Friday, May 6, 2011

"Town Abbottabad" 2

Here is the full text of Major Abbott’s valedictory effusion, exactly as it appears on the marble plaque in Lady Garden Park, Abbottabad (above):


I Remember the day when I first came here
And smelt the sweet Abbottabad air

The trees and ground covered with snow
Gave us indeed a brilliant show

To me the place seemed like a dream
And far ran a lonesome stream

The wind hissed as if welcoming us
The pine swayed creating a lot of fuss

And the tiny cuckoo sang it away
A song very melodious and gay

I adored the place from the first sight
And was happy that my coming here was right

And eight good years here passed very soon
And we leave you perhaps on a sunny noon

Oh Abbottabad we are leaving you now
To your natural beauty do I bow

Perhaps your winds sound will never reach my ear
My gift for you is a few sad tears

I bid you farewell with a heavy heart
Never from my mind will your memories thwart

I strongly suspect that “Town Abbottabad” is either a plain misattribution, an extraordinarily inept translation from the Urdu, or an expediently touristic fake. The Major’s published poems were at least drafted with reasonably competent versification, punctuation, and rhyme schemes, but these couplets are best described as deficient hendecasyllables with heroic aspirations sadly unfulfilled, in other words not worthy of “the Nestor of the Indian Army,” as one critic described him in the Academy in 1893. “Here / air” and “ear / tears” simply would not cut the mustard, not even at Addiscombe, and “heart / thwart” is certainly plucky, but it makes for a terrible ending. I also wonder about that clumsy, not to say anti-literary title. Notice the lurching from colloquialism (“a brilliant show,” “a lot of fuss”) back to quaint poetic contrivance (“far ran a lonesome stream,” “the tiny cuckoo sang it away”) after the manner of a wrecker’s ball. Let us then agree that “Town Abbottabad” is poem dreadful. Notice also that the plaque is housed in a suspiciously modern brick edifice (although this may be due to recurring earthquakes), but if the original lines were ever chiseled into the marble, lately they have been helped along with the careful application of black paint. If I were a gambler I would bet that “Abbottabad” was written by someone other than Major Abbott, but who, when, and why?

1 comment:

  1. Seems like intrigue of all sorts is at home in Abbottabad town. And eight years (+ or -) is about as long as the noteworthy seem to stay there.