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.'