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

Introductory to India

The Victim

By Bryan Waller Procter (1787–1874)

HIGH in the parching sun, where Ganges wild

Roars to the jungles, and broad billows scatters

Upon the burning shores of Hindostan,

Rose a great temple,—in no puny age

Fashioned, but built, like Babel, ’gainst the skies.

Based on a rock, and cut in granite stone,

Its pillars and Titanian capitals

Heaved their enormous bulks, till each o’erlooked

Wide India. To some God, whose name is lost,

This wilderness of stone was dedicate.

Millions of quick-eyed slaves, with dusky brows,

All wreathed in white, came here in the old time,

And on the prostrate marble bent, and swore

Allegiance to A Name! Then, amidst storms

Of blood and tears, rose Siva, at whose feet

Widows were slain; maidens, whose hearts were warm

With summer love, old age and infancy,

Shrank in her blazing altars, and left gold

Unto the temple’s saints for priestly prayers.

Then prayed the priests; and then, while darkness lay

On the dull world, the bearded Brahmins did

Mysterious rites, and their nocturnal songs

Went sounding through the long stone-carved aisles

Of Elephanta to brute Jaggernaut.

And soon this superstition far outspread:

From Oude to the Deccan,—over black Bahar,—

From the Arab Seas, across to rank Bengal,

It sprang and flourished; and wherever else

Base human folly crouched to baser guile,

It reigned and made its martyrs. There is one

Far famous in its stories, from whose life,

And from whose death, and from whose after fame,

Some learn a lesson. When the droughts are great,

And their squat idols sit unmoved, the priests

Call on the saintly Muttra. To please him

They burn a virgin, and scream loose love-songs,

And curse the Rajah, Dhur-Singh, long since dead.

He, while he lived, wise prince! did good towards all:

He lived, untouched by grief, for many years,

And when he died, left children virtuous,

A happy land, which owned his rule was just,

And slumbered in the Indian’s Paradise.