Pradip Chattopadhyay

(28.01.1961 / Kolkata)

Black Bureau


Four horses’ trots pierce the stillness of the night
They gallop on the wind in luminous moonlight
The carriage wheels seem to float up in the air
It’s past midnight and not a soul is there!

The large white mansion in the depth of night lay
With none to warm its rooms had seen better day
When breeze along its driveway the four portly horse
They stop and emerge a man his face wearing remorse!

The shadow in soldier’s uniform briskly walks into a hall
Through the cobwebbed dust resting long without footfall
With a dignified bearing reflecting his royal class
Moves about the rooms possessed by intense purpose!

He sifts through all the papers in a state of frantic mind
Pursuing an obsessive search seeking his precious find
Somewhere must be lying in dark corners out of sight
The black bureau and within its drawers cure for his plight!

This night of New Year’s Eve shines bright the firmament
But the shadow grows pale pining for the prized document
For that only can salvage his pride light once more his face
Protect him from impeachment become his saving grace!

He flurries through the staircase reaches the upper floor
Needing to search all nooks behind windows and the door
For time for him is running out his glories are at stake
When moon goes down west arrives the daybreak!

In soldier’s dress in red and white at the back the folded tail
He walks each room the long corridor leaves on dust no trail
The night turns dead stars go out still empty is his hand
He gets back home disappointed in the faraway distant land!

Submitted: Friday, December 13, 2013

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Poet's Notes about The Poem

Warren Hastings (1732-1818) was the first Governor General of Bengal. On his return to England, he was impeached in the House of Commons for his alleged misdemeanor and crime during his time in India. While leaving India in 1785, he reportedly mislaid a black bureau containing some important documents. It is said that his ghost returns on every New Year’s Eve night to his residence Hastings House in Kolkata in search of those papers that he badly needs to prove his innocence in the impeachment proceedings.

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