That pass around. Yon dark Telinga old,
Whose ebon cheek is decked with silvery beard,
Like glade of snow ʼmid hill of wintry pines,
Has o'er Malayan seas and Bornean Gulf,
Through every lurking bay and islet wild,
The pirate chaced. There, leaning o'er his staff,
He boasts to listening crowds, that now secure,
Protected safe by ship where he has fought,
The weak Chinese may steer his crowded bark
With curious riches fraught, thro' every strait
Where savage Buggis haunted once the creeks,
And darted plundering forth. Of lighter tints
Yon tall Mahratta seems, on upland plains
A mountain soldier bred ; his veteran eye,
Tho'dimmed by age, yet glows with parting fire,
Like beacon shining far amid the gray
Approach of cloudy morn ; his ardent youth
On Ras-ol-Khyma, den of pirates, saw
The British thunder burst. See, both are met,
Their tales to interchange of British war
On China's Yellow Seas, or Yemen's Red,
From orient Timor's far and wildest bound
To Afric's haunted shore, where ocean's width
Of pirate bands was cleared. See, lonely stalks
Yon Rajahpoot, on northern mountains bred,
By age not lessening strength released from toil,
Whose tribe's whole craft is arms,--whose fathers passed
Their unrewarded lives amid the bands
Of Indian prince:-he boasts his better fate,
That rose in British camp to rank and wealth,
And now in honoured age enjoys the meed
To faith and valour due; his children, called
To join the war where late their father fought,
Await, like him, the soldier's fair reward,
Or wealth, or honoured death (the prospect sole
Their tribe requires) nor desperate need to join,
As wont their sires of old, the lawless chief,
Whose hated bands were fed to savage strength
For plundering war. One veteran walks apart,
Whose cheek in thinner garment careless wrapped,
Scarce heeds the chilling morn; he smiles to mark
His shivering comrades muffled close from air,
With turbands folded thick, and mantles drawn
Around their heads.- Observe his fairer hue,
That tells his mountain birth, and youth inured
To hills of Rohilcund and Indian snows.
Through many a clime his riper years have passed
Of insalubrious name; o'er wilds of Cutch,
Where sluggish flows the Run ; Barodrah, hid
Amid the full Nerbuddah's aguish plain,
The Jungles* deep of southern Malabar,
And arid plains that parch the traveller's life

* Wild woodlands ; situations of all others the most unhealthy, often proving fatal to those who go there even on the short excursions of the chase, or of botany,

In Middle Ind. All these his years have seen
And traced in all the fierce Pindarrie's* haunt,
Yet triumph still in sinews unsubdued.
Yon man of stooping age, whose shivering limbs
Scarce patient seem the chilly morn to bear,
Was once a soldier stout : the Ebon staff,
Where press his leaning hands, is trophy ta’en
From arbor, loved by old Tippoo Sultaun,
In triumph half, and half in pity kept.
Yon Moslem old, from earliest childhood bred
Amid the British camp, scarce deigns to own
A different kindred; flows the English tongue
Like native Hindoostānee o'er his speech;
And oft with pride the hardy veteran tells
How side by side he stood with English bands,
To meet on isles of France the Frenchman's sword,+
And drive him headlong back. That glory shared
Yon dark Hindoo, whose mien, subdued and mild,
Seems scarce for soldier meet; yet firm and brave,
By Briton's side he met the shock of fight
Like Coral-soft amid its native deeps,
Yet charmed to firmest strength in upper air.
And see where stalks, with folded arms and slow,
Yon tall Bungalla : trained to all the skill
Of British war, he joined the fierce assault
That burst Batavia's iron lines, and tamed,
Thro' smoke and blood, Cornelis desperate fort:t
A faithful soldier he; yet strict to hold
Each rite of Brahman faith : with proud contempt
The newer sects he views, from Indian faith
By stranger's arts allured, as traveller sees
The crumbling stones by idle Arabs torn
From vast Egyptian pyramid, whose heighth,
Through countless time, yet unimpaired remains.

Thus through the various groupe the veteran's tale
Discursive roved ; and oft with grateful heart
Would bid his son remark, how through the gloom
Of feeblest age each soldier smiled content,
And rested gladsome o'er his staff of Eld,
Secure in British faith, where waning years
For youthful toil with large rewards are paid.
And then would Hubert piteous seek the groupe
Of soldier's widows near :-Some wandering lone
Amid the distant trees, or leaning sad
Beneath the Jaca, laden with giant fruit ;*
With orphans some, a mournful burthen, charged,
Their hope at once, and grief; and childless some,
With no consoler near, save soldier old,
Their husband's ancient friend, who oft had shared
In wounds with him, and pestilence of camps
Their nursing care.--Now, silent here and lone,

• Most readers will know, that Pindarrie, is merely the Hinduwee word signifying Robber. The habits of the predatory race, to whom this name has been latterly restricted, bear a great resemblance to those of the well known Moss-troopers of border song.

+ The bravery and good conduct of the native troops, under their English officers, both at the capture of the Mauritius and of Batavia, will be long remembered. At both these places, particularly the former, they came immediately into contact with European antagonists, and did not one jot disgrace the character of British soldiers.

$ The Iaca iş a species of what is called the Bread Fruit-tree ; its fruit is considerably larger than an ordinary sized cucumber.

[ocr errors]

With none to yield them love, and none to seek
With fond caress their soft connubial care,
They droop forlorn: and yet, whate'er the hand
Of power can do, the widow's heart to cheer
Is here in kindness tried ; no bitter fear
Of haggard want shall haunt her feeble Eld,
And bid her children weep; her husband's lord
Is her protector still, and fills her hand
With competence: And here perchance she meets
With other widowed dame, whose youthful son
Has won her daughter's love, and led her forth
To share his fate, and like her mother sooth
Amid the toil of camps the soldier's cares.
How fair the bonds of love! the mothers too
Are thus conjoined, and each, in lonely Eld,
Finds pleasures new by kindness interchanged,
And hopes commingled fond in grandchild born.

But 'mid the veteran bands, one friendlier voice
Meets Hubert's ear, and bids his step return:
The aged Nursoo, long his comrade loved
In days of war.

For Nursoo's faithful years
In British warfare many a clime had seen
From green Ceylon to Égypt's northern lands;
And many a fight the proud medallions told
Had decked his breast. With him the veteran loves
Beneath the shadowy grove, where sweet at morn
The juicy palm-tree pours her Indian* wine,
To scan the wars and intervals of peace
That pleased their youth. Old Nursoo loves to tell
Of days of calm amid his native glens,
When sent with English arms to guard the vale
Where passed his youth, he met her kinsmen old
With welcome throned in every brightening eye ;
And saw the peasants urge their toil secure,
Or yield their thanks for his protection given,
Where war late raged, and where his youth had seen,
Beneath each fieldward tree the ploughman's arms,
Who, trembling, strewed his field with hopeless seed,
While lurked the plunderers near. Nor less the heart
Of English Hubert loves to trace the time
When ’mid those Indian vales his days had passed
In sweet respite from war; his sole employ
The beaten foe from rocky towers to watch,
And guard with Sepoyt band the peaceful vale ;
While all the love the eful Indians bore
To generous England, centered sole in him,
Lone English soldier, mid their wondering crowds.
Unblessed their rites of village splendor seemed,

* The toddy, or palm-wine, is produced from three species of the palm, the cocoa, the date, and what is called the crab-tree : Those trees from which the juice or wine is drawn, produce no fruit. The juice is received from the stump of the fruit-bearing branches by means of a small earthen pot, into which the end of the branch is fixed ; it is removed every morning and evening, but is seldom used by Europeans, except in the morning, the heat of the sun giving it a disagreeable sourness, when it oozes from the tree during the day. Many of the natives, on the contráry, prefer it in its acid state, and prepare from it, by boiling with garlic and spices, a beverage which is perfectly nauseating to European palates, but of which they are very fond. The palm-wine, when kept for a certain time, is also used as vinegar; and when distilled yields an inferior kind of spirituous liquor ; when boiled in its fresh state, the residuum is a kind of coarse sugar.

Sepoy, (Sipahi, Spahi) is the Arabic word signifying soldier ; it is now generally used to signify an Indian soldier in the British service.

Ere came their English guest the scene to view ;-
Each marriage-feast with fondest care was decked,
When his expected presence graced the cot ;-
And every village elder's kind Salam,
And smiling peasant's daily gift of fruit,
To softest kindness soothed his grateful heart,
And wakes remembrance kind. But theme like this
Of idling peace, old Nursoo less delights,
Than tale of battles gained where Sepoy ba ids
With faithful step unshrinking, urged advance
Where'er the boldest British heart could lead,
As troop the sprites of witched Arabian lamp
Where'er the Sovereign Genie calls their aid.
Nor less that veteran Nursoo loved to tell
Of magic powers, by sprites attendant wrought
(For Indian men beheld) which round her camp
Štill showered for Britain's troops abundance down,
And strewed Bungalan harvests o'er the wild
To feed secure her banded armies vast.
Then launched he forth in grateful word to shew,
How 'mid the crowded camp, where black disease
Filled

every soul with fear, the British art
Spread o'er the soldier's life her wings of health,
And tended careful all his tedious ills.
What contrast strange to scenes of Indian war!
(For Nursoo's youth had Scindia's campments seen)
Where misdirected valour useless raged,
And each rebelling soldier blamed his chief,
While plague and famine gnawed their armies strength.
And oft the aged veteran blessed his gods
That, since their hands had formed his fate for war,
Their kind decrees had sent him forth to fight
Beneath the buckler hung on British arm.

Nor undelighted lists the partial ear
Of aged Hubert, hearing thus the praise
Of native England spoke by Indian tongue.
For,—distant far from home,-his sleeping wish
By no fond hopes ere waked to seek return-
His country's fame to him was country now,
And those who owned to Britain grateful love,
His opening heart as countrymen received.
And oft with them the patriot veteran loves
To sooth the moodier thoughts that haunt the hours
Of aimless age, when turns the languid mind
To thoughts

of youthful days, and wild regret, With saddening cloud, bedims the cheering gleam That o'er his eve of life all brightening plays.

SHAGIRD.

END OF PART FIRST.

« PreviousContinue »