Nocturne Written In An Indian Garden

A poem by John Kendall

'Where ignorance is bliss,
'Tis folly to be wise.'

The time-gun rolls his nerve-destroying bray;
The toiling moon rides slowly o'er the trees;
The weary diners cast their cares away,
And seek the lawn for coolness and for ease.

Now spreads the gathering stillness like a pall,
And melancholy silence rules the scene,
Save where the bugler sounds his homing call,
And thirsty THOMAS leaves the wet canteen;

Save that from yonder lines in deepest gloom
Th' ambiguous mule does of the stick[1] bewail,
Whose dunder craft forbids him to consume
His proper blanket, or his neighbour's tail.

Beneath those jagged tiles, that low-built roof
(Whose inmost secret deeps let none divine!),
Each to his master's cry supremely proof,
The Aryan Brothers of our household dine.

Let not Presumption mock their joyless pile, -
The cold boiled rice, in native butter greased;
Nor scorn, with rising gorge and painful smile,
The cheap but filling flapjacks of the East.

Full many a gem of highest Art-cuisine
Those dark unfathomed dogmatists eschew;
Full many a 'dish to set before the Queen'
Would waste its sweetness on the mild Hindoo.

Nor you, their lords, expect of these the toil,
When o'er their minds a soft oblivion steals,
And through the long-drawn hookah's pliant coil
They soothe their senses, and digest their meals.

For Knowledge to their ears her ample store,
Rich with the latest news, does then impart,
Whose source, when known, shall chill you to the core,
And freeze the genial cockles of the heart.

For once, to dumb Neglectfulness a prey,
Resentment led me undetected near,
To know the reason of this cool delay,
And teach my trusty pluralist to hear.

There to my vassals' ruminating throng
Some total stranger, seated on a pail,
Perused, translating as he went along,
My private letters by the current mail.

One moment, horror baulked my strong intent;
Next o'er the compound wall we saw him go,
While uncouth moan, with hapless gesture blent,
Deplored the pressing tribute of the toe.


To you, fresh youths, with round unblushing cheeks,
Some moral tag this closing verse applies;
E'en from the old the voice of Wisdom speaks -
Even the youngest are not always wise!

No further seek to probe the Best Unknown,
From Exploration's curious arts refrain;
Lest Melancholy mark you for her own,
And you should learn - nor ever smile again.

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