The Masque of Plenty

Argument—The Indian Government being minded
to discover the economic condition of their lands, sent
a Committee to inquire into it; and saw that it was good.  

Scene—The wooded heights of Simla.
The Incarnation of the Government of India in the raiment
of the Angel of Plenty signs, to pianoforte accompaniment: —

1. “How sweet is the shepherd’s sweet life!
From the dawn to the even he strays —
He shall follow his sheep all the day
   And his tongue shall be filled with praise.
     (adagio dim.) Filled with praise!”

2. (largendo con sp.) Now this is the position,
        Go make an inquisition
        Into their real condition
        As swiftly as ye may.
    (p)  Ay, paint our swarthy billions
        The richest of vermillions
        Ere two well-led cotillions
        Have danced themselves away.

3. TURKISH PATROL, as able and intelligent Investigators
wind down the Himalayas:—

What is the state of the Nation?
What is its occupation?
Hi! get along, get along, get along—lend us the information! 
(dim.) Census the byle and the yabu—capture a first-class Babu,
      Set him to file Gazetteers—Gazetteers
 . . .         (ff)   What is the state of the Nation, etc., etc. 

INTERLUDE, from Nowhere in Particular, to stringed and Oriental instruments.

4. Our cattle reel beneath the yoke they bear—
The earth is iron and the skies are brass—
And faint with fervour of the flaming air
The languid hours pass.

5. The well is dry beneath the village tree—
The young wheat withers ere it reach a span,
And belts of blinding sand show cruelly
 Where once the river ran.

6. Pray, brothers, pray, but to no earthly King—
Lift up your hands above the blighted grain,
Look westward—if they please, the Gods shall bring
Their mercy with the rain.

7. Look westward—bears the blue no brown cloud-bank?
Nay, it is written—wherefore should we fly?
On our own field and by our cattle’s flank
 Lie down, lie down to die!


8.          By the plumed heads of Kings
Waving high,
Where the tall corn springs
O’er the dead.
If they rust or rot we die,
If they ripen we are fed.
Very mighty is the power of our Kings!

9. Triumphal return to Simla of the Investigators, attired after
the manner of Dionysus, leading a pet tiger-cub in wreaths
of rhubarb-leaves, symbolical of India under medical treatment.

          They sing:—
10. We have seen, we have written—behold it, the proof of our manifold toil!
In their hosts they assembled and told it—the tale of the Sons of the Soil.
We have said of the Sickness—“Where is it?”—and of Death—“It is far from our ken,”—
We have paid a particular visit to the affluent children of men.
We have trodden the mart and the well-curb—we hae stooped to the bield and the byre;
And the King may the forces of Hell curb for the People have all they desire! 
Castanets and step-dance:—

11. Oh, the dom and the mag and the thakur and the thag,
     And the nat and the brinjaree,
And the bunnia and the ryot are as happy and as quiet
     And as plump as they can be!
Yes, the jain and the jat in his stucco-fronted hut,
     And the bounding bazuga,
By the favour of the King, are as fat as anything,
     They are—they are—they are!  

Recitative Government of India, with white satin wings 
and electro-plated harp:—  

  12. How beautiful upon the Mountains—in peace reclining,
  Thus to be assured that our people are unanimously dining.
And though there are places not so blessed as others in naural
          advantages, which, after all, was only to be expected,
  Proud and glad are we to congratulate you upon the work
                           you have thus ably effected.
            (Cres.) How be-ewtiful upon the Mountains!  
13.  Hired Band, brasses only, full chorus:— 
                God bless the Squire
             And all his rich relations
           Who teach us poor people
           We eat our proper rations—
            We eat our proper rations,
              In spite of inundations,
                Malarial exhalations,
              And casual starvations,

14. We have, we have, they say we have—
We have our proper rations!  


Choose another poem

15. Before the beginning of years
There came to the rule of the State
Men with a pair of shears,
Men with an Estimate—
Strachey with Muir for leaven,
Lytton with locks that fell,
Ripon fooling with Heaven,
And Temple riding like H—ll!
And the bigots took in hand
Cess and the falling of rain,
And the measure of sifted sand
The dealer puts in the grain—
Imports by land and sea,
To uttermost decimal worth,
And registration—free—
In the houses of death and of birth.
And fashioned with pens and paper,
And fashioned in black and white,
With Life for a flickering taper
And Death for a blazing light—
With the Armed and the Civil Power,
That his strength might endure for a span—
From Adam’s Bridge to Peshawur,
The Much Administered Man.16. In the towns of the North and the East,
They gathered as unto rule,
They bade him starve his priest
And send his children to school.
Railways and roads they wrought,
For the needs of the soil within;
A time to squabble in court,
A time to bear and to grin
And gave him peace in his ways,
Jails—and Police to fight,
Justice—at length of days,
And Right—and Might in the Right.
His speech is of mortgaged bedding,
On his kine he borrows yet,
At his heart is his daughter’s wedding,
In his eye foreknowledged of debt.
He eats and hath indigestion,
He toils and he may not stop;
His life is a long-drawn question
Between a crop and a crop.