Poets of John Company/A Lay of Lachen

COLMAN MACAULAY.

1848–90.

A Lay of Lachen.

The purple shadows upward crept
On Sikkim's mountains blue,
The snows their solemn vigil kept
Those stately watchers true.
The frosted peaks of Chola gleamed.
Broken and bare and bold,
On the glittering crest of Kinchin streamed
The sun-light clear and cold.
The fleeting clouds brief shadows flung
On mighty Junnoo's brow, or hung
On Pindim's forehead near;
And Donkia's beetling bastions frowned
A silent warning far around:
No foot may venture here.

The light air bore the sullen roar
Of Rungit rushing by;
And Bengal's Lord in thought was deep
As he gazed across the mountains steep
And he spake his counsel high:—
"No travellers come from far Tibet,
From the mystic land no tidings yet
For many a month are sent;
No more the tinkling bells ring clear;
On Lingtu's heights, by Bedden's mere;
On Jelep's path no step resounds
No smoke at even upward bounds
From weary trader's tent.

Do thou, Macaulay, ready make,
To Sikkim's Chief my greeting take
And see his father's solemn pact
Is true fulfilled in word and act.
And hie thee to the frontier far.
Journey towards the Northern Star,
Speak fair the Lord of Kambajong
And seek his friendship new:
The path is steep, the road is long,
But the purpose high and true.
Say that you cross the snow drifts sad
But to seek the grasp of friendship's hand,
We wish but the welfare of the land
To make both peoples glad."

Macaulay took his Chief's commands,
And, for that the city was long and steep.
And the ice was thick and the snow was deep.
And the wind that blows across the sands
Of Tartary is biting keen.
He called companions three
To go with him across the sheen
Of the snow fields wild and free.
First genial Evans—wisest he
Of all wise lawyers, and his place
At Bar and Board is ever high,—
Sage in council, for a space
Fled from the wiles of Dorson's race
And Rent Bill papers dry.
To breathe the air of Sikkim free,
To wander by her purling rills
And seek the beauty of her hills
The blueness of her sky.

And Paul who Sikkim loves so well
That still the native chieftains tell,
With kindly smile and grasp of hand,
That of the Sahib log who cross

The Rungit's silver fall,
None know the story of their land,
None can its meaning understand,
As does that Sahib tall.

And cheery Gordon, blithe and gay,
Sang as they toiled along the way
To Tibet's frontier far;
That soldier minstrel whose guitar
By Lachen's stream or Lushai hill
Has often cheered the camp, and still
Is heard in Cooch Behar.
And in the vales of Sikkim lone,
As gay he bought her brooch or zone.
Did many a maiden fair
Sigh, as she brushed a tear away,
"He will not buy what eke he may;
"He buys all things throughout the land.
"Oh, would he only buy my hand,
"That soldier debonnair!"

And Sarat Chandra, hardy son
Of soft Bengal, whose wondrous store
Of Buddhist and Tibetan lore
A place in fame's bright page has won,
Friend of the Tashu Lama's line,
Whose eyes have seen the gleaming shrine
Of holy Lhassa, came to show
The wonders of the land of snow.

They journeyed over steep Tendong,
And through the vale of Teesta fair,
By Shilling's slopes and Yeung's Mendong,
And Kubbi's smiling pastures rare
And Ryott's roaring falls.
To where, high perched on Mafi's breast
With banners gay and brazen crest,
Shone Sikkimputti's halls.


Right royal welcome Sikkim gave,
With high carouse and banquets brave,
And many a pledge of right good-will,
And many a promise new
His compact ever to fulfil
And prove his fealty true:
And to the Lord of Kambajong
Swift messengers he sent:
"Lo, o'er the hills to Giagong,
"By Lachen's vale and Phallung's snows,
"From great Bengal an envoy goes,
"To greet thee in his tent."

And leaving Sikkim's halls, the four
O'er Mafi's hill, by Ringun's rill
'Neath stately Gnarim's summit hoar,
By Namga's shades and Chakoong's glades.
And rapid Teesta's rocky shore
And Choongtam's marshes low.
And fairy Lachen's forests green,
And boiling Zemu's silver sheen,
And cherished still of Hooker's name,
Travelled till they the torrent crossed
At Tullum Samdong hard in frost
And Tungu deep in snow.

The moon to nearly full had grown
Ere they the frontier cold and lone
Did reach, where wind swept Giagong
Near twice six thousand cubits sheer,
O'er India's plains and peoples' throng
Lies white and chill and drear
'Twixt Kinchinjow and Chomiom.
No man or beast may make his home
That barren snow-field near.


The day was waning, and the crest
Of Chomiomo paler grew,
As sank the sun into the west
And ever lengthening shadows threw
The giants hoar between.
The north wind sharp and sharper blew,
The frost was piercing keen;
Night followed day, but still no sound
Was heard the silent snow drift round
Of coming foot-steps, and no light
Of lantern or of torch did peer
Across the waste of gleaming white
To say that help was near.

No light had they, nor drink, nor meat
Nor could they forward go or back;
The drifts were deep around the track.
The snow was thick around the feet;
And night like a funeral pall lay black
On a snow winding sheet.
The moon rose slow, and pale, and sad
O'er the royal crest of Kinchinjow,
And Chomiomo's peak was clad
In the light that bathed his icy brow;
And a shimmering moonbeam sad caressed
Her white still face and summit proud
As they laid their weary limbs to rest
On her silent spreading shroud.

At length that awful night was past,
No more they shuddered 'neath the blast;
The morning smiled across the wild,
And the tentsmen followed fast.
Down Kongralamo's snowy waste
The Yaks with stately movement paced.
And five score swordsmen's weapons glanced
As Kamba's chieftain grave advanced
The mystic chorton past.


And in Macaulay's tent that day,
In high durbar and bright array,
With welcome glad and presents fair,
Was Bengal's greeting told.
And Kamba's Lord did oft declare
That Tibet's people fain would dare
The dangers of the road, to see
Victoria's Empire, rich and rare,
Of mighty Tara regent she.
And with her happy people free
Would friendly converse hold.

Next day with many a greeting kind
And many a pledge of friendship true
They parted; and the wondrous blue
Of Tibet's sky was left behind.
And at the Yule-tide far away,
As sweet young faces wondering gaze,
When downward fall the ashes grey
And upward leaps the yellow blaze.
Those comrades four may tell the tale
Of how they trod fair Lachen's vale,
So lovely and so long.
And how they braved the withering gale
And lay beneath the snowpeaks pale
At lonely Giagong.