Poets of John Company/The Old Pindaree
The Old Pindaree.
Allah is great, my children, and kind to a slave like me;
The great man's tent is gone from under the peepul tree:
With his horde of hungry retainers, and oil-fed slaves of the quill;
I paid them the bribes they wanted, and Satan may settle my bill.
It's not that I care for the money, or expect a dog to be clean,
If I were lord of the ryots, they'd starve ere I grew lean;
But I'd sooner be robbed by a tall man who showed me a yard of steel,
Than be fleeced by a sneaking Baboo, with a belted knave at his heel.
There goes my lord the Feringhee, who talks so civil and bland.
Till he raves like a soul in Jehannum if I don't quite understand;
He begins by calling me Sahib, and ends by calling me Fool;
He has taken my old sword from me, and tells me to set up a school;
Set up a school in the village! "And my wishes are," says he,
"That you make the boys learn reg'lar, or you'll get a lesson from me";
Well, Ramlal the oilman spites me, and pounded my cow last rains;
He's got three greasy young urchins; I'll see that they take pains.
Then comes a Settlement Hakim, to teach us to plough and to weed,
(I sowed the cotton he gave me, but first I boiled the seed):
He likes us humble farmers, and speaks so gracious and wise
As he asks of our manners and customs; I tell him a parcel of lies.
"Look," says the school Feringhee, "what a silly old man you be,
"You can't read, write, nor cypher, and your grandsons do all three;
"They total the shopman's figures, and reckon the tenant's corn,
"And read good books about London and the world before you were born."
Well, I may be old and foolish, for I've seventy years well told,
And the Franks have ruled me forty, so my heart and my hand's got cold;
Good boys they are, my grandsons, I know, but they'll never be men,
Such as I was at twenty-five when the sword was king of the pen;
When I rode a Dekhani charger, with the saddle-cloth gold-laced.
And a Persian sword, and twelve foot spear, and a pistol at my waist:
My son! He keeps a pony, and I grin to see him astride,
Jogging away to the market, swaying from side to side.
My father was an Afghan, and came from Kandahar:
He rode with Nawab Amir Khan in the old Maratha war:
From the Dekhan to the Himalay, five hundred of one clan,
They asked no leave of prince or chief as they swept thro' Hindusthan;
My mother was a Brahminee, but she clave to my father well;
She was saved from the sack of Juleysur, when a thousand Hindus fell;
Her kinsmen died in the sally; so she followed where he went.
And lived like a bold Pathani in the shade of a rider's tent.
It's many a year gone by now; and yet I often dream
Of a long dark march to the Jumna, of splashing across the stream.
Of the waning moon on the water, and the spears in the dim star-light.
As I rode in front of my mother, and wondered at all the sight.
Then, the streak of the pearly dawn—the flash of a sentinel's gun.
The gallop and glint of horsemen who wheeled in the level sun,
The shots in the clear still morning, the white smoke's eddying wreath;
Is this the same land that I live in, the dull dank air that I breathe?
But the British chased Amir Khan, and the roving times must cease,
My father got this village, and he sowed his crops in peace;
And I, so young and hot of blood, I had no land or wife,
So I took to the hills of Malwa, and the free Pindaree life.
Praise to the name Almighty! there is no God but one!
Mahomed is his prophet, and his will shall ever be done;
Ye shall take no use for your money, nor your faith for a ransom sell;
Ye shall make no terms with the infidel, but smite his soul to hell.
Tell me, ye men of Islam, who are rotting in shameful ease,
Who wrangle before the Feringhee for a poor man's last rupees,
Are ye better than were your fathers, who plundered with old Cheetoo,
And who fleeced the greedy traders, as the traders now fleece you?
Yes, and here's one of them coming, my father gave him a bill;
I have paid the man twice over, and here I'm paying him still;
He shows me a long stamp-paper, and must have my land, must he?
If I were twenty years younger he'd get six feet by three.
And if I were forty years younger, with my life before me to choose,
I wouldn't be lectured by Kafirs, or bullied by fat Hindoos;
But I'd go to some far-off country where Musalmans still are men,
Or take to the jungle, like Cheetoo, and die in the tiger's den.