Thursday, November 8, 2018

Green Eyed Idols

It was only 115 years ago that the Wright Brothers made the first controlled, sustained flight of a powered, heavier-than-air aircraft. No internet, computers or smartphones, no television. People went to the theatre and opera, the ballet and, at the cheaper end, pubs and music halls. I was thinking about this last night at our regular Wednesday night trivia competition, that life in those days was not only simpler, it was also more person to person interactive. 

Just as country & western songs tell a story (The Gambler, Coward of the County, Harper Valley PTA), so back in those early days the equivalent was the dramatic monologue, poems telling a story that were recited in the music halls. 

One such poem is The Green Eye of the Yellow God, written in 1911 by J Milton Hayes. The first line is well known - “There's a one-eyed yellow idol to the north of Khatmandu” – but how many people have actually read the whole poem? 

Spoiler alert: 
It is set in Nepal ("to the north of" Kathmandu), and tells the tale of a wild young officer known as "Mad Carew", who steals the "green eye" of a "yellow god" (presumably an emerald in a gold statue) in order to impress his beloved. He is wounded in the course of the robbery, and later murdered, presumably by a devotee of the god for the theft, who returns the jewel to the idol. 

Hayes himself conceded that it wasn’t Shakespeare or Milton, saying "I wrote The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God in five hours, but I had it all planned out. It isn't poetry and it does not pretend to be, but it does what it sets out to do. It appeals to the imagination from the start . . . “ 

So grab a coffee, transport your mind back to the days of the Wright Brothers and enjoy a rollicking good yarn . . . 

The Green Eye Of The Little Yellow God 

J Milton Hayes 

There's a one-eyed yellow idol to the north of Khatmandu, 
There's a little marble cross below the town; 
There's a broken-hearted woman tends the grave of Mad Carew, 
And the Yellow God forever gazes down. 

He was known as "Mad Carew" by the subs at Khatmandu, 
He was hotter than they felt inclined to tell; 
But for all his foolish pranks, he was worshipped in the ranks, 
And the Colonel's daughter smiled on him as well. 

He had loved her all along, with a passion of the strong, 
The fact that she loved him was plain to all. 
She was nearly twenty-one and arrangements had begun 
To celebrate her birthday with a ball. 

He wrote to ask what present she would like from Mad Carew; 
They met next day as he dismissed a squad; 
And jestingly she told him then that nothing else would do 
But the green eye of the little Yellow God. 

On the night before the dance, Mad Carew seemed in a trance, 
And they chaffed him as they puffed at their cigars: 
But for once he failed to smile, and he sat alone awhile, 
Then went out into the night beneath the stars. 

He returned before the dawn, with his shirt and tunic torn, 
And a gash across his temple dripping red; 
He was patched up right away, and he slept through all the day, 
And the Colonel's daughter watched beside his bed. 

He woke at last and asked if they could send his tunic through; 
She brought it, and he thanked her with a nod; 
He bade her search the pocket saying "That's from Mad Carew," 
And she found the little green eye of the god. 

She upbraided poor Carew in the way that women do, 
Though both her eyes were strangely hot and wet; 
But she wouldn't take the stone and Mad Carew was left alone 
With the jewel that he'd chanced his life to get. 

When the ball was at its height, on that still and tropic night, 
She thought of him and hurried to his room; 
As she crossed the barrack square she could hear the dreamy air 
Of a waltz tune softly stealing thro' the gloom. 

His door was open wide, with silver moonlight shining through; 
The place was wet and slipp'ry where she trod; 
An ugly knife lay buried in the heart of Mad Carew, 
'Twas the "Vengeance of the Little Yellow God." 

There's a one-eyed yellow idol to the north of Khatmandu, 
There's a little marble cross below the town; 
There's a broken-hearted woman tends the grave of Mad Carew, 
And the Yellow God forever gazes down.

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