The Sky is lead

(notes by Philip Holberton)


Published in Life’s Handicap (1891) with “At the End of the Passade”. Collected in Songs from Books and layter collections as a Chapter Heading.

The poem

In Life’s Handicap this verse is attributed to “Himalayan”, published in Echoes in 1884, of which it is the third verse. The style is a parody of a minor American poet, Joaquin Miller. The other three verses, though still describing the hot season in the Plains of India, are relatively light-hearted, using a number of native words for comic effect and with the names of three hill-stations (Simla, Murree or Naini Tal) as a sort of refrain.

The verse used here as the Chapter Heading is deadly serious. The heat and the wind come from Hell, man loses all appetite and all interest, until his soul leaves his body – as happened to Hummil in the story, literally frightened to death.

In the heading line, Cholera-horn (or ‘collery horn’) a long brass horn of hideous sound, often used at native funerals. It has nothing to do with cholera. (Hobson-Jobson)


©Philip Holberton 2020 All rights reserved