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Alfred Comyn Lyall

Studies at Delhi, 1876

I.--The Hindu Ascetic.


Here as I sit by the Jumna bank,
Watching the flow of the sacred stream,
Pass me the legions, rank on rank,
And the cannon roar, and the bayonets gleam.

Is it a god or a king that comes?
Both are evil, and both are strong;
With women and worshipping, dancing and drums,
Carry your gods and your kings along.

Fanciful shapes of a plastic earth,
These are the visions that weary the eye;
These I may 'scape by a luckier birth,
Musing, and fasting, and hoping to die.

When shall these phantoums flicker away?
Like the smoke of the guns on the wind-swept hill,

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Sîva

Mors Janua Vitae.


I am the God of the sensuous fire
That moulds all Nature in forms divine;
The symbols of death and of man’s desire,
The springs of change in the world, are mine;
The organs of birth and the circlet of bones,
And the light loves carved on the temple stones.

I am the lord of delights and pain,
Of the pest that killeth, of fruitful joys;
I rule the currents of heart and vein;
A touch gives passion, a look destroys;
In the heat and cold of my lightest breath
Is the might incarnate of Lust and Death.

If a thousand altars stream with blood
Of the victims slain by the chanting priest,
Is a great God lured by the savoury food?

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Meditations of a Hindu Prince

ALL the world over, I wonder, in lands that I never have trod,
Are the people eternally seeking for the signs and steps of a God?
Westward across the ocean, and Northward across the snow,
Do they all stand gazing, as ever, and what do the wisest know?

Here, in this mystical India, the deities hover and swarm
Like the wild bees heard in the treetops, or the gusts of a gathering storm;
In the air men hear their voices, their feet on the rocks are seen,
Yet we all say, “Whence is the message, and what may the wonders mean?”

A million shrines stand open, and ever the censer swings,
As they bow to a mystic symbol, or the figures of ancient kings;
And the incense rises ever, and rises the endless cry
Of those who are heavy laden, and of cowards loth to die.

For the Destiny drives us together, like deer in a pass of the hills;
Above is the sky, and around us the sound of the shot that kills;
Push’d by a power we see not, and struck by a hand unknown,
We pray to the trees for shelter, and press our lips to a stone.

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Theology in Extremis: Or a soliloquy that may have been delivered in India, June, 1857

"They would have spared life to any of their English prisoners who should consent to profess Mahometanism, by repeating the usual short formula; but only one half-caste cared to save himself in that way." -- Extract from an Indian newspaper.


MORITURUS LOQUITUR.

Oft in the pleasant summer years,
Reading the tales of days bygone,
I have mused on the story of human tears,
All that man unto man had done,
Massacre, torture, and black despair;
Reading it all in my easy-chair.

Passionate prayer for a minute's life;
Tortured crying for death as rest;
Husband pleading for child or wife,
Pitiless stroke upon tender breast.
Was it all real as that I lay there
Lazily stretched on my easy-chair?

Could I believe in those hard old times,

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