(notes by John McGivering
and John Radcliffe)
At the conclusion of Lord Roberts' speech ... the "Last Post" was sounded...Mr Ben Davies then sang "Recessional", and Mr Lowis Waller recited a commemorative poem by Mr Rudyard Kipling entitled "1857-1907". The proceedings closed with "Auld Lang Syne" sung by Miss Muriel Foster and Mr Ben Davies...
"... I do not speak without knowledge who have seen the land from Delhi south awash with blood.”In "The Undertakers" in The Second Jungle Book, the Mugger, the giant man-eating crocodile, tells of those times:
“What madness was that, then?”
“The Gods, who sent it for a plague, alone know. A madness ate into all the Army, and they turned against their officers. That was the first evil, but not past remedy if they had then held their hands. But they chose to kill the Sahibs’ wives and children. Then came the Sahibs from over the sea and called them to most strict account.” ...
“So they turned against women and children? That was a bad deed, for which the punishment cannot be avoided.”
“Many strove to do so, but with very small profit. I was then in a regiment of cavalry. It broke. Of six hundred and eighty sabres stood fast to their salt— how many think you? Three. Of whom I was one... I rode seventy miles with an English mem-sahib and her babe on my saddle-bow. (Wow! That was a horse fit for a man!) I placed them in safety, and back came I to my officer— the one that was not killed of our five. ”
'...the season I think of, the river was low, smooth, and even, and, as the Gavial had warned me, the dead English came down, touching each other. I got my girth in that season—my girth and my depth. From Agra, by Etawah and the broad waters by Allahabad——’And in "The Lost Legion", in Many Inventions, he wrote of how Afghan tribesmen turned on a rebel regiment which had fled into the hills near the Border:
Sometimes a graybeard speaks of his share in the massacre. ‘They came,’ he will say, ‘across the border, very proud, calling upon us to rise and kill the English, and go down to the sack of Delhi. But we who had just been conquered by the same English knew that they were over bold, and that the Government could account easily for those down-country dogs. This Hindustani regiment, therefore, we treated with fair words, and kept standing in one place till the redcoats came after them very hot and angry. Then this regiment ran forward a little more into our hills to avoid the wrath of the English, and we lay upon their flanks watching from the sides of the hills till we were well assured that their path was lost behind them. Then we came down, for we desired their clothes, and their bridles, and their rifles, and their boots—more especially their boots. That was a great killing—done slowly.’Andrew Lycett (p. 153) reports Kipling’s visit to ”The Little House at Arrah”, the title of an account of a siege during the rebellion, the text of which can be found in ORG Volume 4, page 1972 . See also KJ 032/101 & 119, 094/16, 252/27, and 330/08 & 09.
Kipling implies that there is not only a gap in time but in human quality between the 'heroes' of the past and we, who can merely contemplate their deeds with astonishment, incapable of matching them. It should be remembered that he was addressing real men and women (the latter members of the besieged Lucknow garrison) who had actually been the 'desperate host'. Most of these were at least 70 years old, though a couple had actually been born at Lucknow during the Siege, so that a degree of nostalgia is understandable, and perhaps permissible. They would never gather together again.
Fashionable modern taste may reject the 'imperialistic' - 'cleansed our East with steel'- and racial -'Keepers of the house of Old' - implications of the poem. Certainly the enlightened guardians of 'politically correct' orthodoxy will NOT allow us to shed an unscorned tear for those who performed their duty as they saw it.
However, we all at some moment must evoke, as Kipling does here, the 'secret power' of all the hosts who have gone before us, in order to face our own 'Day', without shaming ourselves or them
Such greeting as should come from thoseare, of course, the mutineers of 1857.
Whose fathers faced the Sepoy hordes...
'In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,See The Elite Skills Classics website quoted above.