CROQUET AT WINDSOR
[In H.P.B.’s Scrapbook, Vol. IV, pp. 67-68 (old numbering Vol. II, pp. 49-50) may be found a cutting from The Illustrated Weekly, Saturday, June 2, 1877, an American journal published in New York in 1875-77. The cutting contains a rather celebrated poem of Ivan Sergueyevich Turguenyev entitled “Croquet at Windsor,” translated by H.P.B. into English, at the special request of her aunt, Nadyezhda A. de Fadeyev, as appears from one of her letters to H.P.B. now in the Adyar Archives. This poem, in its original Russian, acquired a wide notoriety during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78.]
The proud Queen sits stately on Windsor’s green lawn,
Her ladies at croquet are playing;
She watches their game as the evening creeps on,
And smiles as the balls go a-straying.
They roll through the wickets; the arches are passed,
The strokes are so bold and so steady—
There’s scarcely a miss . . . stop! the Queen, all aghast,
As though stricken with death seems already.
She sees, as in vision, the balls disappear,
And corpse-heads, all ghastly and bleeding,
Roll toward her, where speechless and palid with fear,
She shudders, and watches their speeding.
Heads frosted, and heads of the young and the fair;
Heads of children, whose innocent prattle
Was drowned in the hell-storm that swept through the air
When their village was sacked in the battle.
And lo! the Queen`s daughter—youngest fairest of all,
Instead of the red ball, is throwing
A babe’s gory head, which comes rolling, to fall
At her feet, with its lifeblood still flowing!
The head of a babe, pinched with torture and white—
And its golden locks dabbled with gore;
The lips speak reproach, though the eyes lack their sight—
Till the Queen shrieks: “Torment me no more!”
She calls her physician to come to her aid,
“Quick, quick!” she cries, “quick to my cure!”
He quietly answers: “You may well be afraid,
You’ve been reading the papers, I’m sure.
“THE TIMES with Bulgarian horrors is filled—
Tells of Servian martyrs and Christian despair;
No wonder your majesty dreams of the killed;
Take these drops, and come in from the chill of the air.”
She’s housed: but as plunged in a revery still,
She sits with her eyes cast reflectively down,
O horror! her heart with new terror grows chill,
For she sees to her knees the blood spread on her gown!
“Quick! Wash it away, for I fain would forget,
Wash! Wash, British rivers and waters, this gore!”
No, no, haughty Queen, though that stain is still wet,
’Tis of innocent blood, and will fade never more!
New York, May 25, 1877.