HUNTING THE GREAT ELK IN THE ISLAND OF CEYLON a Poem
HUNTING THE GREAT ELK IN THE ISLAND OF CEYLON
AN open forest stretches far and wide,
In whose dim lanes and vistas could be seen
A verdurous plain with all its billowy slopes;
While from its utmost verge the blue hills rose,
And far in distance rang'd granitic mounts,
Seeming to float in air above the clouds.
Here on expanses of the table-lands
The hunter mov'd—no hut or human dwelling near;
No circling boundaries save mountain-tops,
No fences save the trunks of fallen trees,
No paths save those of elephant and elk;
And here a river runs in whose deep pools
And tortuous course the Great Elk makes his stand;
Here, too, the hunter, arm'd with spear and knife,
Comes far afoot for leopard, elk, and boar,—
Comes with his foxhound and his bloodhound pack,
Comes all afoot, for o'er these boggy plains
No horse may pass, to penetrate the swamps,
The jungle-thickets, with their tangled brakes
Sown with lianas and the cactus-thorn.
Thro' these green glades, beneath the drooping trees,
So like a princely park, the wild game rove;
Rove o'er wide downs, with densest jungles sown,
Rove thro' tall lemon-grass, their favorite haunts.
Here spotted-deer, the mouse-deer and the red,
The brindled leopard and the bristly boar;
The snipe, the partridge, and the gay pea-fowl,
Hold their wild homes, but noblest of the game
The big elk challenges the yelping hound
And dares the hunter in the desperate chase.
The hunter, arm'd with boar-spear and the knife,
Goes forth at early morning with his pack
To seek the elk; he tireless tramps o'er hills,
Thro' valleys and the thick-entangled woods,
Unleashing hounds and listening for their cries.
At last he hears them! No, 'twas but a bird; Again !
No, 'tis but a torrent's hollow roar! Again!
Yes, 'tis the chorus of the hounds
As they surround a great buck elk at bay,—
At bay in pool form'd by the river's flow.
Now with a plunge he charges at the pack,
And with sharp forefeet strikes them 'neath the wave;
They rising quick hear their brave master's shout,
Who springs into the stream and cheers them on.
Again, again, the elk-charge! Ah! beware,
Ye daring hunters, gallant men, fierce hounds!
Now down the river swims the dauntless elk,"
Gallops o'er shallows, swims the deepest pools,
Dashes down rapids, leaps obstructing rocks,
While rage the hounds and roars the torrent-tide.
And still the fearless hunter cheers them on.
Again the elk at bay! a noble sight!
With wide-spread nostrils and with bristling mane, .
Eyes all aflame, he long defies his foes;
At length the hounds prevail—the master's knife
Descends amain and the brave creature dies.
McLellan, Isaac. Poems of the Rod and Gun. New York: Henry Thorpe, 1886.
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