Verse > John Greenleaf Whittier > The Poetical Works in Four Volumes
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John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892).  The Poetical Works in Four Volumes.  1892.
 
Narrative and Legendary Poems
The Dead Feast of the Kol-Folk
 
          E. B. Tylor in his Primitive Culture, chapter xii., gives an account of the reverence paid the dead by the Kol tribes of Chota Nagpur, Assam. “When a Ho or Munda,” he says, “has been burned on the funeral pile, collected morsels of his bones are carried in procession with a solemn, ghostly, sliding step, keeping time to the deep-sounding drum, and when the old woman who carries the bones on her bamboo tray lowers it from time to time, then girls who carry pitchers and brass vessels mournfully reverse them to show that they are empty; thus the remains are taken to visit every house in the village, and every dwelling of a friend or relative for miles, and the inmates come out to mourn and praise the goodness of the departed; the bones are carried to all the dead man’s favorite haunts, to the fields he cultivated, to the grove he planted, to the threshing-floor where he worked, to the village dance-room where he made merry. At last they are taken to the grave, and buried in an earthen vase upon a store of food, covered with one of those huge stone slabs which European visitors wonder at in the districts of the aborigines of India.” In the Journal of the Asiatic Society, Bengal, vol. ix., p. 795, is a Ho dirge.

WE have opened the door,
  Once, twice, thrice!
We have swept the floor,
  We have boiled the rice.
Come hither, come hither!        5
Come from the far lands,
Come from the star lands,
  Come as before!
We lived long together,
We loved one another;        10
  Come back to our life.
Come father, come mother,
Come sister and brother,
  Child, husband, and wife,
For you we are sighing.        15
Come take your old places,
Come look in our faces,
The dead on the dying,
    Come home!
 
We have opened the door,        20
  Once, twice, thrice!
We have kindled the coals,
  And we boil the rice
For the feast of souls.
  Come hither, come hither!        25
Think not we fear you,
Whose hearts are so near you.
Come tenderly thought on,
Come all unforgotten,
Come from the shadow-lands,        30
From the dim meadow-lands
Where the pale grasses bend
  Low to our sighing.
Come father, come mother,
Come sister and brother,        35
Come husband and friend,
  The dead to the dying,
    Come home!
 
We have opened the door
  You entered so oft;        40
For the feast of souls
We have kindled the coals,
  And we boil the rice soft.
Come you who are dearest
To us who are nearest,        45
Come hither, come hither,
From out the wild weather;
The storm clouds are flying,
The peepul is sighing;
  Come in from the rain.        50
Come father, come mother,
Come sister and brother,
Come husband and lover,
Beneath our roof-cover.
  Look on us again,        55
  The dead on the dying,
    Come home!
 
We have opened the door!
For the feast of souls
We have kindled the coals        60
  We may kindle no more!
Snake, fever, and famine,
The curse of the Brahmin,
  The sun and the dew,
They burn us, they bite us,        65
They waste us and smite us;
  Our days are but few!
In strange lands far yonder
To wonder and wander
  We hasten to you.        70
List then to our sighing,
  While yet we are here:
Nor seeing nor hearing,
We wait without fearing,
  To feel you draw near.        75
O dead, to the dying
    Come home!

  1879.
 
 
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