Shivaji oneRalphie stooped to tie a shoe adjust his helmet grey
And paused to wish the Mali a good bye,
Then started on his journey on this happy holiday
Squinting at the weeping cloudy sky

In the distance he could see a silhouette on yonder rocky hill
For the Parsee Tower of Silence was his aim
There the view of Pune City always gave him quite a thrill
For it made him feel fulfilled and glad he came.

Now the monsoon season greenery was present everywhere
Flame trees could be seen from where he stood
He’d take his lunch and drinking water, sit without a care
And read a book then pause to eat his food

‘Twas the middle of the thirties and the Raj controlled the land,
His parents had been there for many years,
But the push for independence could be felt on every hand
As the population shed their bitter tears

Servants always showed concern when Ralphie left the place
For danger lurked beyond the compound wall
So Mali followed secretly and wouldn’t show his face,
Awaiting there his Chota Sahib’s call

Sitting ‘neath the tower in appreciation glancing round,
Shivaji hill stood proudly to his left;
His attention was arrested by a movement on the ground
A cobra had emerged from rocky cleft.

Ralphie gazed at it in wonder it was beautiful to see,
The cobra swayed majestically and stared,
Then Chota Sahib was mesmerized had no desire to flee
He knew he should, but somehow wasn’t scared.

From hiding near the thorn tree Mali darted in to save
For Ralphie had no power to resist
He didn’t know this saviour Mali his assistance gave
‘Twas all a dream a pleasant vapour mist.

And modern Ralphies mesmerized by habits like this snake
Lack power to resist appealing charms,
Don’t recognize they’re in a fix ‘till health or family break,
Or modern saviours rescue in their arms.

“© Ian Grice 2014 all rights reserved”

While the poem is fictional it is based on a true story. I’ve met an expatriate in India who, as a boy, was mesmerized by a cobra and had to be forcibly rescued having lost his power to resist.

Mali. – Gardener
Parsee – Persian immigrants to India who follow prophet Zaorashtra. Tower of Silence is their burial tower.
Pune city – An important city on the Deccan Plateau southeast of Mumbai
Raj – The term used to describe British rulership of India
Chota Sahib – Little Master
Shivaji – was a great Indian hero of the Maratha Nation. Shivaji’s hill overlooking Pune has a temple

11 Comments Add yours

  1. Jane Thorne says:

    Cobras are mesmerising and your poetic narrative caught this so beautifully. Your writing has shot up a few levels Ian. x


    1. Maybe because I’ve been reading the professional writing you put up on your blogs? It may be rubbing off!


  2. I like this one. I think it’s the familiar rhythm of the ballad brought to a new setting. Sounds like a touch of Banjo Patterson but some thousands of miles north 🙂


    1. Yep, I kind of like the Banjo Patterson style. You’ll find it in a few of my poems.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. jstansfeld says:

    A great narrative poem Ian, and all the better for telling a true story. It, inexplicably, reminds me of Kipling’s story “Rikki Tikki Tavi” with the sinister characters cobra couple, Nag and Nagina.


    1. Nag of course refers to the cobra god and they are sinister indeed! Indians believe the male and female cobras move around together. If one is killed the dead cobra has an imprint of the killer in their eyes and its mate seeks out the killer.


  4. This is some of your best writing, Ian. You get off to a strong start and the story is so neat, as always.


    1. Thank you. While the story has been modified its based on a true encounter where an expatriate child growing up in India was memorized by a cobra and had to be physically removed from danger. The time period is accurate.


  5. Mags Corner says:

    I have seen movies with scenes and people with cobras being mesmerized but I had no idea it could really happen. I found this to be very interesting sweet Ian. What some experiences you have had over the years. I am so glad you share them, I sure do enjoy reading about them. Hugs


    1. Based on a true encounter of an expatriate child in 1930s India. I heard a similar story to the poem from the individual.


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