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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Asia: Vols. XXI–XXIII. 1876–79.

India: Seringapatam

The Dirge of Tippoo Sultan

By John Leyden (1775–1811)

HOW quickly fled our sultan’s state!

How soon his pomp has passed away!

How swiftly sped Seringa’s fate

From wealth and power to dire decay!

How proud his conquering banners flew!

How stately marched his dread array!

Soon as the King of earth withdrew

His favoring smile, they passed away.

His peopled kingdoms stretching wide

A hundred subject leagues could fill,

While dreadful frowned in martial pride

A hundred Droogs from hill to hill.

His hosts of war, a countless throng,

His Franks, impatient for the fray,

His horse, that proudly pranced along,—

All in a moment passed away.

His mountain-forts of living stone

Were hewn from every massy rock;

Whence bright the sparkling rockets shone,

And loud the volleyed thunder spoke.

His silver lances gleamed on high;

His spangled standards fluttered gay:

Lo! in the twinkling of an eye

Their martial pride has passed away.

Girt by the Cavery’s holy stream,

By circling walls in triple row,

While deep between, with sullen gleam,

The dreary moat outspread below,

High o’er the portals, jarring hoarse,

Stern ramparts rose in dread array;

Towers that seemed proof to mortal force,

All in a moment passed away.

His elephants of hideous cry,

His steeds that pawed the battling-ground,

His golden stores that wont to lie,

In years of peace, in cells profound:

Himself a chief of prowess high,

Unmatched in battle’s stormy day;—

Lo, in the twinkling of an eye,

Our dauntless hero passed away.


A hundred granaries huge enclosed

Full eighteen sorts of foodful grain:

Dark in his arsenals reposed

Battle’s terrific flame-mouthed train.

How paltry proud Duryoden’s state

To his, in fortune’s prosperous day,

In wealth, in martial pomp elate:

All in a moment passed away.

Before our prince of deathless fame

The silver trumpet’s thrilling sound,

Applauding heralds loud acclaim,

And deep-toned nobuts shook the ground.

His was the wealth by Rajahs won,

Beneath their high imperial sway,

While eight successive ages run:

But all, alas! has passed away.

How swift the ruthless spoiler came,

How quick he ravaged, none can say,

Save He whose dreadful eye of flame

Shall blast him on the Judgment-day.

The noontide came with baleful light,

The sultan’s corpse in silence lay:

His kingdom, like a dream of night,

In silence vanished quite away.


Where was God Allah’s far-famed power,

Thy boasted inspiration’s might;

Where, in that unpropitious hour,

Was fled thy Koran’s sacred light?

Vain was each prayer and high behest,

When Runga doomed thy fatal day:

How small a bullet pierced thy breast!

How soon thy kingdom past away!

Amid his queens of royal race,

Of princely form the monarch trod;

Amid his sons of martial grace,

The warrior moved an earthly god.

Girt with bold chiefs of prowess high,

How proud was his imperial sway!

Soon as the god of lotus-eye

Withdrew his smile, it past away.

Coorg, Cuddapah, and Concan-land,

Their princely lords of old renown

To thee outspread the unweaponed hand,

And crouched at thine imperial frown.

Proud mountain-chiefs,—the lofty crest

They bent beneath thy sceptred sway,—

How dire the blow that pierced thy breast!

How soon thy kingdom passed away!

The sovereign of proud Delhi’s throne,

That held the prostrate world in awe,

Sri-Munt, whose rule compels alone

Mahratta tribes devoid of law;

The Rajahs of the peopled world

Resigned their realms in deep dismay,

Where’er thy victor-flag unfurled:

How soon thy kingdom passed away!


How vain is every mortal boast,

How empty earthly pomp and power!

Proud bulwarks crumble down to dust,

If o’er them adverse fortune lower.

In Vishnu’s lotus-foot alone

Confide! his power shall ne’er decay,

When tumbles every earthly throne,

And mortal glory fades away.