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  • 1897
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The North and the South shall open their mouth to a Ghilzai flag unrolled,
When the big guns speak to the Khyber peak, and his dog-Heratis fly: Ye have heard the song — How long? How long? Wolves of the Abazai!

That night before the watch was set, when all the streets were clear, The Governor of Kabul spoke: “My King, hast thou no fear? Thou knowest — thou hast heard,” — his speech died at his master’s face. And grimly said the Afghan King: “I rule the Afghan race. My path is mine — see thou to thine — to-night upon thy bed Think who there be in Kabul now that clamour for thy head.”
That night when all the gates were shut to City and to throne, Within a little garden-house the King lay down alone. Before the sinking of the moon, which is the Night of Night, Yar Khan came softly to the King to make his honour white. The children of the town had mocked beneath his horse’s hoofs, The harlots of the town had hailed him “butcher!” from their roofs. But as he groped against the wall, two hands upon him fell, The King behind his shoulder spake: “Dead man, thou dost not well! ‘Tis ill to jest with Kings by day and seek a boon by night; And that thou bearest in thy hand is all too sharp to write. But three days hence, if God be good, and if thy strength remain, Thou shalt demand one boon of me and bless me in thy pain. For I am merciful to all, and most of all to thee. My butcher of the shambles, rest — no knife hast thou for me!”
Abdhur Rahman, the Durani Chief, holds hard by the South and the North; But the Ghilzai knows, ere the melting snows, when the swollen banks break forth, When the red-coats crawl to the sungar wall, and his Usbeg lances fail:
Ye have heard the song — How long? How long? Wolves of the Zuka Kheyl!

They stoned him in the rubbish-field when dawn was in the sky, According to the written word, “See that he do not die.”
They stoned him till the stones were piled above him on the plain, And those the labouring limbs displaced they tumbled back again.
One watched beside the dreary mound that veiled the battered thing, And him the King with laughter called the Herald of the King.
It was upon the second night, the night of Ramazan, The watcher leaning earthward heard the message of Yar Khan. From shattered breast through shrivelled lips broke forth the rattling breath, “Creature of God, deliver me from agony of Death.”
They sought the King among his girls, and risked their lives thereby: “Protector of the Pitiful, give orders that he die!”
“Bid him endure until the day,” a lagging answer came; “The night is short, and he can pray and learn to bless my name.”
Before the dawn three times he spoke, and on the day once more: “Creature of God, deliver me, and bless the King therefor!”
They shot him at the morning prayer, to ease him of his pain, And when he heard the matchlocks clink, he blessed the King again.
Which thing the singers made a song for all the world to sing, So that the Outer Seas may know the mercy of the King.
Abdhur Rahman, the Durani Chief, of him is the story told, He has opened his mouth to the North and the South, they have stuffed his mouth with gold. Ye know the truth of his tender ruth — and sweet his favours are: Ye have heard the song — How long? How long? from Balkh to Kandahar.


When spring-time flushes the desert grass, Our kafilas wind through the Khyber Pass. Lean are the camels but fat the frails,
Light are the purses but heavy the bales, As the snowbound trade of the North comes down To the market-square of Peshawur town.

In a turquoise twilight, crisp and chill, A kafila camped at the foot of the hill. Then blue smoke-haze of the cooking rose, And tent-peg answered to hammer-nose;
And the picketed ponies, shag and wild, Strained at their ropes as the feed was piled; And the bubbling camels beside the load
Sprawled for a furlong adown the road; And the Persian pussy-cats, brought for sale, Spat at the dogs from the camel-bale;
And the tribesmen bellowed to hasten the food; And the camp-fires twinkled by Fort Jumrood; And there fled on the wings of the gathering dusk A savour of camels and carpets and musk, A murmur of voices, a reek of smoke,
To tell us the trade of the Khyber woke.
The lid of the flesh-pot chattered high, The knives were whetted and — then came I To Mahbub Ali the muleteer,
Patching his bridles and counting his gear, Crammed with the gossip of half a year.
But Mahbub Ali the kindly said,
“Better is speech when the belly is fed.” So we plunged the hand to the mid-wrist deep In a cinnamon stew of the fat-tailed sheep, And he who never hath tasted the food,
By Allah! he knoweth not bad from good.
We cleansed our beards of the mutton-grease, We lay on the mats and were filled with peace, And the talk slid north, and the talk slid south, With the sliding puffs from the hookah-mouth. Four things greater than all things are, — Women and Horses and Power and War.
We spake of them all, but the last the most, For I sought a word of a Russian post,
Of a shifty promise, an unsheathed sword And a gray-coat guard on the Helmund ford. Then Mahbub Ali lowered his eyes
In the fashion of one who is weaving lies. Quoth he: “Of the Russians who can say?
When the night is gathering all is gray. But we look that the gloom of the night shall die In the morning flush of a blood-red sky. Friend of my heart, is it meet or wise
To warn a King of his enemies?
We know what Heaven or Hell may bring, But no man knoweth the mind of the King. That unsought counsel is cursed of God
Attesteth the story of Wali Dad.

“His sire was leaky of tongue and pen, His dam was a clucking Khuttuck hen;
And the colt bred close to the vice of each, For he carried the curse of an unstanched speech. Therewith madness — so that he sought
The favour of kings at the Kabul court; And travelled, in hope of honour, far
To the line where the gray-coat squadrons are. There have I journeyed too — but I
Saw naught, said naught, and — did not die! He harked to rumour, and snatched at a breath Of `this one knoweth’ and `that one saith’, — Legends that ran from mouth to mouth
Of a gray-coat coming, and sack of the South. These have I also heard — they pass
With each new spring and the winter grass.
“Hot-foot southward, forgotten of God, Back to the city ran Wali Dad,
Even to Kabul — in full durbar
The King held talk with his Chief in War. Into the press of the crowd he broke,
And what he had heard of the coming spoke.
“Then Gholam Hyder, the Red Chief, smiled, As a mother might on a babbling child;
But those who would laugh restrained their breath, When the face of the King showed dark as death. Evil it is in full durbar
To cry to a ruler of gathering war! Slowly he led to a peach-tree small,
That grew by a cleft of the city wall. And he said to the boy: `They shall praise thy zeal So long as the red spurt follows the steel. And the Russ is upon us even now?
Great is thy prudence — await them, thou. Watch from the tree. Thou art young and strong, Surely thy vigil is not for long.
The Russ is upon us, thy clamour ran? Surely an hour shall bring their van.
Wait and watch. When the host is near, Shout aloud that my men may hear.’

“Friend of my heart, is it meet or wise To warn a King of his enemies?
A guard was set that he might not flee — A score of bayonets ringed the tree.
The peach-bloom fell in showers of snow, When he shook at his death as he looked below. By the power of God, who alone is great, Till the seventh day he fought with his fate. Then madness took him, and men declare
He mowed in the branches as ape and bear, And last as a sloth, ere his body failed, And he hung as a bat in the forks, and wailed, And sleep the cord of his hands untied,
And he fell, and was caught on the points and died.
“Heart of my heart, is it meet or wise To warn a King of his enemies?
We know what Heaven or Hell may bring, But no man knoweth the mind of the King. Of the gray-coat coming who can say?
When the night is gathering all is gray. Two things greater than all things are,
The first is Love, and the second War. And since we know not how War may prove, Heart of my heart, let us talk of Love!”


More than a hundred years ago, in a great battle fought near Delhi, an Indian Prince rode fifty miles after the day was lost with a beggar-girl, who had loved him and followed him in all his camps, on his saddle-bow. He lost the girl when almost within sight of safety. A Maratta trooper tells the story: —

The wreath of banquet overnight lay withered on the neck, Our hands and scarfs were saffron-dyed for signal of despair, When we went forth to Paniput to battle with the ~Mlech~, — Ere we came back from Paniput and left a kingdom there.
Thrice thirty thousand men were we to force the Jumna fords — The hawk-winged horse of Damajee, mailed squadrons of the Bhao, Stark levies of the southern hills, the Deccan’s sharpest swords, And he the harlot’s traitor son the goatherd Mulhar Rao!
Thrice thirty thousand men were we before the mists had cleared, The low white mists of morning heard the war-conch scream and bray; We called upon Bhowani and we gripped them by the beard, We rolled upon them like a flood and washed their ranks away.
The children of the hills of Khost before our lances ran, We drove the black Rohillas back as cattle to the pen; ‘Twas then we needed Mulhar Rao to end what we began, A thousand men had saved the charge; he fled the field with ten!
There was no room to clear a sword — no power to strike a blow, For foot to foot, ay, breast to breast, the battle held us fast — Save where the naked hill-men ran, and stabbing from below Brought down the horse and rider and we trampled them and passed.
To left the roar of musketry rang like a falling flood — To right the sunshine rippled red from redder lance and blade — Above the dark ~Upsaras~* flew, beneath us plashed the blood, And, bellying black against the dust, the Bhagwa Jhanda swayed.
* The Choosers of the Slain.

I saw it fall in smoke and fire, the banner of the Bhao; I heard a voice across the press of one who called in vain: — “Ho! Anand Rao Nimbalkhur, ride! Get aid of Mulhar Rao! Go shame his squadrons into fight — the Bhao — the Bhao is slain!”
Thereat, as when a sand-bar breaks in clotted spume and spray — When rain of later autumn sweeps the Jumna water-head, Before their charge from flank to flank our riven ranks gave way; But of the waters of that flood the Jumna fords ran red.
I held by Scindia, my lord, as close as man might hold; A Soobah of the Deccan asks no aid to guard his life; But Holkar’s Horse were flying, and our chiefest chiefs were cold, And like a flame among us leapt the long lean Northern knife.
I held by Scindia — my lance from butt to tuft was dyed, The froth of battle bossed the shield and roped the bridle-chain — What time beneath our horses’ feet a maiden rose and cried, And clung to Scindia, and I turned a sword-cut from the twain.
(He set a spell upon the maid in woodlands long ago, A hunter by the Tapti banks she gave him water there: He turned her heart to water, and she followed to her woe. What need had he of Lalun who had twenty maids as fair?)
Now in that hour strength left my lord; he wrenched his mare aside; He bound the girl behind him and we slashed and struggled free. Across the reeling wreck of strife we rode as shadows ride From Paniput to Delhi town, but not alone were we.
‘Twas Lutuf-Ullah Populzai laid horse upon our track, A swine-fed reiver of the North that lusted for the maid; I might have barred his path awhile, but Scindia called me back, And I — O woe for Scindia! — I listened and obeyed.
League after league the formless scrub took shape and glided by — League after league the white road swirled behind the white mare’s feet — League after league, when leagues were done, we heard the Populzai, Where sure as Time and swift as Death the tireless footfall beat.
Noon’s eye beheld that shame of flight, the shadows fell, we fled Where steadfast as the wheeling kite he followed in our train; The black wolf warred where we had warred, the jackal mocked our dead, And terror born of twilight-tide made mad the labouring brain.
I gasped: — “A kingdom waits my lord; her love is but her own. A day shall mar, a day shall cure for her, but what for thee? Cut loose the girl: he follows fast. Cut loose and ride alone!” Then Scindia ‘twixt his blistered lips: — “My Queens’ Queen shall she be!
“Of all who ate my bread last night ’twas she alone that came To seek her love between the spears and find her crown therein! One shame is mine to-day, what need the weight of double shame? If once we reach the Delhi gate, though all be lost, I win!”
We rode — the white mare failed — her trot a staggering stumble grew, — The cooking-smoke of even rose and weltered and hung low; And still we heard the Populzai and still we strained anew, And Delhi town was very near, but nearer was the foe.
Yea, Delhi town was very near when Lalun whispered: — “Slay! Lord of my life, the mare sinks fast — stab deep and let me die!” But Scindia would not, and the maid tore free and flung away, And turning as she fell we heard the clattering Populzai.
Then Scindia checked the gasping mare that rocked and groaned for breath, And wheeled to charge and plunged the knife a hand’s-breadth in her side — The hunter and the hunted know how that last pause is death — The blood had chilled about her heart, she reared and fell and died.
Our Gods were kind. Before he heard the maiden’s piteous scream A log upon the Delhi road, beneath the mare he lay — Lost mistress and lost battle passed before him like a dream; The darkness closed about his eyes — I bore my King away.


This is the ballad of Boh Da Thone, Erst a Pretender to Theebaw’s throne, Who harried the district of Alalone: How he met with his fate and the V.P.P.* At the hand of Harendra Mukerji,
Senior Gomashta, G.B.T.

* Value Payable Parcels Post: in which the Government collects the money for the sender.

Boh Da Thone was a warrior bold:
His sword and his Snider were bossed with gold,
And the Peacock Banner his henchmen bore Was stiff with bullion, but stiffer with gore.
He shot at the strong and he slashed at the weak From the Salween scrub to the Chindwin teak:
He crucified noble, he sacrificed mean, He filled old ladies with kerosene:

While over the water the papers cried, “The patriot fights for his countryside!”
But little they cared for the Native Press, The worn white soldiers in Khaki dress,

Who tramped through the jungle and camped in the byre, Who died in the swamp and were tombed in the mire,
Who gave up their lives, at the Queen’s Command, For the Pride of their Race and the Peace of the Land.
Now, first of the foemen of Boh Da Thone Was Captain O’Neil of the “Black Tyrone”,
And his was a Company, seventy strong, Who hustled that dissolute Chief along.

There were lads from Galway and Louth and Meath Who went to their death with a joke in their teeth,
And worshipped with fluency, fervour, and zeal The mud on the boot-heels of “Crook” O’Neil.
But ever a blight on their labours lay, And ever their quarry would vanish away,
Till the sun-dried boys of the Black Tyrone Took a brotherly interest in Boh Da Thone:
And, sooth, if pursuit in possession ends, The Boh and his trackers were best of friends.
The word of a scout — a march by night — A rush through the mist — a scattering fight —
A volley from cover — a corpse in the clearing — The glimpse of a loin-cloth and heavy jade earring —
The flare of a village — the tally of slain — And. . .the Boh was abroad “on the raid” again!
They cursed their luck, as the Irish will, They gave him credit for cunning and skill,
They buried their dead, they bolted their beef, And started anew on the track of the thief
Till, in place of the “Kalends of Greece”, men said, “When Crook and his darlings come back with the head.”
They had hunted the Boh from the hills to the plain — He doubled and broke for the hills again:
They had crippled his power for rapine and raid, They had routed him out of his pet stockade,
And at last, they came, when the Day Star tired, To a camp deserted — a village fired.

A black cross blistered the Morning-gold, And the body upon it was stark and cold.
The wind of the dawn went merrily past, The high grass bowed her plumes to the blast.
And out of the grass, on a sudden, broke A spirtle of fire, a whorl of smoke —

And Captain O’Neil of the Black Tyrone Was blessed with a slug in the ulnar-bone — The gift of his enemy Boh Da Thone.

(Now a slug that is hammered from telegraph-wire Is a thorn in the flesh and a rankling fire.)
. . . . .

The shot-wound festered — as shot-wounds may In a steaming barrack at Mandalay.

The left arm throbbed, and the Captain swore, “I’d like to be after the Boh once more!”
The fever held him — the Captain said, “I’d give a hundred to look at his head!”
The Hospital punkahs creaked and whirred, But Babu Harendra (Gomashta) heard.

He thought of the cane-brake, green and dank, That girdled his home by the Dacca tank.
He thought of his wife and his High School son, He thought — but abandoned the thought — of a gun.
His sleep was broken by visions dread Of a shining Boh with a silver head.

He kept his counsel and went his way, And swindled the cartmen of half their pay.
. . . . .

And the months went on, as the worst must do, And the Boh returned to the raid anew.

But the Captain had quitted the long-drawn strife, And in far Simoorie had taken a wife.

And she was a damsel of delicate mould, With hair like the sunshine and heart of gold,
And little she knew the arms that embraced Had cloven a man from the brow to the waist:
And little she knew that the loving lips Had ordered a quivering life’s eclipse,

And the eye that lit at her lightest breath Had glared unawed in the Gates of Death.
(For these be matters a man would hide, As a general rule, from an innocent Bride.)
And little the Captain thought of the past, And, of all men, Babu Harendra last.

. . . . .

But slow, in the sludge of the Kathun road, The Government Bullock Train toted its load.
Speckless and spotless and shining with ~ghee~, In the rearmost cart sat the Babu-jee.

And ever a phantom before him fled
Of a scowling Boh with a silver head.
Then the lead-cart stuck, though the coolies slaved, And the cartmen flogged and the escort raved;
And out of the jungle, with yells and squeals, Pranced Boh Da Thone, and his gang at his heels!
Then belching blunderbuss answered back The Snider’s snarl and the carbine’s crack,
And the blithe revolver began to sing To the blade that twanged on the locking-ring,
And the brown flesh blued where the bay’net kissed, As the steel shot back with a wrench and a twist,
And the great white bullocks with onyx eyes Watched the souls of the dead arise,

And over the smoke of the fusillade The Peacock Banner staggered and swayed.
Oh, gayest of scrimmages man may see Is a well-worked rush on the G.B.T.!

The Babu shook at the horrible sight, And girded his ponderous loins for flight,
But Fate had ordained that the Boh should start On a lone-hand raid of the rearmost cart,
And out of that cart, with a bellow of woe, The Babu fell — flat on the top of the Boh!
For years had Harendra served the State, To the growth of his purse and the girth of his ~p]^et~.
There were twenty stone, as the tally-man knows, On the broad of the chest of this best of Bohs.
And twenty stone from a height discharged Are bad for a Boh with a spleen enlarged.
Oh, short was the struggle — severe was the shock — He dropped like a bullock — he lay like a block;
And the Babu above him, convulsed with fear, Heard the labouring life-breath hissed out in his ear.
And thus in a fashion undignified
The princely pest of the Chindwin died.
. . . . .

Turn now to Simoorie where, lapped in his ease, The Captain is petting the Bride on his knees,
Where the ~whit~ of the bullet, the wounded man’s scream Are mixed as the mist of some devilish dream —
Forgotten, forgotten the sweat of the shambles Where the hill-daisy blooms and the gray monkey gambols,
From the sword-belt set free and released from the steel, The Peace of the Lord is with Captain O’Neil.
. . . . .

Up the hill to Simoorie — most patient of drudges — The bags on his shoulder, the mail-runner trudges.
“For Captain O’Neil, ~Sahib~. One hundred and ten Rupees to collect on delivery.”

(Their breakfast was stopped while the screw-jack and hammer Tore waxcloth, split teak-wood, and chipped out the dammer;)
Open-eyed, open-mouthed, on the napery’s snow, With a crash and a thud, rolled — the Head of the Boh!
And gummed to the scalp was a letter which ran: — “IN FIELDING FORCE SERVICE.
10th Jan.

“Dear Sir, — I have honour to send, ~as you said~, For final approval (see under) Boh’s Head;
“Was took by myself in most bloody affair. By High Education brought pressure to bear.
“Now violate Liberty, time being bad, To mail V.P.P. (rupees hundred) Please add
“Whatever Your Honour can pass. Price of Blood Much cheap at one hundred, and children want food;
“So trusting Your Honour will somewhat retain True love and affection for Govt. Bullock Train,
“And show awful kindness to satisfy me, I am,
Graceful Master,

. . . . .

As the rabbit is drawn to the rattlesnake’s power, As the smoker’s eye fills at the opium hour,
As a horse reaches up to the manger above, As the waiting ear yearns for the whisper of love,
From the arms of the Bride, iron-visaged and slow, The Captain bent down to the Head of the Boh.
And e’en as he looked on the Thing where It lay ‘Twixt the winking new spoons and the napkins’ array,
The freed mind fled back to the long-ago days — The hand-to-hand scuffle — the smoke and the blaze —
The forced march at night and the quick rush at dawn — The banjo at twilight, the burial ere morn —
The stench of the marshes — the raw, piercing smell When the overhand stabbing-cut silenced the yell —
The oaths of his Irish that surged when they stood Where the black crosses hung o’er the Kuttamow flood.
As a derelict ship drifts away with the tide The Captain went out on the Past from his Bride,
Back, back, through the springs to the chill of the year, When he hunted the Boh from Maloon to Tsaleer.
As the shape of a corpse dimmers up through deep water, In his eye lit the passionless passion of slaughter,
And men who had fought with O’Neil for the life Had gazed on his face with less dread than his wife.
For she who had held him so long could not hold him — Though a four-month Eternity should have controlled him —
But watched the twin Terror — the head turned to head — The scowling, scarred Black, and the flushed savage Red —
The spirit that changed from her knowing and flew to Some grim hidden Past she had never a clue to.
But It knew as It grinned, for he touched it unfearing, And muttered aloud, “So you kept that jade earring!”
Then nodded, and kindly, as friend nods to friend, “Old man, you fought well, but you lost in the end.”
. . . . .

The visions departed, and Shame followed Passion: — “He took what I said in this horrible fashion,
“~I’ll~ write to Harendra!” With language unsainted The Captain came back to the Bride. . .who had fainted.
. . . . .

And this is a fiction? No. Go to Simoorie And look at their baby, a twelve-month old Houri,
A pert little, Irish-eyed Kathleen Mavournin — She’s always about on the Mall of a mornin’ —
And you’ll see, if her right shoulder-strap is displaced, This: ~Gules~ upon ~argent~, a Boh’s Head, ~erased!~


O woe is me for the merry life
I led beyond the Bar,
And a treble woe for my winsome wife That weeps at Shalimar.

They have taken away my long jezail, My shield and sabre fine,
And heaved me into the Central jail For lifting of the kine.

The steer may low within the byre,
The Jat may tend his grain,
But there’ll be neither loot nor fire Till I come back again.

And God have mercy on the Jat
When once my fetters fall,
And Heaven defend the farmer’s hut
When I am loosed from thrall.

It’s woe to bend the stubborn back
Above the grinching quern,
It’s woe to hear the leg-bar clack
And jingle when I turn!

But for the sorrow and the shame,
The brand on me and mine,
I’ll pay you back in leaping flame
And loss of the butchered kine.

For every cow I spared before
In charity set free,
If I may reach my hold once more
I’ll reive an honest three.

For every time I raised the low
That scared the dusty plain,
By sword and cord, by torch and tow I’ll light the land with twain!

Ride hard, ride hard to Abazai,
Young ~Sahib~ with the yellow hair — Lie close, lie close as khuttucks lie,
Fat herds below Bonair!

The one I’ll shoot at twilight-tide, At dawn I’ll drive the other;
The black shall mourn for hoof and hide, The white man for his brother.

‘Tis war, red war, I’ll give you then, War till my sinews fail;
For the wrong you have done to a chief of men, And a thief of the Zukka Kheyl.

And if I fall to your hand afresh
I give you leave for the sin,
That you cram my throat with the foul pig’s flesh, And swing me in the skin!


This ballad appears to refer to one of the exploits of the notorious Paul Jones, the American pirate. It is founded on fact.

. . . At the close of a winter day, Their anchors down, by London town, the Three Great Captains lay; And one was Admiral of the North from Solway Firth to Skye, And one was Lord of the Wessex coast and all the lands thereby, And one was Master of the Thames from Limehouse to Blackwall, And he was Captain of the Fleet — the bravest of them all. Their good guns guarded their great gray sides that were thirty foot in the sheer,
When there came a certain trading-brig with news of a privateer. Her rigging was rough with the clotted drift that drives in a Northern breeze, Her sides were clogged with the lazy weed that spawns in the Eastern seas. Light she rode in the rude tide-rip, to left and right she rolled, And the skipper sat on the scuttle-butt and stared at an empty hold. “I ha’ paid Port dues for your Law,” quoth he, “and where is the Law ye boast If I sail unscathed from a heathen port to be robbed on a Christian coast? Ye have smoked the hives of the Laccadives as we burn the lice in a bunk, We tack not now to a Gallang prow or a plunging Pei-ho junk; I had no fear but the seas were clear as far as a sail might fare Till I met with a lime-washed Yankee brig that rode off Finisterre. There were canvas blinds to his bow-gun ports to screen the weight he bore, And the signals ran for a merchantman from Sandy Hook to the Nore. He would not fly the Rovers’ flag — the bloody or the black, But now he floated the Gridiron and now he flaunted the Jack. He spoke of the Law as he crimped my crew — he swore it was only a loan; But when I would ask for my own again, he swore it was none of my own. He has taken my little parrakeets that nest beneath the Line, He has stripped my rails of the shaddock-frails and the green unripened pine; He has taken my bale of dammer and spice I won beyond the seas, He has taken my grinning heathen gods — and what should he want o’ these? My foremast would not mend his boom, my deckhouse patch his boats; He has whittled the two, this Yank Yahoo, to peddle for shoe-peg oats. I could not fight for the failing light and a rough beam-sea beside, But I hulled him once for a clumsy crimp and twice because he lied. Had I had guns (as I had goods) to work my Christian harm, I had run him up from his quarter-deck to trade with his own yard-arm; I had nailed his ears to my capstan-head, and ripped them off with a saw, And soused them in the bilgewater, and served them to him raw; I had flung him blind in a rudderless boat to rot in the rocking dark, I had towed him aft of his own craft, a bait for his brother shark; I had lapped him round with cocoa husk, and drenched him with the oil, And lashed him fast to his own mast to blaze above my spoil; I had stripped his hide for my hammock-side, and tasselled his beard i’ the mesh,
And spitted his crew on the live bamboo that grows through the gangrened flesh; I had hove him down by the mangroves brown, where the mud-reef sucks and draws,
Moored by the heel to his own keel to wait for the land-crab’s claws! He is lazar within and lime without, ye can nose him far enow, For he carries the taint of a musky ship — the reek of the slaver’s dhow!” The skipper looked at the tiering guns and the bulwarks tall and cold, And the Captains Three full courteously peered down at the gutted hold, And the Captains Three called courteously from deck to scuttle-butt: — “Good Sir, we ha’ dealt with that merchantman or ever your teeth were cut. Your words be words of a lawless race, and the Law it standeth thus: He comes of a race that have never a Law, and he never has boarded us. We ha’ sold him canvas and rope and spar — we know that his price is fair, And we know that he weeps for the lack of a Law as he rides off Finisterre. And since he is damned for a gallows-thief by you and better than you, We hold it meet that the English fleet should know that we hold him true.” The skipper called to the tall taffrail: — “And what is that to me? Did ever you hear of a Yankee brig that rifled a Seventy-three? Do I loom so large from your quarter-deck that I lift like a ship o’ the Line? He has learned to run from a shotted gun and harry such craft as mine. There is never a Law on the Cocos Keys to hold a white man in, But we do not steal the niggers’ meal, for that is a nigger’s sin. Must he have his Law as a quid to chaw, or laid in brass on his wheel? Does he steal with tears when he buccaneers? ‘Fore Gad, then, why does he steal?”
The skipper bit on a deep-sea word, and the word it was not sweet, For he could see the Captains Three had signalled to the Fleet. But three and two, in white and blue, the whimpering flags began: — “We have heard a tale of a — foreign sail, but he is a merchantman.” The skipper peered beneath his palm and swore by the Great Horn Spoon: — “‘Fore Gad, the Chaplain of the Fleet would bless my picaroon!” By two and three the flags blew free to lash the laughing air: — “We have sold our spars to the merchantman — we know that his price is fair.” The skipper winked his Western eye, and swore by a China storm: — “They ha’ rigged him a Joseph’s jury-coat to keep his honour warm.” The halliards twanged against the tops, the bunting bellied broad, The skipper spat in the empty hold and mourned for a wasted cord. Masthead — masthead, the signal sped by the line o’ the British craft; The skipper called to his Lascar crew, and put her about and laughed: — “It’s mainsail haul, my bully boys all — we’ll out to the seas again — Ere they set us to paint their pirate saint, or scrub at his grapnel-chain. It’s fore-sheet free, with her head to the sea, and the swing of the unbought brine —
We’ll make no sport in an English court till we come as a ship o’ the Line: Till we come as a ship o’ the Line, my lads, of thirty foot in the sheer, Lifting again from the outer main with news of a privateer; Flying his pluck at our mizzen-truck for weft of Admiralty, Heaving his head for our dipsey-lead in sign that we keep the sea. Then fore-sheet home as she lifts to the foam — we stand on the outward tack, We are paid in the coin of the white man’s trade — the bezant is hard, ay, and black.
The frigate-bird shall carry my word to the Kling and the Orang-Laut How a man may sail from a heathen coast to be robbed in a Christian port; How a man may be robbed in Christian port while Three Great Captains there Shall dip their flag to a slaver’s rag — to show that his trade is fair!”


It was our war-ship ~Clampherdown~
Would sweep the Channel clean,
Wherefore she kept her hatches close When the merry Channel chops arose,
To save the bleached marine.

She had one bow-gun of a hundred ton, And a great stern-gun beside;
They dipped their noses deep in the sea, They racked their stays and stanchions free In the wash of the wind-whipped tide.

It was our war-ship ~Clampherdown~, Fell in with a cruiser light
That carried the dainty Hotchkiss gun And a pair o’ heels wherewith to run
From the grip of a close-fought fight.
She opened fire at seven miles —
As ye shoot at a bobbing cork —
And once she fired and twice she fired, Till the bow-gun drooped like a lily tired That lolls upon the stalk.

“Captain, the bow-gun melts apace,
The deck-beams break below,
‘Twere well to rest for an hour or twain, And botch the shattered plates again.”
And he answered, “Make it so.”

She opened fire within the mile —
As ye shoot at the flying duck —
And the great stern-gun shot fair and true, With the heave of the ship, to the stainless blue, And the great stern-turret stuck.

“Captain, the turret fills with steam, The feed-pipes burst below —
You can hear the hiss of the helpless ram, You can hear the twisted runners jam.”
And he answered, “Turn and go!”

It was our war-ship ~Clampherdown~, And grimly did she roll;
Swung round to take the cruiser’s fire As the White Whale faces the Thresher’s ire When they war by the frozen Pole.

“Captain, the shells are falling fast, And faster still fall we;
And it is not meet for English stock To bide in the heart of an eight-day clock The death they cannot see.”

“Lie down, lie down, my bold A.B.,
We drift upon her beam;
We dare not ram, for she can run;
And dare ye fire another gun,
And die in the peeling steam?”

It was our war-ship ~Clampherdown~
That carried an armour-belt;
But fifty feet at stern and bow
Lay bare as the paunch of the purser’s sow, To the hail of the ~Nordenfeldt~.

“Captain, they hack us through and through; The chilled steel bolts are swift!
We have emptied the bunkers in open sea, Their shrapnel bursts where our coal should be.” And he answered, “Let her drift.”

It was our war-ship ~Clampherdown~, Swung round upon the tide,
Her two dumb guns glared south and north, And the blood and the bubbling steam ran forth, And she ground the cruiser’s side.

“Captain, they cry, the fight is done, They bid you send your sword.”
And he answered, “Grapple her stern and bow. They have asked for the steel. They shall have it now; Out cutlasses and board!”

It was our war-ship ~Clampherdown~
Spewed up four hundred men;
And the scalded stokers yelped delight, As they rolled in the waist and heard the fight Stamp o’er their steel-walled pen.

They cleared the cruiser end to end, From conning-tower to hold.
They fought as they fought in Nelson’s fleet; They were stripped to the waist, they were bare to the feet, As it was in the days of old.

It was the sinking ~Clampherdown~
Heaved up her battered side —
And carried a million pounds in steel, To the cod and the corpse-fed conger-eel, And the scour of the Channel tide.

It was the crew of the ~Clampherdown~ Stood out to sweep the sea,
On a cruiser won from an ancient foe, As it was in the days of long ago,
And as it still shall be.


Seven men from all the world, back to Docks again, Rolling down the Ratcliffe Road drunk and raising Cain: Give the girls another drink ‘fore we sign away — We that took the ~Bolivar~ out across the Bay!
We put out from Sunderland loaded down with rails; We put back to Sunderland ’cause our cargo shifted; We put out from Sunderland — met the winter gales — Seven days and seven nights to the Start we drifted. Racketing her rivets loose, smoke-stack white as snow, All the coals adrift adeck, half the rails below, Leaking like a lobster-pot, steering like a dray — Out we took the ~Bolivar~, out across the Bay!
One by one the Lights came up, winked and let us by; Mile by mile we waddled on, coal and fo’c’sle short; Met a blow that laid us down, heard a bulkhead fly; Left the ~Wolf~ behind us with a two-foot list to port. Trailing like a wounded duck, working out her soul; Clanging like a smithy-shop after every roll; Just a funnel and a mast lurching through the spray — So we threshed the ~Bolivar~ out across the Bay!
‘Felt her hog and felt her sag, betted when she’d break; Wondered every time she raced if she’d stand the shock; Heard the seas like drunken men pounding at her strake; Hoped the Lord ‘ud keep his thumb on the plummer-block. Banged against the iron decks, bilges choked with coal; Flayed and frozen foot and hand, sick of heart and soul; Last we prayed she’d buck herself into judgment Day — Hi! we cursed the ~Bolivar~ knocking round the Bay!
O her nose flung up to sky, groaning to be still — Up and down and back we went, never time for breath; Then the money paid at Lloyd’s caught her by the heel, And the stars ran round and round dancin’ at our death. Aching for an hour’s sleep, dozing off between; ‘Heard the rotten rivets draw when she took it green; ‘Watched the compass chase its tail like a cat at play — That was on the ~Bolivar~, south across the Bay.
Once we saw between the squalls, lyin’ head to swell — Mad with work and weariness, wishin’ they was we — Some damned Liner’s lights go by like a long hotel; Cheered her from the ~Bolivar~ swampin’ in the sea. Then a grayback cleared us out, then the skipper laughed; “Boys, the wheel has gone to Hell — rig the winches aft! Yoke the kicking rudder-head — get her under way!” So we steered her, pulley-haul, out across the Bay!
Just a pack o’ rotten plates puttied up with tar, In we came, an’ time enough, ‘cross Bilbao Bar. Overloaded, undermanned, meant to founder, we Euchred God Almighty’s storm, bluffed the Eternal Sea!
Seven men from all the world, back to town again, Rollin’ down the Ratcliffe Road drunk and raising Cain: Seven men from out of Hell. Ain’t the owners gay, ‘Cause we took the “Bolivar” safe across the Bay?


Er-Heb beyond the Hills of Ao-Safai Bears witness to the truth, and Ao-Safai Hath told the men of Gorukh. Thence the tale Comes westward o’er the peaks to India.
The story of Bisesa, Armod’s child, — A maiden plighted to the Chief in War,
The Man of Sixty Spears, who held the Pass That leads to Thibet, but to-day is gone To seek his comfort of the God called Budh The Silent — showing how the Sickness ceased Because of her who died to save the tribe.
Taman is One and greater than us all, Taman is One and greater than all Gods:
Taman is Two in One and rides the sky, Curved like a stallion’s croup, from dusk to dawn, And drums upon it with his heels, whereby Is bred the neighing thunder in the hills.
This is Taman, the God of all Er-Heb, Who was before all Gods, and made all Gods, And presently will break the Gods he made, And step upon the Earth to govern men
Who give him milk-dry ewes and cheat his Priests, Or leave his shrine unlighted — as Er-Heb Left it unlighted and forgot Taman,
When all the Valley followed after Kysh And Yabosh, little Gods but very wise,
And from the sky Taman beheld their sin.
He sent the Sickness out upon the hills, The Red Horse Sickness with the iron hooves, To turn the Valley to Taman again.

And the Red Horse snuffed thrice into the wind, The naked wind that had no fear of him;
And the Red Horse stamped thrice upon the snow, The naked snow that had no fear of him;
And the Red Horse went out across the rocks, The ringing rocks that had no fear of him; And downward, where the lean birch meets the snow, And downward, where the gray pine meets the birch, And downward, where the dwarf oak meets the pine, Till at his feet our cup-like pastures lay.
That night, the slow mists of the evening dropped, Dropped as a cloth upon a dead man’s face, And weltered in the Valley, bluish-white Like water very silent — spread abroad, Like water very silent, from the Shrine
Unlighted of Taman to where the stream Is dammed to fill our cattle-troughs — sent up White waves that rocked and heaved and then were still, Till all the Valley glittered like a marsh, Beneath the moonlight, filled with sluggish mist Knee-deep, so that men waded as they walked.
That night, the Red Horse grazed above the Dam, Beyond the cattle-troughs. Men heard him feed, And those that heard him sickened where they lay.
Thus came the Sickness to Er-Heb, and slew Ten men, strong men, and of the women four; And the Red Horse went hillward with the dawn, But near the cattle-troughs his hoof-prints lay.
That night, the slow mists of the evening dropped, Dropped as a cloth upon the dead, but rose A little higher, to a young girl’s height; Till all the Valley glittered like a lake, Beneath the moonlight, filled with sluggish mist.
That night, the Red Horse grazed beyond the Dam, A stone’s-throw from the troughs. Men heard him feed, And those that heard him sickened where they lay. Thus came the Sickness to Er-Heb, and slew Of men a score, and of the women eight,
And of the children two.

Because the road
To Gorukh was a road of enemies,
And Ao-Safai was blocked with early snow, We could not flee from out the Valley. Death Smote at us in a slaughter-pen, and Kysh Was mute as Yabosh, though the goats were slain; And the Red Horse grazed nightly by the stream, And later, outward, towards the Unlighted Shrine, And those that heard him sickened where they lay.
Then said Bisesa to the Priests at dusk, When the white mist rose up breast-high, and choked The voices in the houses of the dead: — “Yabosh and Kysh avail not. If the Horse Reach the Unlighted Shrine we surely die. Ye have forgotten of all Gods the Chief, Taman!” Here rolled the thunder through the Hills And Yabosh shook upon his pedestal.
“Ye have forgotten of all Gods the Chief Too long.” And all were dumb save one, who cried On Yabosh with the Sapphire ‘twixt His knees, But found no answer in the smoky roof,
And, being smitten of the Sickness, died Before the altar of the Sapphire Shrine.
Then said Bisesa: — “I am near to Death, And have the Wisdom of the Grave for gift To bear me on the path my feet must tread. If there be wealth on earth, then I am rich, For Armod is the first of all Er-Heb;
If there be beauty on the earth,” — her eyes Dropped for a moment to the temple floor, — “Ye know that I am fair. If there be love, Ye know that love is mine.” The Chief in War, The Man of Sixty Spears, broke from the press, And would have clasped her, but the Priests withstood, Saying: — “She has a message from Taman.” Then said Bisesa: — “By my wealth and love And beauty, I am chosen of the God
Taman.” Here rolled the thunder through the Hills And Kysh fell forward on the Mound of Skulls.
In darkness, and before our Priests, the maid Between the altars cast her bracelets down, Therewith the heavy earrings Armod made, When he was young, out of the water-gold Of Gorukh — threw the breast-plate thick with jade Upon the turquoise anklets — put aside
The bands of silver on her brow and neck; And as the trinkets tinkled on the stones, The thunder of Taman lowed like a bull.

Then said Bisesa, stretching out her hands, As one in darkness fearing Devils: — “Help! O Priests, I am a woman very weak,
And who am I to know the will of Gods? Taman hath called me — whither shall I go?” The Chief in War, the Man of Sixty Spears, Howled in his torment, fettered by the Priests, But dared not come to her to drag her forth, And dared not lift his spear against the Priests. Then all men wept.

There was a Priest of Kysh Bent with a hundred winters, hairless, blind, And taloned as the great Snow-Eagle is.
His seat was nearest to the altar-fires, And he was counted dumb among the Priests. But, whether Kysh decreed, or from Taman The impotent tongue found utterance we know As little as the bats beneath the eaves. He cried so that they heard who stood without: — “To the Unlighted Shrine!” and crept aside Into the shadow of his fallen God
And whimpered, and Bisesa went her way.
That night, the slow mists of the evening dropped, Dropped as a cloth upon the dead, and rose Above the roofs, and by the Unlighted Shrine Lay as the slimy water of the troughs
When murrain thins the cattle of Er-Heb: And through the mist men heard the Red Horse feed.
In Armod’s house they burned Bisesa’s dower, And killed her black bull Tor, and broke her wheel, And loosed her hair, as for the marriage-feast, With cries more loud than mourning for the dead.
Across the fields, from Armod’s dwelling-place, We heard Bisesa weeping where she passed To seek the Unlighted Shrine; the Red Horse neighed And followed her, and on the river-mint
His hooves struck dead and heavy in our ears.
Out of the mists of evening, as the star Of Ao-Safai climbs through the black snow-blur To show the Pass is clear, Bisesa stepped Upon the great gray slope of mortised stone, The Causeway of Taman. The Red Horse neighed Behind her to the Unlighted Shrine — then fled North to the Mountain where his stable lies.
They know who dared the anger of Taman, And watched that night above the clinging mists, Far up the hill, Bisesa’s passing in.

She set her hand upon the carven door, Fouled by a myriad bats, and black with time, Whereon is graved the Glory of Taman
In letters older than the Ao-Safai; And twice she turned aside and twice she wept, Cast down upon the threshold, clamouring For him she loved — the Man of Sixty Spears, And for her father, — and the black bull Tor, Hers and her pride. Yea, twice she turned away Before the awful darkness of the door,
And the great horror of the Wall of Man Where Man is made the plaything of Taman, An Eyeless Face that waits above and laughs.
But the third time she cried and put her palms Against the hewn stone leaves, and prayed Taman To spare Er-Heb and take her life for price.
They know who watched, the doors were rent apart And closed upon Bisesa, and the rain
Broke like a flood across the Valley, washed The mist away; but louder than the rain
The thunder of Taman filled men with fear.
Some say that from the Unlighted Shrine she cried For succour, very pitifully, thrice,
And others that she sang and had no fear. And some that there was neither song nor cry, But only thunder and the lashing rain.

Howbeit, in the morning men rose up, Perplexed with horror, crowding to the Shrine. And when Er-Heb was gathered at the doors The Priests made lamentation and passed in To a strange Temple and a God they feared But knew not.

From the crevices the grass Had thrust the altar-slabs apart, the walls Were gray with stains unclean, the roof-beams swelled With many-coloured growth of rottenness, And lichen veiled the Image of Taman
In leprosy. The Basin of the Blood
Above the altar held the morning sun: A winking ruby on its heart: below,
Face hid in hands, the maid Bisesa lay.
Er-Heb beyond the Hills of Ao-Safai Bears witness to the truth, and Ao-Safai Hath told the men of Gorukh. Thence the tale Comes westward o’er the peaks to India.


Love and Death once ceased their strife At the Tavern of Man’s Life.
Called for wine, and threw — alas! — Each his quiver on the grass.
When the bout was o’er they found
Mingled arrows strewed the ground.
Hastily they gathered then
Each the loves and lives of men.
Ah, the fateful dawn deceived!
Mingled arrows each one sheaved;
Death’s dread armoury was stored
With the shafts he most abhorred;
Love’s light quiver groaned beneath Venom-headed darts of Death.

Thus it was they wrought our woe
At the Tavern long ago.
Tell me, do our masters know,
Loosing blindly as they fly,
Old men love while young men die?


The dead child lay in the shroud,
And the widow watched beside;
And her mother slept, and the Channel swept The gale in the teeth of the tide.

But the mother laughed at all.
“I have lost my man in the sea,
And the child is dead. Be still,” she said, “What more can ye do to me?”

The widow watched the dead,
And the candle guttered low,
And she tried to sing the Passing Song That bids the poor soul go.

And “Mary take you now,” she sang,
“That lay against my heart.”
And “Mary smooth your crib to-night,” But she could not say “Depart.”

Then came a cry from the sea,
But the sea-rime blinded the glass, And “Heard ye nothing, mother?” she said, “‘Tis the child that waits to pass.”

And the nodding mother sighed.
“‘Tis a lambing ewe in the whin,
For why should the christened soul cry out That never knew of sin?”

“O feet I have held in my hand,
O hands at my heart to catch,
How should they know the road to go, And how should they lift the latch?”

They laid a sheet to the door,
With the little quilt atop,
That it might not hurt from the cold or the dirt, But the crying would not stop.

The widow lifted the latch
And strained her eyes to see,
And opened the door on the bitter shore To let the soul go free.

There was neither glimmer nor ghost, There was neither spirit nor spark,
And “Heard ye nothing, mother?” she said, “‘Tis crying for me in the dark.”

And the nodding mother sighed:
“‘Tis sorrow makes ye dull;
Have ye yet to learn the cry of the tern, Or the wail of the wind-blown gull?”

“The terns are blown inland,
The gray gull follows the plough.
‘Twas never a bird, the voice I heard, O mother, I hear it now!”

“Lie still, dear lamb, lie still;
The child is passed from harm,
‘Tis the ache in your breast that broke your rest, And the feel of an empty arm.”

She put her mother aside,
“In Mary’s name let be!
For the peace of my soul I must go,” she said, And she went to the calling sea.

In the heel of the wind-bit pier,
Where the twisted weed was piled,
She came to the life she had missed by an hour, For she came to a little child.

She laid it into her breast,
And back to her mother she came,
But it would not feed and it would not heed, Though she gave it her own child’s name.
And the dead child dripped on her breast, And her own in the shroud lay stark;
And “God forgive us, mother,” she said, “We let it die in the dark!”


~Read here:
This is the story of Evarra — man — Maker of Gods in lands beyond the sea.~
Because the city gave him of her gold, Because the caravans brought turquoises, Because his life was sheltered by the King, So that no man should maim him, none should steal, Or break his rest with babble in the streets When he was weary after toil, he made
An image of his God in gold and pearl, With turquoise diadem and human eyes,
A wonder in the sunshine, known afar, And worshipped by the King; but, drunk with pride, Because the city bowed to him for God,
He wrote above the shrine: “~Thus Gods are made, And whoso makes them otherwise shall die.~” And all the city praised him. . . . Then he died.
~Read here the story of Evarra — man — Maker of Gods in lands beyond the sea.~
Because the city had no wealth to give, Because the caravans were spoiled afar, Because his life was threatened by the King, So that all men despised him in the streets, He hewed the living rock, with sweat and tears, And reared a God against the morning-gold, A terror in the sunshine, seen afar,
And worshipped by the King; but, drunk with pride, Because the city fawned to bring him back, He carved upon the plinth: “~Thus Gods are made, And whoso makes them otherwise shall die.~” And all the people praised him. . . . Then he died.
~Read here the story of Evarra — man — Maker of Gods in lands beyond the sea.~
Because he lived among a simple folk, Because his village was between the hills, Because he smeared his cheeks with blood of ewes, He cut an idol from a fallen pine,
Smeared blood upon its cheeks, and wedged a shell Above its brows for eyes, and gave it hair Of trailing moss, and plaited straw for crown. And all the village praised him for this craft, And brought him butter, honey, milk, and curds. Wherefore, because the shoutings drove him mad, He scratched upon that log: “~Thus Gods are made, And whoso makes them otherwise shall die.~” And all the people praised him. . . . Then he died.
~Read here the story of Evarra — man — Maker of Gods in lands beyond the sea.~
Because his God decreed one clot of blood Should swerve one hair’s-breadth from the pulse’s path, And chafe his brain, Evarra mowed alone, Rag-wrapped, among the cattle in the fields, Counting his fingers, jesting with the trees, And mocking at the mist, until his God
Drove him to labour. Out of dung and horns Dropped in the mire he made a monstrous God, Abhorrent, shapeless, crowned with plantain tufts, And when the cattle lowed at twilight-time, He dreamed it was the clamour of lost crowds, And howled among the beasts: “~Thus Gods are made, And whoso makes them otherwise shall die.~” Thereat the cattle bellowed. . . . Then he died.
Yet at the last he came to Paradise, And found his own four Gods, and that he wrote; And marvelled, being very near to God,
What oaf on earth had made his toil God’s law, Till God said mocking: “Mock not. These be thine.” Then cried Evarra: “I have sinned!” — “Not so. If thou hadst written otherwise, thy Gods Had rested in the mountain and the mine, And I were poorer by four wondrous Gods, And thy more wondrous law, Evarra. Thine, Servant of shouting crowds and lowing kine.” Thereat, with laughing mouth, but tear-wet eyes, Evarra cast his Gods from Paradise.

~This is the story of Evarra — man — Maker of Gods in lands beyond the sea.~


When the flush of a new-born sun fell first on Eden’s green and gold, Our father Adam sat under the Tree and scratched with a stick in the mould; And the first rude sketch that the world had seen was joy to his mighty heart, Till the Devil whispered behind the leaves, “It’s pretty, but is it Art?”
Wherefore he called to his wife, and fled to fashion his work anew — The first of his race who cared a fig for the first, most dread review; And he left his lore to the use of his sons — and that was a glorious gain When the Devil chuckled “Is it Art?” in the ear of the branded Cain.
They fought and they talked in the North and the South, they talked and they fought in the West, Till the waters rose on the pitiful land, and the poor Red Clay had rest — Had rest till that dank blank-canvas dawn when the dove was preened to start, And the Devil bubbled below the keel: “It’s human, but is it Art?”
They builded a tower to shiver the sky and wrench the stars apart, Till the Devil grunted behind the bricks: “It’s striking, but is it Art?” The stone was dropped at the quarry-side and the idle derrick swung, While each man talked of the aims of Art, and each in an alien tongue.
The tale is as old as the Eden Tree — and new as the new-cut tooth — For each man knows ere his lip-thatch grows he is master of Art and Truth; And each man hears as the twilight nears, to the beat of his dying heart, The Devil drum on the darkened pane: “You did it, but was it Art?”
We have learned to whittle the Eden Tree to the shape of a surplice-peg, We have learned to bottle our parents twain in the yelk of an addled egg, We know that the tail must wag the dog, for the horse is drawn by the cart; But the Devil whoops, as he whooped of old: “It’s clever, but is it Art?”
When the flicker of London sun falls faint on the Club-room’s green and gold, The sons of Adam sit them down and scratch with their pens in the mould — They scratch with their pens in the mould of their graves, and the ink and the anguish start,
For the Devil mutters behind the leaves: “It’s pretty, but is it Art?”
Now, if we could win to the Eden Tree where the Four Great Rivers flow, And the Wreath of Eve is red on the turf as she left it long ago, And if we could come when the sentry slept and softly scurry through, By the favour of God we might know as much — as our father Adam knew!



This is the sorrowful story
Told when the twilight fails
And the monkeys walk together
Holding their neighbours’ tails: —
“Our fathers lived in the forest,
Foolish people were they,
They went down to the cornland
To teach the farmers to play.

“Our fathers frisked in the millet, Our fathers skipped in the wheat,
Our fathers hung from the branches, Our fathers danced in the street.

“Then came the terrible farmers,
Nothing of play they knew,
Only. . .they caught our fathers
And set them to labour too!

“Set them to work in the cornland
With ploughs and sickles and flails, Put them in mud-walled prisons
And — cut off their beautiful tails!
“Now, we can watch our fathers,
Sullen and bowed and old,
Stooping over the millet,
Sharing the silly mould,

“Driving a foolish furrow,
Mending a muddy yoke,
Sleeping in mud-walled prisons,
Steeping their food in smoke.

“We may not speak to our fathers,
For if the farmers knew
They would come up to the forest
And set us to labour too.”

This is the horrible story
Told as the twilight fails
And the monkeys walk together
Holding their kinsmen’s tails.


‘Twas when the rain fell steady an’ the Ark was pitched an’ ready, That Noah got his orders for to take the bastes below; He dragged them all together by the horn an’ hide an’ feather, An’ all excipt the Donkey was agreeable to go.
Thin Noah spoke him fairly, thin talked to him sevarely, An’ thin he cursed him squarely to the glory av the Lord: — “Divil take the ass that bred you, and the greater ass that fed you — Divil go wid you, ye spalpeen!” an’ the Donkey went aboard.
But the wind was always failin’, an’ ’twas most onaisy sailin’, An’ the ladies in the cabin couldn’t stand the stable air; An’ the bastes betwuxt the hatches, they tuk an’ died in batches, Till Noah said: — “There’s wan av us that hasn’t paid his fare!”
For he heard a flusteration ‘mid the bastes av all creation — The trumpetin’ av elephints an’ bellowin’ av whales; An’ he saw forninst the windy whin he wint to stop the shindy The Divil wid a stable-fork bedivillin’ their tails.
The Divil cursed outrageous, but Noah said umbrageous: — “To what am I indebted for this tenant-right invasion?” An’ the Divil gave for answer: — “Evict me if you can, sir, For I came in wid the Donkey — on Your Honour’s invitation.”


Above the portico a flag-staff, bearing the Union Jack, remained fluttering in the flames for some time, but ultimately when it fell the crowds rent the air with shouts, and seemed to see significance in the incident. — DAILY PAPERS.

Winds of the World, give answer! They are whimpering to and fro — And what should they know of England who only England know? — The poor little street-bred people that vapour and fume and brag, They are lifting their heads in the stillness to yelp at the English Flag!
Must we borrow a clout from the Boer — to plaster anew with dirt? An Irish liar’s bandage, or an English coward’s shirt? We may not speak of England; her Flag’s to sell or share. What is the Flag of England? Winds of the World, declare!
The North Wind blew: — “From Bergen my steel-shod vanguards go; I chase your lazy whalers home from the Disko floe; By the great North Lights above me I work the will of God, And the liner splits on the ice-field or the Dogger fills with cod.
“I barred my gates with iron, I shuttered my doors with flame, Because to force my ramparts your nutshell navies came; I took the sun from their presence, I cut them down with my blast, And they died, but the Flag of England blew free ere the spirit passed.
“The lean white bear hath seen it in the long, long Arctic night, The musk-ox knows the standard that flouts the Northern Light: What is the Flag of England? Ye have but my bergs to dare, Ye have but my drifts to conquer. Go forth, for it is there!”
The South Wind sighed: — “From the Virgins my mid-sea course was ta’en Over a thousand islands lost in an idle main, Where the sea-egg flames on the coral and the long-backed breakers croon Their endless ocean legends to the lazy, locked lagoon.
“Strayed amid lonely islets, mazed amid outer keys, I waked the palms to laughter — I tossed the scud in the breeze — Never was isle so little, never was sea so lone, But over the scud and the palm-trees an English flag was flown.
“I have wrenched it free from the halliard to hang for a wisp on the Horn; I have chased it north to the Lizard — ribboned and rolled and torn; I have spread its fold o’er the dying, adrift in a hopeless sea; I have hurled it swift on the slaver, and seen the slave set free.
“My basking sunfish know it, and wheeling albatross, Where the lone wave fills with fire beneath the Southern Cross. What is the Flag of England? Ye have but my reefs to dare, Ye have but my seas to furrow. Go forth, for it is there!”
The East Wind roared: — “From the Kuriles, the Bitter Seas, I come, And me men call the Home-Wind, for I bring the English home. Look — look well to your shipping! By the breath of my mad typhoon I swept your close-packed Praya and beached your best at Kowloon!
“The reeling junks behind me and the racing seas before, I raped your richest roadstead — I plundered Singapore! I set my hand on the Hoogli; as a hooded snake she rose, And I flung your stoutest steamers to roost with the startled crows.
“Never the lotus closes, never the wild-fowl wake, But a soul goes out on the East Wind that died for England’s sake — Man or woman or suckling, mother or bride or maid — Because on the bones of the English the English Flag is stayed.
“The desert-dust hath dimmed it, the flying wild-ass knows, The scared white leopard winds it across the taintless snows. What is the Flag of England? Ye have but my sun to dare, Ye have but my sands to travel. Go forth, for it is there!”
The West Wind called: — “In squadrons the thoughtless galleons fly That bear the wheat and cattle lest street-bred people die. They make my might their porter, they make my house their path, Till I loose my neck from their rudder and whelm them all in my wrath.
“I draw the gliding fog-bank as a snake is drawn from the hole, They bellow one to the other, the frighted ship-bells toll, For day is a drifting terror till I raise the shroud with my breath, And they see strange bows above them and the two go locked to death.
“But whether in calm or wrack-wreath, whether by dark or day, I heave them whole to the conger or rip their plates away, First of the scattered legions, under a shrieking sky, Dipping between the rollers, the English Flag goes by.
“The dead dumb fog hath wrapped it — the frozen dews have kissed — The naked stars have seen it, a fellow-star in the mist. What is the Flag of England? Ye have but my breath to dare, Ye have but my waves to conquer. Go forth, for it is there!”


(In Memory of a Commission)

Help for a patriot distressed, a spotless spirit hurt, Help for an honourable clan sore trampled in the dirt! From Queenstown Bay to Donegal, O listen to my song, The honourable gentlemen have suffered grievous wrong.
Their noble names were mentioned — O the burning black disgrace! — By a brutal Saxon paper in an Irish shooting-case; They sat upon it for a year, then steeled their heart to brave it, And “coruscating innocence” the learned Judges gave it.
Bear witness, Heaven, of that grim crime beneath the surgeon’s knife, The honourable gentlemen deplored the loss of life! Bear witness of those chanting choirs that burk and shirk and snigger, No man laid hand upon the knife or finger to the trigger!
Cleared in the face of all mankind beneath the winking skies, Like ph]oenixes from Ph]oenix Park (and what lay there) they rise! Go shout it to the emerald seas — give word to Erin now, Her honourable gentlemen are cleared — and this is how: —
They only paid the Moonlighter his cattle-hocking price, They only helped the murderer with counsel’s best advice, But — sure it keeps their honour white — the learned Court believes They never gave a piece of plate to murderers and thieves.
They never told the ramping crowd to card a woman’s hide, They never marked a man for death — what fault of theirs he died? — They only said “intimidate”, and talked and went away — By God, the boys that did the work were braver men than they!
Their sin it was that fed the fire — small blame to them that heard — The “bhoys” get drunk on rhetoric, and madden at a word — They knew whom they were talking at, if they were Irish too, The gentlemen that lied in Court, they knew, and well they knew.
They only took the Judas-gold from Fenians out of jail, They only fawned for dollars on the blood-dyed Clanna-Gael. If black is black or white is white, in black and white it’s down, They’re only traitors to the Queen and rebels to the Crown.
“Cleared”, honourable gentlemen! Be thankful it’s no more: — The widow’s curse is on your house, the dead are at your door. On you the shame of open shame, on you from North to South The hand of every honest man flat-heeled across your mouth.
“Less black than we were painted”? — Faith, no word of black was said; The lightest touch was human blood, and that, you know, runs red. It’s sticking to your fist to-day for all your sneer and scoff, And by the Judge’s well-weighed word you cannot wipe it off.
Hold up those hands of innocence — go, scare your sheep together, The blundering, tripping tups that bleat behind the old bell-wether; And if they snuff the taint and break to find another pen, Tell them it’s tar that glistens so, and daub them yours again!
“The charge is old”? — As old as Cain — as fresh as yesterday; Old as the Ten Commandments — have ye talked those laws away? If words are words, or death is death, or powder sends the ball, You spoke the words that sped the shot — the curse be on you all.
“Our friends believe”? — Of course they do — as sheltered women may; But have they seen the shrieking soul ripped from the quivering clay? They! — If their own front door is shut, they’ll swear the whole world’s warm;
What do they know of dread of death or hanging fear of harm?
The secret half a county keeps, the whisper in the lane, The shriek that tells the shot went home behind the broken pane, The dry blood crisping in the sun that scares the honest bees, And shows the “bhoys” have heard your talk — what do they know of these?
But you — you know — ay, ten times more; the secrets of the dead, Black terror on the country-side by word and whisper bred, The mangled stallion’s scream at night, the tail-cropped heifer’s low. Who set the whisper going first? You know, and well you know!
My soul! I’d sooner lie in jail for murder plain and straight, Pure crime I’d done with my own hand for money, lust, or hate, Than take a seat in Parliament by fellow-felons cheered, While one of those “not provens” proved me cleared as you are cleared.
Cleared — you that “lost” the League accounts — go, guard our honour still, Go, help to make our country’s laws that broke God’s law at will — One hand stuck out behind the back, to signal “strike again”; The other on your dress-shirt-front to show your heart is clane.
If black is black or white is white, in black and white it’s down, You’re only traitors to the Queen and rebels to the Crown. If print is print or words are words, the learned Court perpends: — We are not ruled by murderers, but only — by their friends.


Now this is the tale of the Council the German Kaiser decreed, To ease the strong of their burden, to help the weak in their need, He sent a word to the peoples, who struggle, and pant, and sweat, That the straw might be counted fairly and the tally of bricks be set.
The Lords of Their Hands assembled; from the East and the West they drew — Baltimore, Lille, and Essen, Brummagem, Clyde, and Crewe. And some were black from the furnace, and some were brown from the soil, And some were blue from the dye-vat; but all were wearied of toil.
And the young King said: — “I have found it, the road to the rest ye seek: The strong shall wait for the weary, the hale shall halt for the weak; With the even tramp of an army where no man breaks from the line, Ye shall march to peace and plenty in the bond of brotherhood — sign!”
The paper lay on the table, the strong heads bowed thereby, And a wail went up from the peoples: — “Ay, sign — give rest, for we die!” A hand was stretched to the goose-quill, a fist was cramped to scrawl, When — the laugh of a blue-eyed maiden ran clear through the council-hall.
And each one heard Her laughing as each one saw Her plain — Saidie, Mimi, or Olga, Gretchen, or Mary Jane. And the Spirit of Man that is in Him to the light of the vision woke; And the men drew back from the paper, as a Yankee delegate spoke: —
“There’s a girl in Jersey City who works on the telephone; We’re going to hitch our horses and dig for a house of our own, With gas and water connections, and steam-heat through to the top; And, W. Hohenzollern, I guess I shall work till I drop.”
And an English delegate thundered: — “The weak an’ the lame be blowed! I’ve a berth in the Sou’-West workshops, a home in the Wandsworth Road; And till the ‘sociation has footed my buryin’ bill, I work for the kids an’ the missus. Pull up? I be damned if I will!”
And over the German benches the bearded whisper ran: — “Lager, der girls und der dollars, dey makes or dey breaks a man. If Schmitt haf collared der dollars, he collars der girl deremit; But if Schmitt bust in der pizness, we collars der girl from Schmitt.”
They passed one resolution: — “Your sub-committee believe You can lighten the curse of Adam when you’ve lightened the curse of Eve. But till we are built like angels, with hammer and chisel and pen, We will work for ourself and a woman, for ever and ever, amen.”
Now this is the tale of the Council the German Kaiser held — The day that they razored the Grindstone, the day that the Cat was belled, The day of the Figs from Thistles, the day of the Twisted Sands, The day that the laugh of a maiden made light of the Lords of Their Hands.


Now Tomlinson gave up the ghost in his house in Berkeley Square, And a Spirit came to his bedside and gripped him by the hair — A Spirit gripped him by the hair and carried him far away, Till he heard as the roar of a rain-fed ford the roar of the Milky Way: Till he heard the roar of the Milky Way die down and drone and cease, And they came to the Gate within the Wall where Peter holds the keys. “Stand up, stand up now, Tomlinson, and answer loud and high The good that ye did for the sake of men or ever ye came to die — The good that ye did for the sake of men in little earth so lone!” And the naked soul of Tomlinson grew white as a rain-washed bone. “O I have a friend on earth,” he said, “that was my priest and guide, And well would he answer all for me if he were by my side.” — “For that ye strove in neighbour-love it shall be written fair, But now ye wait at Heaven’s Gate and not in Berkeley Square: Though we called your friend from his bed this night, he could not speak for you,
For the race is run by one and one and never by two and two.” Then Tomlinson looked up and down, and little gain was there, For the naked stars grinned overhead, and he saw that his soul was bare: The Wind that blows between the worlds, it cut him like a knife, And Tomlinson took up his tale and spoke of his good in life. “This I have read in a book,” he said, “and that was told to me, And this I have thought that another man thought of a Prince in Muscovy.” The good souls flocked like homing doves and bade him clear the path, And Peter twirled the jangling keys in weariness and wrath. “Ye have read, ye have heard, ye have thought,” he said, “and the tale is yet to run:
By the worth of the body that once ye had, give answer — what ha’ ye done?” Then Tomlinson looked back and forth, and little good it bore, For the Darkness stayed at his shoulder-blade and Heaven’s Gate before: — “O this I have felt, and this I have guessed, and this I have heard men say, And this they wrote that another man wrote of a carl in Norroway.” — “Ye have read, ye have felt, ye have guessed, good lack! Ye have hampered Heaven’s Gate;
There’s little room between the stars in idleness to prate! O none may reach by hired speech of neighbour, priest, and kin Through borrowed deed to God’s good meed that lies so fair within; Get hence, get hence to the Lord of Wrong, for doom has yet to run, And. . .the faith that ye share with Berkeley Square uphold you, Tomlinson!”
. . . . .

The Spirit gripped him by the hair, and sun by sun they fell Till they came to the belt of Naughty Stars that rim the mouth of Hell: The first are red with pride and wrath, the next are white with pain, But the third are black with clinkered sin that cannot burn again: They may hold their path, they may leave their path, with never a soul to mark,
They may burn or freeze, but they must not cease in the Scorn of the Outer Dark.
The Wind that blows between the worlds, it nipped him to the bone, And he yearned to the flare of Hell-Gate there as the light of his own hearth-stone. The Devil he sat behind the bars, where the desperate legions drew, But he caught the hasting Tomlinson and would not let him through. “Wot ye the price of good pit-coal that I must pay?” said he, “That ye rank yoursel’ so fit for Hell and ask no leave of me? I am all o’er-sib to Adam’s breed that ye should give me scorn, For I strove with God for your First Father the day that he was born. Sit down, sit down upon the slag, and answer loud and high The harm that ye did to the Sons of Men or ever you came to die.” And Tomlinson looked up and up, and saw against the night The belly of a tortured star blood-red in Hell-Mouth light; And Tomlinson looked down and down, and saw beneath his feet The frontlet of a tortured star milk-white in Hell-Mouth heat. “O I had a love on earth,” said he, “that kissed me to my fall, And if ye would call my love to me I know she would answer all.” — “All that ye did in love forbid it shall be written fair, But now ye wait at Hell-Mouth Gate and not in Berkeley Square: Though we whistled your love from her bed to-night, I trow she would not run, For the sin ye do by two and two ye must pay for one by one!” The Wind that blows between the worlds, it cut him like a knife, And Tomlinson took up the tale and spoke of his sin in life: — “Once I ha’ laughed at the power of Love and twice at the grip of the Grave, And thrice I ha’ patted my God on the head that men might call me brave.” The Devil he blew on a brandered soul and set it aside to cool: — “Do ye think I would waste my good pit-coal on the hide of a brain-sick fool? I see no worth in the hobnailed mirth or the jolthead jest ye did That I should waken my gentlemen that are sleeping three on a grid.” Then Tomlinson looked back and forth, and there was little grace, For Hell-Gate filled the houseless Soul with the Fear of Naked Space. “Nay, this I ha’ heard,” quo’ Tomlinson, “and this was noised abroad, And this I ha’ got from a Belgian book on the word of a dead French lord.” — “Ye ha’ heard, ye ha’ read, ye ha’ got, good lack! and the tale begins afresh —
Have ye sinned one sin for the pride o’ the eye or the sinful lust of the flesh?”
Then Tomlinson he gripped the bars and yammered, “Let me in — For I mind that I borrowed my neighbour’s wife to sin the deadly sin.” The Devil he grinned behind the bars, and banked the fires high: “Did ye read of that sin in a book?” said he; and Tomlinson said, “Ay!” The Devil he blew upon his nails, and the little devils ran, And he said: “Go husk this whimpering thief that comes in the guise of a man: Winnow him out ‘twixt star and star, and sieve his proper worth: There’s sore decline in Adam’s line if this be spawn of earth.” Empusa’s crew, so naked-new they may not face the fire, But weep that they bin too small to sin to the height of their desire, Over the coal they chased the Soul, and racked it all abroad, As children rifle a caddis-case or the raven’s foolish hoard. And back they came with the tattered Thing, as children after play, And they said: “The soul that he got from God he has bartered clean away. We have threshed a stook of print and book, and winnowed a chattering wind And many a soul wherefrom he stole, but his we cannot find: We have handled him, we have dandled him, we have seared him to the bone, And sure if tooth and nail show truth he has no soul of his own.” The Devil he bowed his head on his breast and rumbled deep and low: — “I’m all o’er-sib to Adam’s breed that I should bid him go. Yet close we lie, and deep we lie, and if I gave him place, My gentlemen that are so proud would flout me to my face; They’d call my house a common stews and me a careless host, And — I would not anger my gentlemen for the sake of a shiftless ghost.” The Devil he looked at the mangled Soul that prayed to feel the flame, And he thought of Holy Charity, but he thought of his own good name: — “Now ye could haste my coal to waste, and sit ye down to fry: Did ye think of that theft for yourself?” said he; and Tomlinson said, “Ay!”