Poets of John Company/The Mosquito's Song
The Mosquito's Song.
'Oh the pleasures of the plains
In Bengal, and in the Rains,
When the climate, damp and warm,
Makes our tiny tribes to swarm
From each puddle, from each tank,
Fringed with vegetation rank;
Whence, 'mid duck-weed hatched, and slime.
In the fullness of good time,
Shuffled off our maggot coil,
Start we into life's turmoil,
Clamorous, winged, and armed for fight.
Speeding quick our eager flight,
Ravenous, in quest of prey.
With the sun's declining ray.
Let us to the Fort repair,
In the Royal Barracks—there.
Sure to find the ruddy Griffin,
Full of beer and full of tiffin.
In the sultry afternoon,
Legs on table lolling; soon
Hies he to his tempting cot,
Stretching him supine; forgot
Cares and sorrows, scanty pay.
Duns that haunt the livelong day,
All forgot. Anon the book.
That in listless hand he took,
Drops upon his breast, as close his
Languid eyes: he yawns, he dozes;
Sinks at length in sleep unquiet.
Wild fantastic visions riot.
Flitting o'er his throbbing brain.
Till all is chaos come again!
Dreams he of pale Hodgson's ghost!
Shouts again the ideal toast!
Lo! the bottle's petticoats
Change to gown of her he doats
Upon:—his youthful village love,
Left to pine while he would rove
Foreign lands and nymphs among.
Soft! he lists her well known song,
Wood-notes wild, so long, so clear,
Echo in his straining ear!
—Silly dreamer! wild-wood notes
Here be none!—save from our throats,
Shrill ear-piercing trumps that sound,
While we flit our victim round!
Unsuspecting yet he lies.
Dreaming of fair lady's eyes,
Visionary phantasms bright.
Mocking still his mental sight.
Ancient crooked-sixpence broken—
All in gay confusion dance.
Then, the fond, the piercing glance
Her bright eyes' unerring dart.
Winged into his very heart.
Oh the torture! and the smart!
—Silly dreamer! dart or wing,
Here be none!—save from our throats.
Which with vigorous aim we ply,
As the lubbard wight doth lie,
Flushed with heat, and sleep, and ale,
While our hovering troops assail,
Juicy English cheek and lip;
Thus with oft repeated dip.
In we plunge the sharp proboscis.
Hunger is the best of sauces.
And we lack no cookery,
Griffin-blood, to relish thee!
Thus we suck, and gaze, and swill,
Till our reddening bodies fill;
Wing we then our lazy flight.
Snug to roost on giddy height.
Shelf, or book-case, or almirah's
Top. No rest for him! our virus
Quick ferments! each festering sore
Seems a voice, cries 'Sleep no more!
Gnats have murdered sleep (that knits up
Ravelled sleeve of care!')—He sits up
Startled,—scarce awake,—head bursting,—
Curses deep, and loud, and long,
Yet unsated, chaunt their song.
Oh the pleasures of the plains
In Bengal, and in the Rains!