George Thomas Lanigan’s Ahkoond of Swat

From American Notes and Queries, vol. 4, no. 6, 7 December 1889, pp. 67-8.
Ahkoond of Swat. — Can you give me a poem of this title by the late George Lanigan?Frank E. Marshall.
Philadelphia, Pa.

A gentleman on the editorial staff of the Philadelphia Record has kindly furnished the following facts:”Shortly after his death all of the short poems by George T. Lanigan were sent out to Chicago to the head of a publishing house, the name of which escapes me at the moment. He was a personal friend of the family, and so prevailed upon them to give him the cherished literary remains, with the intention of issuing the poems in book form. But the firm failed; their property was seized by the Sheriff and sold, and Lanigan’s poems were irretrievably lost in the confusion that ensued.
“It is strange, but every fragmentary rhyme written by Mr. Lanigan has thus perished, except ‘The Ahkoond’ and ‘The Young Orlando,’ to be found in ‘Play-Day Poems,’ edited by Rossiter Johnson.


‘The Ahkoond of Swat is dead.’—London Papers of January 22.

WHAT, what, what,
What ’s the news from Swat?
Sad news,
Bad news,
Comes by the cable led
Through the Indian Ocean’s bed,
Through the Persian Gulf, the Red
Sea and the Med-
iterranean—he ’s dead;
The Ahkoond is dead!

For the Ahkoond I mourn,
Who wouldn’t?
He strove to disregard the message stern,
But he Ahkoodn’t.

Dead, dead, dead;
(Sorrow Swats!)
Swats wha hae wi’ Ahkoond bled,
Swats whom he hath often led
Onward to a gory bed,
Or to victory,
As the case might be,
Sorrow Swats!
Tears shed,
Shed tears like water,
Your great Ahkoond is dead!
That Swats the matter!

Mourn, city of Swat!
Your great Ahkoond is not,
But lain ’mid worms to rot.
His mortal part alone, his soul was caught
(Because he was a good Ahkoond)
Up to the bosom of Mahound.
Though earthy walls his frame surround
(Forever hallowed be the ground!)
And sceptics mock the lowly mound
And say “He ’s now of no Ahkoond!”
His soul is in the skies,—
The azure skies that bend above his loved
Metropolis of Swat.
He sees with larger, other eyes,
Athwart all earthly mysteries—
He knows what ’s Swat.

Let Swat bury the great Ahkoond
With a noise of mourning and of lamentation!
Let Swat bury the great Ahkoond
With the noise of the mourning of the Swattish nation!

Fallen is at length
Its tower of strength,
Its sun is dimmed ere it had nooned;
Dead lies the great Ahkoond,
The great Ahkoond of Swat
Is not!

From American Notes and Queries, vol. 4, no. 8, 21 December 1889, p. 89.

The above poem was also printed in Humour of the North. Selected and arranged by Lawrence J. Burpee. Totonto: The Musson Book Company, 1912. See

From American Notes and Queries, vol. 4, no. 11, 11 January 1890, p. 132.


“Dirge of the Moolla of Kotal, rival of the Akhoond of Swat”


Alas, unhappy land: ill-fated spot
Kotal—though where or what
On earth Kotal is, the bard forgot;
Further than this indeed he knoweth not—
It borders upon Swat!


When sorrows come, they come not single spies,
But in battal-
Ions: the gloom that lay on Swat now lies
Upon Kotal.
On sad Kotal whose people ululate
For their loved Moolla late.
Put away his little turban,
And his narghileh embrowned,
The lord of Kotal—rural urban—
‘S gone unto his last Akhoond,
‘S gone to meet his rival Swattan,
‘S gone, indeed, but not forgotten.


His rival, but in what?
Wherein did the deceased Akhoond of Swat
Kotal’s lamented Moolla late,
As it were, emulate?
Was it in the tented field
With crash of sword on shield,
While backward meaner champions reeled
And loud the tom-tom pealed?
Did they barter gash for scar
With the Persian scimetar
Or the Aghanistee tulwar.
While loud the tom-tom pealed—
While loud the tom-tom pealed,
And the jim-jam squeeled,
And champions less well heeled
Their war-horses wheeled
And fled the presence of these mortal big bugs o’ the field?*
Was Kota’s proud citadel—
Bastioned, walled, and demi-luned,
Beaten down with shot and shell
By the guns of the Akhoond?
Or were wails despairing caught, as
The burghers pale of Swat
Cried in panic, “Moolla ad Portas?”
—Or what?
Or made each in the cabinet his mark
Kotalese Gortschakoff, Swattish Bismarck?
Did they explain and render hazier
The policies of Central Asia?
Did they with speeches from the throne,
Wars dynastic,
Entents cordiales,
Between Swat and Kotal;
Holy Alliances,
And other appliances
Of statesmen with morals and consciences plastic
Come by much more than their own?
Made they mots, as “There today is
No more Himalayehs,”
Or, if you prefer it, “There today are
No more Himalaya?”
Or, said the Akhoond, “Sah,
L’Etat de Swat c’est moi?”
Khabu, did there come great fear
On thy Khabuldozed Ameer
Ali Shere?
Or did the Khan of afar
Tremble at the menace hot
Of the Moolla of Kotal,
“I will extirpate thee, pal
Of my foe the Akhoond of Swat?”
Who knows
Of Moolla and Akhoond aught more than I did?
Namely, in life they rivals were, or foes,
And in their deaths not very much divided?
If anyone knows it,
Let him disclose it!

* Are now become the “mortal bugs o’ the field.”

Both poems also appeared in Carolyn Wells’s A Nonsense Anthology. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1919. Google Books.

Information on George Thomas Lanigan is hard to come by; her is what The Oxford Companion to American Literature writes (according to

(1845–86), Canadian-born journalist and humorist, began his newspaper career in his native country but continued it in St. Louis, Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia. His verse Fables by G. Washington Aesop (1878) shows his wit and his facility, as does his improvisation occasioned by the headline The Ahkoond of Swat Is Dead, entitled Threnody for the Ahkoond of Swat (1878) and containing the lines The great Ahkoond of Swat Is not!

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1 Response to George Thomas Lanigan’s Ahkoond of Swat

  1. Pingback: Guide to Daily Reading | June 16 Big Food, Big Garden, Big Life

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