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Oh! sorry stronghold, wrought and planned
With scarce the merit of design-
Each inmost or more distant line !
Victorious and triumphantly,
Yelled constant o'er the severing wave,
Have found a wide unhonored grave? Having thus bestowed a poetical imprecation upon the designers of the Kabul cantonments, whom, perhaps, in Parliamentary language, we ought to call upon him to " name;" our author proceeds to describe the state of suppressed feeling at Kabul -the smouldering fires of yet undeveloped rebellion. He asks
Why doth each stalwart Barukzye,
Who wears no emblem of his clan ? and then proceeds to answer the question, by saying that the hated Suddozye brood had “ turned a traitor hand” against “their common country's good" and were lording it uncontrol
Upheld by British foemen's gold,
And British aid alone.
Oh! thou Shah Sujah-puppet king-
And fell oppressions cankering blight,
A glorious and a patriot deed ! Poor Shah Sujah! He has no friends, not even among the poets. The gentle race deal with him even more ungently than the historians. He tried very hard to convince the world, through our political officers, that he was true to the British cause; but neither the political officers, nor the world, would believe his stories. When he fell at last-when his strange eventful life was ended by assassination-no man sorrowed for his fate. Mr. Mackenzie, it may be remarked, has taken & poetical licence in the couplet, which describes the death of the king. He says His Majesty fell by "one vengeful Afghan knife;" and then, in a note, quotes a passage from Eyre's Journal, showing that he was shot by a double-barreled gun. The knife of the assassin is, we know, the legitimate instrument sanctioned by poetry and romance, and it has the advantage of rhyming with "life," which a gun cannot possibly do.
We suspect that our author is not far wrong in his estimate of Shah Sujah's character. That he was the falsest of the false, it is difficult not to believe. We do not mean to say that this is broadly apparent on the surface; for nothing more puzzled our political officers, both before and after the Shah's death, than the part taken by His Majesty in the disastrous rebellion, which terminated his own life. When Mr. Mackenzie says that he was “false alike to friend and foe,” he probably lands, after a flying leap, in the same conclusion, that would be reached, after much diligent investigation and much balancing of evidence, by a pains-taking laborious historian. The Shah probably had no settled purpose of any kind; but was willing to unite himself with one party or another, as his interests or his fears dictated. Intensely selfish, he cared neither for the British, nor for his own countrymen, and would have sacrificed, for any purpose of his own, the one with as much willingness as the other. He was ostensibly going out to attack Jellallabad, when he was murdered ; and, whilst preparing for the expedition, was writing letters of fervent devotion to the British authorities, and urging them to supply him with money. He professed the same loyalty to both parties, and would have been prepared at any moment to ally himself with either, as soon as victory declared itself unmistakeably on one side or the other. What he wanted all along was British money and British support, without British controul. The Company has had many hard bargains in its day; but never such a bargain as that Shab.
After thus apostrophising the “ Puppet King,” the poet goes on to describe the general longing of the people of Kabul for the return of Dost Mahomed. Britannia is then exhorted to look to her fading laurels,
For Caubal owns one resolute man,
The astute Aminullah Khan. We have then a sketch of the career of this resolute man; and are presently introduced to “ Aminullah's halls," where the conspirators are assembling. The picture of the Afghan Sirdars is not a very flattering one. Their antecedents are set forth in the darkest possible colours;
For there be those, whose deeds may vie
And guide the lightning's livid beams. We then have a sort of Homeric catalogue of these worthies, now deep in the conspiracy. “ Sage Aminullah leads the van,” and after him come divers chiefs, whose somewhat im. practicable names are thus ingeniously woven into verse :
Moollah Shikor- Nawaub Zemaan ;
The chieftain of Jubbar Khail ;
Abdullah, Lord of Pisheen's vale,
Mahommed Shah-the powerful Khan,
Asman, chief Khan of Kohistan,
And Sultan Khan and Shah Pazi,
Was like assemblage known. This, we think, very probable. That such assemblage was ever known at all seems in the last degree problematical. We might take exception to more than one name in this list: but it seems especially hard that poor Khan Sherin Khanthe chief of the Kuzzilbashes, who, Mr. Mackenzie tells us in a note, was the only chief true to the British-should be included among the conspirators. It was a great mistake that we did not make more use of this man. He might have done us good service in our need.
This respectable assembly is harangued by Aminullah Khan, who begins by denouncing the amours of the Feringhis :
And shall we brook the foul disgrace,
Our household dictates disobey
That no more ruling feature they
And scandalous proverb quote :
Woe worth each lying throat ! Having said this, and much more besides, in denunciation of the British, he is followed by “Gaunt Jubbur Khan" (we cannot extol the felicity of the epithet) who descants upon the wrongs of the Barukzyes, and promises to revenge the sufferings of his tribe upon “haughty Shuja's race accurst." Abdullah Khan Atchukzye is the next speaker, and he does not mince his words more gently than the former speakers.
'Twere waste of words and time to tell
says Mr. Mackenzie ; and the curtain falls on the first canto, the seeds of rebellion having been sown broadcast over the doomed country.
From this dark scene of rebellion and revenge we are suddenly transferred, with good artistical effect, to a paradise of fair women, doubly gentle and doubly delightful after our recent intercourse with the bloodthirsty vindictive Khans. There is some good scenio description; and then we come to this very enticing account of the dames and maidens of Kabul, who are sporting free and unfettered in the open air :
A merrier band hath never yet
With the sunshine of his smile,
Just tribute paying all the while.
A carpet rich in brightest hues