Wednesday 16 December 2020

A Ballad of Sir Pertab Singh


A Ballad of Sir Pertab Singh

[The present poem exposes and attacks the tyranny of the caste system in India and asserts that a man’s caste isdetermined not by his birth, but by his actions. Men of noble heart, irrespective of their birth, belong to one caste. A true soldier is related to all the soldiers of the world. He shares a common bond of valour, courage and brotherhood with all the soldiers.]

In the first year of him that first Was Emperor and King, A rider came to the Rose-red House, The House of Pertab Singh.

Young he was and an Englishman, and a soldier, hilt and heel, And he struck fire in Pertab’s heart As the steel strikes on steel.

 Beneath the morning stars they rode, beneath the evening sun, And their blood sang to them as they rode That all good wars are one.

They told their tales of the love of women, their tales of East and West, but their blood sang that of all their loves they loved a soldier best.

So ran their joy the allotted days, till at the last day’s end The Shadow stilled the Rose-red House and the heart of Pertab’s friend.

When morning came, in narrow chest The soldier’s face they hid, And over his fast-dreaming eyes Shut down the narrow lid.

Three were there of his race and creed, three only and no more: They could not find to bear the dead A fourth in all Jodhpore. ‘O Maharaj, of your good race Send us a sweeper here; A Sweeper has no caste to lose Even by an alien bier.’

‘What need, what need?’ said Pertab Singh, And bowed his princely head. ‘I have no caste, for I myself.

 Am bearing forth the dead.

‘O Maharaj, O passionate heart, Be wise, bethink you yet: That which you lose to-day is lost

Till the last sun shall set.’ ‘God only knows,’ said Pertab Singh, ‘That which I lose to-day: And without me no hand of man Shall bear my friend away.’

Stately and slow and shoulder-high In the sight of all Jodhpore The dead went down by the rose-red steps Upheld by bearers four.

When dawn relit the lamp of grief Within the burning East There came a word to Pertab Singh, The soft word of a priest.

He woke, and even as he woke He went forth all in white, And saw the Brahmins bowing there In the hard morning light.

‘Alas! O Maharaj, alas! O noble Pertab Singh! For here in Jodhpore yesterday Befell a fearful thing.

‘O here in Jodhpore yesterday A fearful thing befell.’ A fearful thing,’ said Pertab Singh, ‘God and my heart know well



 ‘I lost a friend.’ ‘More fearful yet!

When down these steps you passed

In sight of all Jodhpore you lose

O Maharaj – your caste.’

Then leapt the light in Pertab’s eyes

As the flame leaps in smoke,

‘Thou priest ! thy soul hath never known

The word thy lips have spoke.’

‘My caste ! Know you there is a caste

Above my caste or thine,

Brahmin and Rajput are but dust,

To that immortal line:

‘Wide as the world, free as the air,

Pure as the pool of death

The caste of all Earth’s noble hearts

Is the right soldier’s faith.’


[Sir Henry Newbolt (1862-1938) was a famous British poet, novelist and barrister. Born in Bilston, Newbolt was educated at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He was called to the Bar in 1887. He is known for his poems about war on land and on sea. He was an ardent believer in the power and inspirational quality of many patriotic verse. He is the author of patriotic poems.]





a soldier, – the Englishman was a complete soldier hilt and heel


struck fire – won respect and love (from Pertab)


their blood – both being soldiers, their blood evoked in them


sang – common feelings of courage and bravery for a noble cause


shadowed – a deathly silence fell on the Rose-red


stilled House of Pertab because of the death of his



fast – eyes that had lost touch with the reality of the

dreaming earth


lid – cover


creed – religious faith


alien – foreigner


bier – a crude stretcher to carry the dead body


chest – coffin


dawn – morning


befell – happened, occurred


immortal – noble and deathless race of men who live in their

line deeds


Enjoying the Poem:


1. Rewrite the poem 'A Ballad of Sir Pertab Singh' in prose (one sentence for each stanza)

Ans.  1. An Englishman who was a solider, came to meet Sir Pertab Singh.

1.     This ruler of Jodhpur and the soldier became very close friends.

2.     They rode together every day and praised, wars fought for a good cause.

3.     They talked about their love-affairs with women, but praised, above all, the life of a soldier.

4.     One day the English soldier passed away.

5.     They out his dead body in a coffin and closed its lid.

6.     There were only three men who belonged to his race and creed, but four were needed as pall-bearers.

7.     Sir Pertab Singh was advised to send a sweeper as the fourth pall-bearer as he had no caste to lose.

8.     The ruler of Jodhpur said he had no caste to lose and he would be the fourth pall-bearer.

9.     He was warned that he would lose his caste and never get it back again.

10.                        He said he and God knew what he had lost.

11.                        He became one of the pall-bearers as all Jodhpur was watching the funeral procession.

12.                        Next morning a priest came to say something to Sir Pertab Singh.

13.                        The visitor was a Brahmin who bowed to the ruler of Jodhpur.

14.                        He told Partab Singh that something terrible had happened the previous day in Jodhpur.

15.                        The ruler’s reply was that there could be nothing more terrible than the loss of his soldier friend.

16.                         The visitor said that he had lost his caste, and that was a terrible loss.

17.                        Sir Partab Singh told the priest that he never knew what caste meant.

18.                        There is a caste that is superior to the caste, of the Brahmin and the Rajput (the ruling class).

19.                        This is the caste of all noble people and it is a free and pure caste of a soldier.



2.. Write a summary of the poem 'A Ballad of Sir Pertab Singh' in your own words?



3. What is the central idea of the poem 'A Ballad of Sir Pertab Singh'?

Ans. The caste system creates divisions in society. It is very harmful. We should rise above considerations of caste, colour and creed. The law of equality and brotherhood is very important in our life. Humanity is the only true caste. This is the central idea of this poem.


1.     Who was Sir Pertab Singh?

Ans. Sir Pertab Singh was a ruler of Jodhpur. He lived in the Rose-red House. For him, friendship was very important and the caste of a soldier was the only true caste.


2.     Why did he immediately like the English soldier?

Ans. Pertab Singh had risen above narrow caste system. He believed that the caste of a solider was the only true caste. He found that like him, the English solider, too, was a true solider. So he immediately liked this young English solider.


3.     How did the two comrades spend their days?

Ans.   The two comrades rode their horses and went out of the Rose-red house together. They told each other stories of their love for women. Thus, they spent their days happily.


7. Why was Pertab Singh asked to send a sweeper when the English soldier died?

Ans.  In Jodhpur, there was three men of the soldier’s race and creed. A fourth person needed to carry the bier of the English solider.


4.     What was the problem that arose when the Englishman died?

Ans.   A fourth man was needed to carry the bier. But no high-caste person was ready to do this job. This was the problem when the Englishman died.


5.     What, according to the priests, had Pertab Singh lost? Why?

Ans.  According to the priest, Partab Singh had lost his high caste. It was regarded as a priceless thing. Religion did not allow him to carry the bier of an Englishman. He flouted the set norms of the caste-system and thus, lost his caste.


6.     A ballad is a long narrative poem which tells a simple story.


10.. Read some other famous ballads. You can choose from:


(i) The Ballad of Father Gilligan by W.B. Yeats.


(ii) A Diverting History of John Gilpin by William Cowper.


(iii) Robin Hood and Allen-A-Dale (Anonymous)


11. Have you noticed that in some stanzas the first line rhymes with the third while in some others, the second line rhymes with the fourth line? Study these rhyming lines carefully.

Ans. 1.The following are the stanzas in which the first line rhymes with the third.

3rd; here the rhymes is repeated in the third line.


Ans. 2. In the following stanzas the second line rhymes with the fourth.



1.     Write a small paragraph on Caste System (50-100 words)

Ans.  The caste- system was the brain child of a very wise person named Manu. He divided Hindu society in India into four castes. Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras. Different duties were assigned to these four castes. Brahmins were to be educators of people, and they were to give them religious lessons. Kshatriyas were to fight battles and protect the country from all dangers. Vaishyas were to carry on trade and look after the daily needs of people. Shudras were to do the work of cleaning and sweeping.


     In the beginning, this system was found useful in society for discharge of duties by the four castes. But with the passage of time, the upper classes misused their positions and status in society. They made the lower classes almost their slaves. Mahatma Gandhi raised his voice against this system. He gave the low-caste people an equal status.


     But the evil of this system still continues in our society. This system is bad and harmful. All human beings are equal to one another. The caste system that creates distinctions among people is a big evil which must go.