There stands on the isle of Seringapatam,
By the Cauvery, edding fast,
A Bungalow lonely,
And tenanted only
By memories of the past.
It has stood, as though under a curse or spell,
Untouched since the year that Tippoo fell.
The garden about it is tangled and wild,
Sad trees sigh close to its eaves,
And the dark lithe shapes
Of chattering apes
Swing in and out of the leaves;
And when nights dank vapours rise grey and foul,
The silence is rent by the schrill screech-owl.
The windows are shuttered, the doors are shut,
And the odour and stain or decay
Is on plaster and beam,
And the stone steps seem
To be ooze-corroding away;
And the air all around is tinged with the breath
Of the felt, though invisible, presence of Death.
Twas a pleasant abode, no doubt in its prime;
Two storeyed, facing the tide;
A verandah deep,
And a stone sweep
Of steps to the riverside,
And a boat-house close to the water’s edge,
Flanking the stairs, On a rocky ledge.
The stream flows by in a low-banked curve,
And higher up to the right,
Are the battlements grey
That could not stay
The rush of old England might;
And, higher up still, the world-framed breach-
A lesson we to posterity teach.
Stirring the times were those times, forsooth,
And bold the hearts of our men,
Who plunged through the water,
And rocks and slaughter,
And carry the tigers den.
Heroic the onset and crushing the blow
That was struck near this lonely bungalow.
When the siege was over a colonel dwelt
With his wife and daughters here,
In command of the fort
Where the bloody sport
Had cost Mysore so dear.
I can fancy the girls with their prattle light,
And the house all trim, and the garden bright;
And the merry party afoot on the steps,
Looking across the stream,
Or swinging afloat,
In their pleasure boat,
Under the soft moonbeam,
With the cool breeze over the water blowing,
Making amends for the midday glowing.
I think I can see in the early morn
The horses held at the door,
And the girls riding out
With the colonel stout
To visit the breach once more,
Or gaze at the gate where Tippoo fell,
Stabbed to death in the fierce pell-mell.
And then the breakfast after the ride,
Under the shadowy trees,
Mamma in the chair,
And the homely fare,
And the colonel at his ease,
Conning the sheets of the night-brought post,
Between the attacks on the tea and toast.
And, after, the long yet happy day
In the cuscus-tattied gloom,
The cheery tiffin,
Sconced in the drawing-room;
And the voice of the grand piano, half
Hushing the man’s and the maidens laugh.
And hushed they were; for one dreadful eve
The Cholera tapped at the door;
Nor knocked in vain for mother and twain
Answered the summons sore.
When dawn broke over the house next day,
The mother and daughters had passed a way.
The colonel buried his loved ones three,
Then fled from his house of woe,
And ne’er since then
Have the feet of men
Trod in the bungalow,
Save feet of traveller passing near,
Who turns to see it, and drops a tear.
The mouldering rooms are now as they stood
Near eighty years ago;
The piano is there,
And table and chair,
And carpet, rotting slow,
And the beds where on the corpses lay,
And the curtains half time-mawed away.
A type of gloom and decay and death,
And happiness overcast,
Is this bungalow lonely,
And tenant only
By memories of the past.
Peace to the shades of the three who died
In that lonely house by the cauvery’s tide.
By Aliph Cheem, Lays of Ind. 1875