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A Ballad of John Nicholson

Written by: Sir Henry Newbolt | Biography
 | Quotes (2) |
 It fell in the year of Mutiny, 
At darkest of the night, 
John Nicholson by Jal?ndhar came, 
On his way to Delhi fight. 

And as he by Jal?ndhar came, 
He thought what he must do, 
And he sent to the Rajah fair greeting, 
To try if he were true. 

"God grant your Highness length of days, 
And friends when need shall be; 
And I pray you send your Captains hither, 
That they may speak with me." 

On the morrow through Jal?ndhar town 
The Captains rode in state; 
They came to the house of John Nicholson, 
And stood before the gate. 

The chief of them was Mehtab Singh, 
He was both proud and sly; 
His turban gleamed with rubies red, 
He held his chin full high. 

He marked his fellows how they put 
Their shoes from off their feet; 
"Now wherefore make ye such ado 
These fallen lords to greet? 

"They have ruled us for a hundred years, 
In truth I know not how, 
But though they be fain of mastery 
They dare not claim it now." 

Right haughtily before them all 
The durbar hall he trod, 
With rubies red his turban gleamed, 
His feet with pride were shod. 

They had not been an hour together, 
A scanty hour or so, 
When Mehtab Singh rose in his place 
And turned about to go. 

Then swiftly came John Nicholson 
Between the door and him, 
With anger smouldering in his eyes, 
That made the rubies dim. 

"You are over-hasty, Mehtab Singh," -- 
Oh, but his voice was low! 
He held his wrath with a curb of iron 
That furrowed cheek and brow. 

"You are over-hasty, Mehtab Singh, 
When that the rest are gone, 
I have a word that may not wait 
To speak with you alone." 

The Captains passed in silence forth 
And stood the door behind; 
To go before the game was played 
Be sure they had no mind. 

But there within John Nicholson 
Turned him on Mehtab Singh, 
"So long as the soul is in my body 
You shall not do this thing. 

"Have ye served us for a hundred years 
And yet ye know not why? 
We brook no doubt of our mastery, 
We rule until we die. 

"Were I the one last Englishman 
Drawing the breath of life, 
And you the master-rebel of all 
That stir this land to strife -- 

"Were I," he said, "but a Corporal, 
And you a Rajput King, 
So long as the soul was in my body 
You should not do this thing. 

"Take off, take off, those shoes of pride, 
Carry them whence they came; 
Your Captains saw your insolence, 
And they shall see your shame." 

When Mehtab Singh came to the door 
His shoes they burned his hand, 
For there in long and silent lines 
He saw the Captains stand. 

When Mehtab Singh rode from the gate 
His chin was on his breast: 
The captains said, "When the strong command 
Obedience is best."



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