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The Maharaja of Patiala

Bump into Bhupindra, the Maharaja of Patiala, he tells me his troops are disheartened after a difficult battle. I try to cheer them up by telling them that their great sacrifice is helping making Bhupindra extraordinarily wealthy and that Patiala continues to grow in might because of their heroism. Obviously, they know that they are no more than cannon fodder and my attempts to humour them look ridiculous. Therefore, as not to continue to offer such condescending nonsense, I offer them a political allegory, as I can’t think of a political allegory I quote my old friend James Kenneth Stephen. Jem regularly crashes around the Cheeky Monkey, mumbling political allusions and spouting political allegories, until Morag, the bewitchingly beautiful but viciously dangerous landlady, throws him out of a window.


“Once there was a famous nation

With a long and glorious past:

Very splendid was its station,

And its territory vast;

It had won the approbation,

The applause and admiration,

Of the states who'd had occasion

In a time of tribulation

And of disorganisation,

Not mention degradation

And profound humiliation,

To observe it standing fast

Without any trepidation,

Or a sign of vacillation,

Firm and faithful to the last.


Came a time of dire distraction,

Full of terror and despair,

When a delicate transaction

Called for unexampled care;

But the people were directed,

Both the well and ill affected,

To a wholly unexpected

And surprising course of action

Based on motives new and rare

(Being governed by a faction,

As they generally were).


In a little time the nation

Had a chance of saying whether

It and its administration

Seemed inclined to pull together;

And it spoke its mind with vigour:-

"Such disgraceful conduct must

Everlastingly disfigure

Future annals, and disgust

Evermore the candid student:

You have been unwise, imprudent,

Pusillanimous, unjust,

And neglectful of the glory,

Appertaining to our name

Till this melancholy story

Put a period to our fame."


So this faction, disappointed,

Lost the national good graces,

And their rivals were anointed,

And were set in the high places.


Pretty soon arose conditions

Most embarrassing and hard,

And the party politicians

Had to be upon their guard.


Illegitimate ambitions,

Democratic rhetoricians,

Persons prone to base submissions,

Men of warlike dispositions,

Wild and wicked statisticians,

Metaphysical magicians,

People apt to sign petitions,

Men inclined to make conditions,

And a host of wary foes,

Compassed round the ruling faction:

But a certain line of action

They incontinently chose:

And with great determination

And extreme discrimination,

Not untouched with acclamation,

After proper preparation,

And profound examination

Wrought it out with acclamation,

And each other’s approbation

Till the national taxation

Not unnaturally rose.


To the nation soon occurred an

Opportunity of saying

What they thought about the burden

Which the government was laying

On their shoulders; and they said it

In uncompromising terms:-

''Your behaviour would discredit

Tigers, crocodiles, and worms:

You have ruined and disgraced us.

And successfully effaced us,

From the proud commanding station,

Where the zeal and penetration

Of our ancestors had placed us.

Go! we are a ruined nation,

But, before our dissolution

We pronounce your condemnation-

Sappers of our constitution,

Slayers of our reputation! "


But the nation - mark the moral,

For its value is untold -

During each successive quarrel

Grew and prospered as of old.“


Then, reminding the troops, who look puzzled, that they are actually lucky, as they have advantage of having crutches and artificial limbs to hand, as it were, which they can use as effective weapons. I also added that they will notice, the next time they are under fire, that having missing limbs has made them smaller and harder to hit. Seeing that my little homily has not improved their moral one iota, I share out some of Juan’s Special Reserve and, whipping out my bagpipes, we dance Highland reels, stumbling and clattering around and around for hours until everyone collapses and falls into a stupor. I slap Bhupindra a few times, to wake him up, then slap him a few times just for fun, then, wiping the drool from his chest, I wish him, and his men, the best of luck, and walk away with as much grace as I can muster, trying to appear as if I am someone who knows exactly where he is going, and why; an image that proves difficult to maintain as, with things somewhat bleary, all I can manage are little steps forwards and sideways and backwards, holding my arms out for balance then, stumbling over my own feet, I grab Bhupindra  for support but, tripping over an injured soldier, I  fall backwards, and we both fall into a ditch which, we quickly discover, is the field latrine. I reflect, as we flounder around in excrement, that this is not the graceful exit I was hoping for and does not reflect the best traditions of the service. Despite this, I hope, as we sink in the muck, that I have helped the situation and that Bhupindra’s valiant troops, or what remains of them, remain willing, if not entirely able, to be cut to ribbons for the honour, glory and ever-increasing wealth of their noble leader, the Maharaja of Patiala.


Professor Humperdink’s Diary