Category Archives: Poetry by Others

A New Year Poem Attributed to Khushwant Singh but Really Written by Charles Gavan Duffy

Khushwant Singh died at the young age of 95 years. He was a prolific Indian writer, famed journalist, well known author and acknowledged tippler!! A man who lived his life to the fullest.

Update: When I discovered this poem, it said it had been written by him at the age of 92, but I received the below message regarding it from Patrick Schiermeyer:
This site claims Khushwant Singh wrote poem: “The horse and mule….” at age 92. He died in 2014 so the poem was supposedly written in 2010-2011 timeframe. This cannot be true. I have a copy of this poem I received in 1978 while working in Saudi Arabia. He may have written it earlier or it may be incorrectly attributed to him.

I did some further research, and this is the comment I sent back to Patrick:
Patrick, I spent about a half hour trying to run this poem down after reading your comment. I can’t find it associated with anyone else’s name but his so I’m wondering if he sent it as a New Year’s greeting and people took it that he had written it. I saw one other person post it without attribution and the most posts saying he had written it. I agree now that you have pointed it out that he could not have written it at least at the time he is said to have written it. If you know when he did write it, or who else did, I’d appreciate the correction. Thanks.

So, if anyone has further information about the author of the below piece and when it was written, I would appreciate knowing the full story of its origin.

On July 17, 2021, I received this message from Shristi: “It was written by Charles Gavan Duffy, an Irish poet. Mr Khushwant Singh Sir had just quoted it.”

I checked this out and he is right. Thanks, Shristi, for finally solving this mystery!!!! This poem has been quoted so often and attributed to Khushwant Singh. Thanks for setting the record right. Below is the poem:

The horse and the mule live for 30 years,
And know nothing of wines and beers;
The goat and sheep at 20 die,
And never get a taste of Scotch and rye.
The cow drinks water by the tonne
And at 18 is mostly done
Without the aid of gin and rum.
The cat in milk and water soaks,
And then in 12 short years it croaks.
The modest, sober, bone-dry hen
Lays eggs for others, then dies at 10.
All animals are strictly dry,
They sinless live and swiftly die.
But sinful, ginful, rum-soaked men
Survive for three score years and ten,
And some of them, though very few,
Stay pickled till they’re 92!