Wednesday, 18 November 2009


Sir Alfred Lyall was nothing if not an imperialist, with long service in the most senior ranks of the Indian Civil Service. The sack of Delhi in the aftermath of the ‘Mutiny’or ‘Great Revolt’, depending on your point of view, when Delhi was retaken, sacked and many of its inhabitants killed, was a particularly dreadful episode. Writing some twenty years later Lyall, in his ‘Studies at Delhi 1876’, evokes a game of badminton being played on the spot where the battle to retake the city had been fought:

Hardly a shot from the gate we stormed,
Under the Moree battlement’s shade;
Close to the glacis our game was formed,
There had the fight been, and there we played.

Lightly the demoiselles tittered and leapt,
Merrily capered the players all;
North, was the garden where Nicolson slept,
South was the sweep of a battered wall.

Near me a Musalman, civil and mild,
Watched as the shuttlecocks rose and fell;
And he said, as he counted his beads and smiled,
‘God smite their souls to the depths of hell.’

Well at least Lyall could see it . . .

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