Lord Dufferin to Lord Lansdowne:—
SO here’s your Empire. No more wine, then? Good.
We’ll clear the Aides and khitmutgars away.
(You’ll know that fat old fellow with the knife—
He keeps the Name Book, talks in English, too,
And almost thinks himself the Government.)
O Youth, Youth, Youth! Forgive me, you’re so young.
Forty from sixty—twenty years of work
And power to back the working. Ay de mi!
You want to know, you want to see, to touch
And, by your lights, to act. It’s natural.
I wonder can I help you? Let me try.
You saw—what did you see from Bombay east?
Enough to frighten any one but me?
Neat that! It frightened Me in Eighty-Four!
You shouldn’t take a man from Canada
And bid him smoke in powder-magazines;
Nor with a Reputation such as—Bah!
That ghost has haunted me for twenty years,
My Reputation now full-blown. Your fault!
Yours, with your stories of the strife at Home,
Who’s up, who’s down, who leads and who is led—
One reads so much, one hears so little here.
Well, now’s your turn of exile. I go back
To Rome and leisure. All roads lead to Rome.
Or books—the refuge of the destitute.
When you... that brings me back to India. See!
Start clear. I couldn’t. Egypt served my turn.
You’ll never plumb the Oriental mind,
And if you did, it isn’t worth the toil.
Think of a sleek French priest in Canada;
Divide by twenty half-breeds. Multiply
By twice the Sphinx’s silence. There’s your East,
And you’re as wise as ever. So am I.
Accept on trust and work in darkness, strike
At venture, stumble forward, make your mark,
(It’s chalk on granite) then thank God no flame
Leaps from the rock to shrivel mark and man.
I’m clear—my mark is made. Three months of drouth
Had ruined much. It rained and washed away
The specks that might have gathered on my Name.
I took a country twice the size of France,
And shuttered up one doorway in the North.
I stand by those. You’ll find that both will pay,
I pledged my Name on both—they’re yours to-night.
Hold to them—they hold fame enough for two.
I’m old, but I shall live till Burma pays.
Men there—not German traders—Cr-sthw-te knows—
You’ll find it in my papers. For the North
Guns always—quietly—but always guns.
You’ve seen your Council? Yes, they’ll try to rule,
And prize their Reputations. Have you met
A grim lay-reader with a taste for coins,
And faith in Sin most men withhold from God?
He’s gone to England. R-p-n knew his grip
And kicked. A Council always has its H-pes.
They look for nothing from the West but Death
Or Bath or Bournemouth. Here’s their ground.
Until the Middle Classes take them back,
One of ten millions plus a C. S. I.,
Or drop in harness. Legion of the Lost?
Not altogether. Earnest, narrow men,
But chiefly earnest, and they’ll do your work,
And end by writing letters to the Times.
(Shall I write letters, answering H-nt-r—fawn
With R-p-n on the Yorkshire grocers? Ugh!)
They have their Reputations. Look to one—
I work with him—the smallest of them all,
White-haired, red-faced, who sat the plunging horse
Out in the garden. He’s your right-hand man,
And dreams of tilting W-ls-y from the throne,
But while he dreams gives work we cannot buy;
He has his Reputation—wants the Lords
By way of Frontier Roads. Meantime, I think,
He values very much the hand that falls
Upon his shoulder at the Council table—
Hates cats and knows his business. Which is yours.
Your business! Twice a hundred million souls.
Your business! I could tell you what I did
Some nights of Eighty-five, at Simla, worth
A Kingdom’s ransom. When a big ship drives
God knows to what new reef, the man at the wheel
Prays with the passengers. They lose their lives,
Or rescued go their way; but he’s no man
To take his trick at the wheel again. That’s worse
Than drowning. Well, a galled Mashobra mule
(You’ll see Mashobra) passed me on the Mall,
And I was—some fool’s wife had ducked and bowed
To show the others I would stop and speak.
Then the mule fell—three galls, a hand-breadth each,
Behind the withers. Mrs. Whatsisname
Leers at the mule and me by turns, thweet thoul!
“How could they make him carry such a load!”
I saw—it isn’t often I dream dreams—
More than the mule that minute—smoke and flame
From Simla to the haze below. That’s weak.
You’re younger. You’ll dream dreams before you’ve done.
You’ve youth, that’s one; good workmen—that means two
Fair chances in your favour. Fate’s the third.
I know what I did. Do you ask me, “Preach?”
I answer by my past or else go back
To platitudes of rule—or take you thus
In confidence and say:—“You know the trick:
“You’ve governed Canada. You know. You know!”
And all the while commend you to Fate’s hand
(Here at the top one loses sight o’ God),
Commend you, then, to something more than you—
The Other People’s blunders and... that’s all.
I’d agonise to serve you if I could.
It’s incommunicable, like the cast
That drops the hackle with the gut adry.
Too much—too little—there’s your salmon lost!
And so I tell you nothing—wish you luck,
And wonder—how I wonder!—for your sake!
And triumph for my own. You’re young, you’re young,
You hold to half a hundred Shibboleths.
I’m old. I followed Power to the last,
Gave her my best, and Power followed Me.
It’s worth it—on my soul I’m speaking plain,
Here by the claret glasses!—worth it all.
I gave—no matter what I gave—I win.
I know I win. Mine’s work, good work that lives!
A country twice the size of France—the North
Safeguarded. That’s my record: sink the rest
And better if you can. The Rains may serve,
Rupees may rise—three pence will give you Fame—
It’s rash to hope for sixpence... If they rise
Get guns, more guns, and lift the salt-tax. Oh!
I told you what the Congress meant or thought?
I’ll answer nothing. Half a year will prove
The full extent of time and thought you’ll spare
To Congress. Ask a Lady Doctor once
How little Begums see the light—deduce
Thence how the True Reformer’s child is born.
It’s interesting, curious... and vile.
I told the Turk he was a gentleman.
I told the Russian that his Tartar veins
Bled pure Parisian ichor; and he purred.
The Congress doesn’t purr. I think it swears.
You’re young—you’ll swear too ere you’ve reached the end
The End! God help you, if there be a God.
(There must be one to startle Gl-dst-ne’s soul
In that new land where all the wires are cut,
And Cr-ss snores anthems on the asphodel.)
God help you! And I’d help you if I could,
But that’s beyond me. Yes, your speech was crude.
Sound claret after olives—yours and mine;
But Medoc slips into vin ordinaire.
(I’ll drink my first at Genoa to your health)
Raise it to Hock. You’ll never catch my style.
And, after all, the middle-classes grip
The middle-class—for Brompton talk Earl’s Court.
Perhaps you’re right. I’ll see you in the Times—
A quarter-column of eye-searing print,
A leader once a quarter—then a war;
The Strand a-bellow through the fog:—“Defeat!”
“’Orrible slaughter!” While you lie awake
And wonder. Oh, you’ll wonder ere you’re free!
I wonder now. The four years slide away
So fast, so fast, and leave me here alone.
R—y, C-lv-n, L—l, R-b-rts, B-ck, the rest,
Princes and Powers of Darkness, troops and trains,
(I cannot sleep in trains), land piled on land,
Whitewash and weariness, red rockets, dust,
White snows that mocked me, palaces—with draughts,
And W-stl-nd with the drafts he couldn’t pay.
Poor W-ls-n reading his obituary
Before he died, and H-pe, the man with bones,
And A-tch-s-n a dripping mackintosh
At Council in the Rains, his grating “Sirrr”
Half drowned by H-nt-r’s silky: “Bât my lahd.”
Hunterian always: M-rsh-l spinning plates
Or standing on his head; the Rent Bill’s roar,
A hundred thousand speeches, much red cloth,
And Smiths thrice happy if I call them Jones,
(I can’t remember half their names) or reined
My pony on the Mall to greet their wives.
More trains, more troops, more dust, and then all’s done...
Four years, and I forget. If I forget,
How will they bear me in their minds? The North
Safeguarded—nearly (R-b-rts knows the rest),
A country twice the size of France annexed.
That stays at least. The rest may pass—may pass—
Your heritage—and I can teach you naught.
“High trust,” “vast honour,” “interests twice as vast,”
“Due reverence to your Council”—keep to those.
I envy you the twenty years you’ve gained,
But not the five to follow. What’s that? One!
Two!—Surely not so late. Good-night. Don’t dream.
Any corrections or public domain poems I should have here? Email me at poems (at) this domain.