Alfred Comyn Lyall

(4 January 1835 – 11 April 1911 / Surrey)

Studies at Delhi, 1876


I.--The Hindu Ascetic.


Here as I sit by the Jumna bank,
Watching the flow of the sacred stream,
Pass me the legions, rank on rank,
And the cannon roar, and the bayonets gleam.

Is it a god or a king that comes?
Both are evil, and both are strong;
With women and worshipping, dancing and drums,
Carry your gods and your kings along.

Fanciful shapes of a plastic earth,
These are the visions that weary the eye;
These I may 'scape by a luckier birth,
Musing, and fasting, and hoping to die.

When shall these phantoums flicker away?
Like the smoke of the guns on the wind-swept hill,
Like the sounds and colours of yesterday:
And the soul have rest, and the air be still.


II.--Badminton.


Har dly a shot from the gate we stormed,
Under the Moree battlement's shade;
Close to the glacis our game was formed,
There had the fight been, and there we played.

Lightly the demoiselles tittered and leapt,
Merrily capered the players all;
North, was the garden where Nicholson slept,
South, was the sweep of a battered wall.

Near me a Musalmán, civil and mild,
Watched as the shuttlecocks rose and fell;
And he said, as he counted his beads and smiled,
"God smite their souls to the depths of hell."

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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