Dear Auntie, your parboiled nephew reclines with his feet on a chair,
Watching the punkah swing through the red-hot fly-full air;
For, when work is nearly at end and the telephone ceases to ring,
Then the soul of the poet awakes and the 'Stunt' begins to sing.
Sings, as Sterne's starling wailed, watching the blazing sun
'I can't get out'—at least, till after the sunset gun;
For the heavens are red hot iron and the earth is burning brass,
And the river glares in the sun like a torrent of molten glass,
And the quivering heat haze rises, the pitiless sunlight glows
Till my cart reins blister my fingers as my spectacles blisters my nose
Heat, like a baker's oven that sweats one down to the bone
Never such heat, and such health, has your parboiled nephew known.
May the Gods forgive my boasting, but nearly a year has fled
And I haven't been seedy once in liver or stomach or head.
An inference thence I draw that, given a daily fill
Of work, I've no time to waste in loafing and 'feeling ill'.
But what are my liver and lights and other organs to you?
We've all of us got 'em, I know and some of us badly too,
Let me off to another subject—that joy of my youthful heart
A varnished dream of delight, my beautiful bamboo cart,
With a real live horse attached, and whip with no end of a lash
And a groom to sit behind, in case I should meet with a smash,
A fearful and wonderful way is the fashion wherein I drive,
But the Pater's been driven by me—and the pater is yet alive.
And after the cart comes the Club—I am honorary member:
Waiting for pukka election by ballot in next September.
And this is a pleasant thing and pleasant it is to stray,
Down to the gossip and 'coolth' at the end of a busy day
Pleasant to breakfast or dine there, pleasant to chat there—and that recalls
A fact to my mind, I'm engaged, just now, on some station theatricals
This is exciting work and calculated to slump any
Man in the world, to deal with an amateur acting company.
Everyone wants 'best part', every one slurs the fact,
That unless we rehearse at times we shall never be able to act
Nobody comes to rehearsal—everyone says 'all right
We're a wee bit shaky now but we'll struggle through on "the night"'
Wednesday; I went for a ride this morning, before it was light
Down to my office to see the 'weekly edition' put right
In the hush of the dim, dark, dawn as the night began to retreat
And the jackal dashed to lair, at the sound of my horse's feet;
When the great kite preened its wings, and called to its mate from the tree,
And the lilac opened its buds 'ere the sun should be up to see;
And the trailing rose clumps thrilled with the sparrows' pent up strife
Oh! a ride in an Indian dawn there's no such pleasure in life!
(Solemn and sober my trot (for I haven't a jockey's hold)
But the freshness woke up Joe, who frisked like a two-year-old
Snorting and stamping and neighing, as he thought of the decade or two
Since he ran by his mother's side at Wazirabad or Bunnoo)
But the sun rose only too soon, and at seven I came back, yet
My saddle was (saving your presence) as black as my boots with sweat
And my face was a dripping horror and Joe a reeking offence—
When I gave him his slice of bread, in the garden, and staggered thence
To my room for a tunda ghuzul (which means a refreshing tub)
Then went to my proofs till nine, and at nine o'clock went to my grub—
Verily, this is a rough written, empty aimless screed ...
I can only ask you Aunt Edie to take the will for the deed
Had I time, as inclination, I would send you a twenty page budget
But the needs of the paper are many and therefore this letter I fudge it.
The sound of our thundering presses comes up like the surge on that shore
We sat by and talked together six thousand miles from Lahore—
If I shut my eyes and the parrots were hushed in the palms outside,
I might fancy myself for a time by some wholesome English tide
But the hot air puffs in my face, and you are away from me
While the punkah puddles the heat of an office at ninety three
White, limewashed glaring walls are not like a white chalk cliff
And only my daily work and never a breeze is stiff.
So I end my dolorous ditty with a howl of wild despair
As I write in my sodden shirtsleeves, with feet put up on a chair
Oh, what is 'two hundred a month', and half-year 'rises' to come
To a fellow with hairs in his pen, and lizard-tails in his gum;
His ink putrescent and loathsome, a paste of corrupting flies
His spectacles dimmed and steamy, and goggles over his eyes.
'Oh give me a London trottoir, some byewalk damp and muddy.
In place of this wholesome heat' is the cry of your washed out