Poets of John Company/A Ballad

A Ballad.

"A ballad dedicated to the Junior Members of the Bengal Civil Service and intended to have been sung at the Albion Tavern on the occasion of a recent Viceregal Inauguration Dinner." 1836.

No, neither sinecure, nor mastership in chancery,
Nor post, nor place, nor pension for a younger son!
Hume, Grote, and vile Lord John have dished our only chance or I
Might help you, but our halcyon days are almost gone;
A failing bar, a falling bench, and, what must most disgust us is
No hope for briefless barristers, no hole for Lord Augustuses:
The fact is, dear Sir Robert, (to conceal it were hypocrisy)
Lord Brougham and Vaux, the man that talks, has swamped the aristocracy.
Thus you may see neither sinecure nor chancery.
Nor post, nor place, avail us now for younger sons.


But (as the boys must eat) let's see what's on the tapis now,—
With army full and navy dull, what can be said?
Join the Canadian O'Connell, Monsieur Papineau,
Or Cavaliero Evans's Isle of Dogs brigade?
Command King Otho's grenadiers (supposing that he's got any),
Or live on hope and kangaroo near much-belauded Botany:
Try Sidney, Perth, Van Dieman, or (I'd have you keep on all an eye)
My cousin Colonel Torrens' new pound-an-acre colony?
Here then's some hope without sinecure or chancery,
To pick up something decent for a younger son.

Yet 'tis cold comfort, for the price-makes-value principle
May suit well-dinnered theorists, but won't suit you;
He who eats may argue, but say how is he convincible.
Who has to prove in person if the fact be true?
You'll send Bill there?—he must go somewhere—yet, Sir Robert, that I call,
Merely making him a victim to economists dogmatical:
No, with your backstairs interest (than which nothing better wheedles) treat
The potentates by patent at the large house near Thread-needle-street.
They (worthy gentlemen) sans sinecure or chancery.
Will give you quid pro quo, and aid a younger son.

Yes, Bill must go, for see how great our population is
With anti-nuptial Malthusites in dire dismay!
Miss Martineau's preventive check, Sir, now our sole salvation is.
Yet flesh and blood is flesh and blood say what you may:
Bill's a clever chap, too, and can turn his hand to any thing, come
Don't forget you can't afford to furnish him a yearly income;

As Bob, your eldest born, alas! his cash at Rouge et Noir gages,
Let Billy broil in Bundelcund to balance Bobby's mortgages.
Thus, think no more, my friend, of sinecure or chancery,
We'll humanise the Hindoos with our younger sons.

Quick, though be quick, all the youngster's doubts anticipate,
Heat, tigers, liver, cholera, in that far land;
Words, a few words, somewhat plausible will dissipate
Such triflng fears which never in his way should stand:
If you find your rhetoric unequal to effect or do it.
Hold your tongue, and let your friend the I—H—D—r—ct—r do it:
He with glance paternal, which unused to gibe or scoff is, Sir,
Will humbug as sublimely as a trained recruiting officer.
Trust, trust to him (hang your sinecure or chancery,)
He'll dispose to best advantage of a younger son.

Hark! only hark! with what bland and cool complacency
He numbers o'er the blessing of the great C. S.—
Tells what they were, just perhaps by way of decency
Allowing now they may, indeed, be somewhat less;
"Still though credit, fame, rupees, and such like things in millions
Wait for ever on the E—t I—n C—y's civilians:
If, dear Bill, you keep from debt, you soon may see yourself in stone
Immortalised by Chantrey like our great Mountstuart Elphinstone."
Sure, this is better. Sir, than sinecure or chancery,
Thus to gudgeonize at second-hand a younger son!

"Then as to fortune why, convinced of this, dear Bill, I am.
About twelve years will see you home, quite at your ease:
Since, too, we've done away the College of Fort William,
Both marriages and debt are much on the decrease:

Also we've adopted (lest you should not prove obedient
When ordered from Calcutta) this most excellent expedient;
Writers very oft are packed in palanquins (like cages) straight,
And thus sent off to learn Oordoo with some upcountry magistrate."
Sure, this is better. Sir, than sinecure or chancery,
Such care ('tis quite parental) of our younger sons!

"All you've to learn are some few dialects, (you'll do it; if
You don't why you're deported) in about a year:
That's for you writers, but such knowledge is intuitive
In soldiers, old or young — at least that's what we hear:
Ensigns, day by day, poor boys, dragged roaring from their mess away.
Forced to rule whole districts, hit or miss, surmise and guess away:
Meanwhile you, lucky dog, in happy ease your bile expectorate
As seventh sub-assistant in some excellent collectorate!"
Who would wish for sinecure or mastership in chancery.
With such immense advantages for younger sons?

Here he stops: 'twere time he should, for Billy might look cross upon it.
Had he heard his Mentor by mistake rehearse
The orthodox Bentinckian creed with Mr. Ross's gloss upon it—
Here it is for you, though. Sir, in doggerel verse.
"All but B. C. S. collectors for their offices sufficient are!
All moonsiffs are immaculate, all judges inefficient are!
No military favourite (whatever his condition) errs!
And colonels of artillery are heaven-born commissioners!"
Mum though, compared with joys of sinecure or chancery.
This might turn out discouraging to younger sons.


No, let him have just enough of these and other things
To mystify, not satisfy, his anxious mind;
You'll see 'tis best in uncertainty to smother things.
As soon as he's in Hindostan the truth he'll find.
If after all an Indian life Bill be not quite decided for,
Never mind, at any rate a younger son's provided for:
If averse he feel, when first by heat oppressed or thinned, to it.
He'll (take my word) get used ere long, as eels do when they're skinned, to it.
Thus without sinecure or mastership in chancery.
Here's excellent provision for our younger sons!