John Kendall Dum-Dum

A Sombre Retrospect

Long, long ago, in that heroic time
When I, a coy and modest youth, was shot
Out on this dust-heap of careers and crime
To try and learn what's what,
I had a servitor, a swarthy knave,
Who showed an almost irreligious taste
For wearing nothing but a turban, save
A rag about the waist.
This apparition gave me such a start,
That I endowed him with a cast-off pair
Of inexpressibles, and said, 'Depart,
And be no longer bare.'
He took the offering with broken thanks;
But day succeeded day, and still revealed
Those sombre and attenuated shanks
Intensely unconcealed;
Until at last the climax came when I
Resolved to bring this matter to an end,
And when I saw him passing, shouted, 'Hi!
Where are your trousers, friend?'
Halting, he gave a deferential bow;
Then, to my horror, beamingly replied,
'Master not see? I wearing trousers now!'
I would have said he lied,
But could not. As I shaped the glowing phrase,
I looked upon his turban - looked again -
Mine own familiar pattern met my gaze,
And all the truth was plain!
Th' unhappy creature, Eastern to the core,
Holding my gift in superstitious dread,
Had made a turban out of it, and wore
His trousers - on his head!