Bidrohi Captain Pouch

1. Rebel Captain Pouch


Elizabeth the First, who Queen of England be
Was called to heaven in sixteen hundred and three.
Then James the First new king appears,
England still scared by past famine years.
In 1607, with grim news assailed,
Of his subjects’ revolt, no remedy prevailed.
In a village called Newton in Northamptonshire
A thousand poor folk gathered to conspire:
Men and women together to rebel,
Break fences, dig, from landlords compel
The return of common land, poor men’s right,
Enclosed by the greedy landlords’ might.
Rebels now pull those fences apart,
To dig and farm their land they start.
Say the poor peasants, driven together by dearth,
Only rebellion can reclaim our right to the earth.
From Northampton to Leicester to Warwick spread
The “Midlands Rising”, so it is said.
As “Diggers” and “Levellers” the rulers deride
Those who dig the ground to save life and pride.
Warwick’s revolt in history famed,
John Reynolds was their leader named.
He wandered around village and town,
Trader and tinker of local renown.
Always he carried a big pouch on his back,
He said its contents would help launch an attack.
All resource for protest this bag did hold
So “Captain Pouch” was called this leader bold.
Warwick and Northampton Diggers unite,
Captain Pouch orders, break those fences and fight!
Says Pouch, God and King will be on our side;
Diggers began digging in the North, far and wide.
May 1607, a time to take heart
As Diggers joined hands the revolt to start.
His people and his place the Captain knew well;
Don’t envy, mind, strange rebellion that befell.
No cursing allowed, nor killing, nor fight,
The poor must dig to show their farmers’ might
Diggers of Warwick with a broadside led,
Across the North the news was read.
“Encroaching tyrants and landlords unkind
Upon the whetstone of poverty our flesh they grind.
Common farmland by force they take
Pasture for their cattle and sheep to make.
Turning arable to pasture, the landlords’ feat;
The greater the sheep, the higher the price of wheat.”
The Diggers believe, if more land was fenced
It would ensure that famine commenced.
They announced if the King failed to understand
They would fight and lay down their lives for their land.
Belligerent and vile landlords they fought,
All leaders were doomed, their Captain caught.
Trial at court, a ludicrous event,
No witness brought, no evidence sent.
What secret weapons did the notorious pouch conceal?
Tipping it over, the Captain to all does reveal.
An ancient, mouldy lump of cheese is all they could see;
What more do you think a poor man’s resource would be?
Wilkinson the divine enters the fray,
Equally condemns the tyrant’s and rebel’s way.
Hunger pangs are a burning hell, the poor we cannot blame,
Especially when tyrant’s blows be added to the same.
Bacon, famous lawyer, writes: if a few all wealth steal,
What future remains for the Commonweal?
At the same time, in Coriolanus Shekkhopir’s play
From the very first scene, rebellious subjects hold sway.
All over England, the debate seems to rage
Yet Captain Pouch sentenced to death in his day and age.
Rebellion, the King demands, shall always punished be,
Some duly pardoned, some hanged we see.
Hunger cause rebellion? The king saw no reason;
Yet again the price of grain soared the very next season.
So was it proved the rebel subjects were right,
Rulers who don’t heed the poor, such kings I indict.

This text is an English-language translation of the original version:

This is a selection from the original text


Coriolanus, King James I, Midlands, Northampton, Shakespeare, famine, natural dye, oral narrative, patachitra, revolt, scroll

Source text

Title: Bidrohi Captain Pouch

Author: Dukhushyam Chitrakar

Editor(s): Sujit Mondal, Ayesha Mukherjee

Publisher: University of Exeter

Publication date: 2020

Place of publication: Exeter

Digital edition

Original author(s): Dukhushyam Chitrakar

Language: Bengali, English


Texts collected by: Ayesha Mukherjee, Sujit Mondal

Texts transcribed by: Sujit Mondal

Texts translated by: Ayesha Mukherjee

Texts encoded by: Shrutakirti Dutta

Encoding checking by: Charlotte Tupman

Genre: India > poetry

For more information about the project, contact Dr Ayesha Mukherjee at the University of Exeter.