Poets of John Company/Clive's Dream before Plassey

HENRY GEORGE KEENE.

1825–1899.

Clive's Dream before the Battle of Plassey.

"The majority of the council pronounced against fighting, and Clive declared his concurrence with the majority. But scarcely had the meeting broken tip than he was himself again. He retired alone under the shade of some trees and passed near an hour there in thought. He came back determined to put everything to the hazard, and gave orders that all should be in readiness for passing the river on the morrow."—Macaulay.

Beneath the thick old mang-o-trees the trunks are growing black;
The night-hawk screams a bolder note, and wheels a wider track;
Far to the right, all ghastly white, thick tents are dimly seen;
Barbaric music faintly wails, the river runs between;
All blood-red on the western verge the skirts of twilight lie,
And two pale horns from the east go slowly up the sky.

Who walks at such an hour in the strange garb of the Frank,
And flings himself in gloomy guise on yonder grassy bank;
And mutters oft—"'Twere madness, sure, with such a force as ours.
To bide the brunt while yet the Moor unbroken holds his powers,
In hope to gain Moorshedabad or Patna's distant towers?"
Sore labour has that leader proved, but toil has worn him less
Than cares which weighed, and nigh dismayed his soul with their distress.
For stronger is the chief to do, than steady to endure.
And till to-day the swift with him has ever been the sure.

But now is come a direr strait than e'er the little band
Have known since first their venturous feet have trod this foreign strand;
The blood-stained rake, the tiger-prince, that laid their city low,
And slew their best and bravest by a cold-blood coward's blow—
He marches now with all his force, and boasts, in drunken glee,
To drive the pale-faced traders down before him to the sea;
And well may those stout strangers rest content his speed to stay,
Or trust to wait till cools his hate, or his armies melt away.

Now sinks the din from either camp, and not a sound is heard
Except the roar of hungry beast, or scream of prowling bird;
And Clive still lies extended; but no more he mutters now,
For sleep has sealed his weary eyes, and soothed his aching brow.

What changing cloud, what wreathing shapes float through that slumberer's breast?
What voices of vague augury, rejoicing or distrest?
While underneath and over all the tissue is of gore.
The crimson coat, the meteor flag, the hue of England's war.
The tiger-prince flies fast away, the foe shout in his rear.
The echo falls on Delhi's walls, and rocky Jessulmere;
The wild Mahratta hosts are broke, the proud Rohilla yields;
High kings are bending on their thrones, and peasants in their fields.

See Wellesley in deathless fight, see beams of glory take
The comely head of Combermere, the gallant crest of Lake,
The bayonet-push, the sabre-charge, through every realm of Ind,
From far Nepal to Cabul's heights and plains of sunny Sindh;
The red flood creeps from east to west, as goes the mighty sun,
To where in disappointment turned the hosts of Macedon;
From Martaban, from Comorin, to where Hydaspes flows.
Or holy Himalaya hoards her immemorial snows.

Sunlike it creeps; a flood of light, with blessings in its train;
The darkened land, the barren land, shall ne'er be so again.
O Western light! O light of blood! O hue of England's war!
He starts to life with sudden bound, to speak of peace no more.
"Ho! call the chiefs; ho! bid the men to gather on the lawn,
Prepare the boats—in silence all—we cross before the dawn."
But those who heard the welcome word, still wondered that he said—
"Perplexed, I ween, my rest has been, but God is for the Red."