This week's theme: the summer heat
(Poem #1894) Pagett, M.P.
The toad beneath the harrow knows Exactly where each tooth-point goes. The butterfly upon the road Preaches contentment to that toad. Pagett, M.P., was a liar, and a fluent liar therewith -- He spoke of the heat of India as the "Asian Solar Myth"; Came on a four months' visit, to "study the East," in November, And I got him to sign an agreement vowing to stay till September. March came in with the koil. Pagett was cool and gay, Called me a "bloated Brahmin," talked of my "princely pay." March went out with the roses. "Where is your heat?" said he. "Coming," said I to Pagett, "Skittles!" said Pagett, M.P. April began with the punkah, coolies, and prickly-heat, -- Pagett was dear to mosquitoes, sandflies found him a treat. He grew speckled and mumpy -- hammered, I grieve to say, Aryan brothers who fanned him, in an illiberal way. May set in with a dust-storm, -- Pagett went down with the sun. All the delights of the season tickled him one by one. Imprimis -- ten day's "liver" -- due to his drinking beer; Later, a dose of fever -- slight, but he called it severe. Dysent'ry touched him in June, after the Chota Bursat -- Lowered his portly person -- made him yearn to depart. He didn't call me a "Brahmin," or "bloated," or "overpaid," But seemed to think it a wonder that any one stayed. July was a trifle unhealthy, -- Pagett was ill with fear. 'Called it the "Cholera Morbus," hinted that life was dear. He babbled of "Eastern Exile," and mentioned his home with tears; But I haven't seen my children for close upon seven years. We reached a hundred and twenty once in the Court at noon, (I've mentioned Pagett was portly) Pagett, went off in a swoon. That was an end to the business; Pagett, the perjured, fled With a practical, working knowledge of "Solar Myths" in his head. And I laughed as I drove from the station, but the mirth died out on my lips As I thought of the fools like Pagett who write of their "Eastern trips," And the sneers of the traveled idiots who duly misgovern the land, And I prayed to the Lord to deliver another one into my hand.
Notes: koil (usu. koel): Indian songbird punkah: fan Chota Bursat: the early rains Kipling was never one to suffer fools lightly, and his intolerance has taken the form of numerous highly satisfying poems and caricatures. Today's poem, the predictable-as-a-train-wreck account of a pompous politician's visit to a land notably lacking in the comforts of home, is typical - Kipling had a deep and informed love for India, and was often openly contemptuous of those who did not measure up to its rigours. (The theme is not uncommon - Robert Service was later to write even more extreme poems along the same lines, about the men who did not measure up to his beloved Yukon.) This is Frontier poetry in the grand tradition, the division lines drawn clearly between the Men of the Frontier and the effete pen-pushers back home who would presume to govern them. And what shines through every line of the poem is an unimstakable ring of authenticity, the pervasive feeling that Kipling knows what he is talking about, and perhaps even that he has earned the right to his mockery. And yes, it really does get that hot over here :) martin [Links] The short story to which the poem is attached: [broken link] http://whitewolf.newcastle.edu.au/words/authors/K/KiplingRudyard/prose/UndertheDeodars/enlightenmentpagett.html [Theme] Thanks again to Bronson Stocker for suggesting this week's theme. Contributions happily accepted till the theme winds up.