Gwalior has been the centre of attraction and controversies since the colonial era. The Gwalior music gharana along with the annual Tansen music festival held at the mausoleum of Mian Tansen attracts music lover from all over India and abroad.
The Scindia School was founded by the late Maharaja Madhavrao Jayajirao Scindia of Gwalior in 1897. I remember one of its old student, fusion maestro Ananda Shankar performing at the open air theatre in a founders day festival. The school during the colonial times was different. It was called the Sardar’s School as it catered mainly to the sons of Maratha nobles.
William Sharp was the Vice Principal of the Scindia School then known as the Sardar’s School, the Fort, Gwalior. He passed away on the 25 August 1914 of Enteric fever at the age of twenty-four. He wrote poems in his pocket book which came to be known as ‘Gwalior Poems’ after his demise and were published by his friends in 1915. The library of the University of California, Los Angeles has the full collection.
The Indo- English Poetry Movement had already started by then. The poetry of Henry Vivian Derozio (1809 – 1831) and Toru Dutt (1856 -1877) had been making waves in India and England. In my article titled, ‘Turn, Turn, Turn to the Rain Again I had discussed in detail about the contribution to the poetry movement by two English Poets, Emma Roberts (1794 – 1840) and Lawrence Hope (1865 – 1904).
There were many poets and writers like Emma Roberts and Lawrence Hope whose literary involvements in the then colonial India were inspired by beauty or sheer love for the people with whom they got attached. Ghazal singers talked about the white skinned beauties and Qawwals sang about them in the court of Mughal Royals.
William Sharp, a product of the University of Cambridge and an adventurer found himself teaching to the Maratha boys at the school in the fortress of Gwalior. During that period, he loved like many others of his brethren the Indian summers, the Indian way of life and even found love in the confined environs of the fort. His poems are a living tribute to the life and love in the colonial era of Gwalior.
The Scindia School of today may not have any proof of residence of this great teacher and poet who lived in their midst but his poems survived and carry the flame of once great movement, poems that are truly of Gwalior.
An Indian Shrine
The babies play in the ruined shrine,
And the gods of old look down on them,
Dreaming, mayhap, of days that were.
Who shall despise them, who condemn ?
The temple shrine is a broken place,
And the gods of old a fallen race ;
But haunting the spot that their fathers won,
The lean grey lizards lie in the sun.
The old gods know the ancient truths
Hid from the babes who play in the shrine,
Yet they feel no more the heat of the sun
That runs in the children's blood like wine.
But the lizards know what the old gods know
That only the time of things may show,
More, too, they know why the babies run
And jump in the warmth of the golden sun.
16th May 1914.
The Scindhia Hunt
So we give three cheers for stout-hearted Jack,
And three more !
Then we '11 give three cheers for the Scindhia pack
(And the best of sport may they never lack),
And then three more !
The sun 's riding high : hounds are feeling slack,
Time for the field to take the homeward track,
So we '11 give just three more !
13th October 1912.
To The Gods Of The Hot Weather
Let us remain 'neath the swing of the punkah,
Lengthily lolling with little to wear,
Tumblers beside us in which we have sunk a
Full measure of care.
And when the days of your rule shall be numbered,
Gladly consenting, oh hasten to fly,
And wake us, who 'neath your sway shall have slumbered,
With rain in July.
With golden cloth of woven memories,
And momentary pearls
Strung on a rope fine drawn, I deck your form.
These garments of remembrance
I give to you, who only these may give.
So wearing them
Your beauty moves on music's misty wings,
You pass along the pathways of my mind
Unlocking gates to long remembered things,
Grey gossamer and gold,
They float around you there, our nights, our days ;
Grey filmy gossamer of red-flaked dawn
And gold-barred greyness of a moonlit sea.
With girdlings of remembrance,
That twine and wreathe about and hold you there,
I bind and keep you.
So in the pleasaunce of remembered things,
You shall be mine for ever, utterly.