First publication: Civil and Military Gazette, 6 January 1885
Diary. 5 January 1885
It is seldom that an American poet condescends to interest himself in so remote a land as India; and I am proportionately glad, therefore, to be able to record this week a great kindness on the part of no less distinguished a singer than Walt Whitman. Once upon a time, indeed, the bard was styled — not by his admirers — the ‘Inspired Auctioneer of the Universe’, but he has long outlived the reproach which the elaborate detail of his workmanship drew upon him; and the swing of his half rhythmic, half declamatory, wholly musical lines has now drawn round him a delighted and admiring school of followers. What the great poet’s views of an Indian New Year are may be seen from the following reply to a modest request for ‘something seasonable’: —
‘Dekkol Look here!’
From the pines of the Alleghanies I, Walt Whitman — colossal, pyramidal, immense — send salutation.
I project myself into your personality — I become an integral part of you.
I am the Junior Civilian horribly dikked by the Superior Being, and squabbling with a tactless, factious Municipal Committee; and I too pray for a happy new year.
I am also the Superior Being, Impassive, and waltzing on the toes of all within reach. I too pray, without prejudice for a happy new year.
I am the European loafer, drunk in the bazar on country spirits with blue lips and a green rat crawling down my neck. I too, out of the gutter pray for a happy new year.
I am the gay, the joyous subaltern, with six ponies in my stables and a shroff in the back ground. And I too pray for a happy new year.
I am the ‘joy of wild asses’ with my husband absent in the Soudan and a ten-strong following at my high silk heels. And I too pray for a happy new Year.
I am in Sirsa, Jhang, or Montgomery, separated from Dickie, Emmy or Baby, living in a tent with my husband who is seedy and overworked. I read the smudgy round-hand-home-letters, and I too pray for a happy new year.
Oh! Civilian, Superior Being, Loafer, Subaltern, Grass-Widow and Grass-Mother of many conflicting domesticities, I salute you.
In the name of our great ruler Humanity I too wish you all individually and collectively, some — how or anyhow — a Happy New Year.