The Man and the Shadow





If it were mine to choose
A single gift from Fate,
I would not ask for Rank or Fame,
I would not seek a knighted name—
Give me, for office use,
One good subordinate.


Up the steep Official Stair
With rapidity amazing
Clomb, his seniors bedazing,
Into Heights of Glory blazing,
With the Stars that mortals wear
On their dress-coat breasts at Levees,
Hastings Clive Macaulay Bevys.

And they stood below and cursed—
All the juniors of his calling—
With a fluency appalling,
Betting on his chance of falling;
Prayed to see the bubble burst
Of the reputation first-class
Of this Idler of the worst class.

In his office, scorned of all,
Saddle-hued, grotesque of feature,
Worked a weird, bi-racial creature,
Far too humble-souled to meet your
Eye—Concepcion Gabral;
Santu Ribiera Paul
Luz Concepcion Gabral.

[What he did I cannot say.
Did he give or take instruction,
Break the eggs for Bevys' suction,
Work that highly paid deduction
Which—while sparing Bevys' pay—
Cut in graduated stages
Everybody's else's wages?]

This I know, and this is all:
For his labours unremitting
Came a recompense befitting
Bevys, plus a well-paid flitting
Into Burmahorbengal;
But Concepcion, the able,
Stirred not from the office-table.

This I know, and this is all:
There were hints unfit for hinting,
There was speech unfit for printing,
There were protests without stinting,
Heard in Burmahorbengal—
Crudely, nudely, rudely, rawly,
Saying, `Take back this Macaulay'.

In the brutal, bitter wit
Much affected east of Suez,
Where the Englishman so few is,
And a man must work or rue his
Incapacity and quit,
Fell innumerable bastings
Upon Clive Macaulay Hastings.

With the Hand of Common Sense
On the Waistband of Despair, they
Raised that ruler high in air, they
Stripped him miserably bare, they
On the soft flesh of Pretence
In the face of India, smacked him,
Then, as shop-boys say, they `sacked' him.

You may find him still to-day
'Twixt Peshawur and Colaba,
Derelict without a harbour,
A civilian Micawber
(Spare the rhyme who read the lay!)
In `officiating' fetters,
Doing duty for his betters.

And—oh, irony supreme!
All the Gods who rule the Nation
Have withheld the explanation
Of his open degradation
From the man they justly deem
An administrative novice
Trusting blindly to his office.

This I know, and this is all
(He is ignorant as ever)
And if Fate decrees he never
Meet again the humble, clever,
Quick-to-grasp-ideas Gabral,
Sure am I his end, alas!
Will be madness or—Madras.'