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3-250 (Original)

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addressee author,male,McCrae, George Gordon,34
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McCrae, 1867
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Canto I
The day declined, the sun had set,
For orb and ocean more than met;
And forth from boughs that heav'nward sprang
Grotesque and mocking laughter rang.
Grim scaur and scalp, and mountain side,
To laughing hill and vale replied;
The distant wood that fring'd the plain
With fainter echoes laughed again;
And cool night-breeze that stirred the reeds,
And all the dancing water-weeds,
Bore softer sounds; and on the tide
The giant halcyon's laughter died.
This night twelve moons had passed away
Seven times, since 'neath the parting ray
That kissed the murmuring river's breast,
Young Mamba's mother found her rest.
She died, but dying left a life
In pledge for her's amid the strife
[2] That closes days and opens years,
With all their future hopes and fears.
But Mamba's father ne'er was known,
And no man claimed him for his own.
Seven summer suns had clothed his head
With darkly clustering curls, that shed
A softness o'er the beaming face,
That bore of pride an early trace.
Young Borote, who for these short years
Had kept the pledge that came in tears,
Nursed with a mourning mother's care
The offspring of another fair,
And saw in every grace it wore
The semblance of one lost before;
And thus the childless found a child,
A mother on the orphan smiled,
And buried babe and mother fond
Faded in mist the world beyond.
Thus ever may the ending be
When our last sun sets gloomily
And some yet brighter image spring
From out our dust, that bard may sing,
Whose deeds shall fire the group around,
As ears entranced drink in the sound.
*  *  * * *
Her warmest robe became his nest,
He slept upon her heaving breast,
Or lay beside the little fire,
Nor never dreamt he lacked a sire.
'Twas thus at eve, and so at night
When flames made dark young eyes grow bright;
And when at dawn she rose in bliss
To wake him with a fondling kiss - 
Oh! who could paint the tender joy
Of Borote, as she clasp'd the boy,
[3] Impetuous pressing 'gainst her breast,
At once caressing and caress'd?
She gazed into his eyes, and there,
Two Borotes bright, a mirror'd pair,
Smiled from each dark delicious well
O'er which the silken eyelash fell - 
Two pictured loves in love enshrined
Before the portal of the mind.
She bore him to the river banks,
Where, 'mid the rushes, swaying ranks,
Lay Nerinella's long canoe
Floating, impearl'd with glist'ning dew;
And where the weed of green and red
It's floating carpet gaily spread,
Whereon the emerald frog reclined
Fanned by the fragrance of the wind;
And all was darkened by the shade
The water-weeping branches made,
Save where a paler, tend'rer green
Made bright the beauty of the scene.
The morn was gay ere yet the sun
His heav'nward journey had begun;
And flow'rs their spicy odours shed
From drooping branches over-head,
Whilst those around his tender feet
Smiled upward from their grassy seat.
The birds flashed down to drink or lave,
With varied note and joyous stave,
And plunging sidelong from the reeds.
That waver'd 'mid the water-weeds,
Plashed in the stream so cool and calm,
O'erhung by many a fern-tree palm;
And bell-bird peals, whose silvery chimes
Found in the rippled water rhymes,
[4] Throughout the perfumed thicket rang,
Whence the tall-headed bulrush sprang.
The waking river's dimpled face
Bore on its waning smile the trace
Where bird had kissed the brimming tide,
That tiptoe with its lip replied.
She paused. Her robe she cast aside,
And stood in all her naked pride,
With youthful limbs and queenly grace,
And more a girl's than woman's face.
The glorious braids of raven black,
That rippled down her hollow back - 
The planted foot - the bosom large,
That heaved and fell like river marge - 
And all her fair proportions round,
Some sisters in the water found:
'Twas thus she seem'd, 'twas thus she stood,
In all her beauty, by the flood.
*  *  * * *
Taking young Mamba by the hand,
She led him to a pebbly strand;
And raising up, with gentle might,
The boy, who danced with wild delight,
She flung him flying from the brink,
And watched the wayward urchin sink.
The waters closed - the circles flew,
With widening stretch, the shore to woo,
And foam and bursting bells of light
Rose from the depths with bubbles bright,
And soon the reappearing head
Sprang up, and little palms outspread;
Then, flinging wide her rounded arms,
She vouchsafed all her bosom's charms,
And tossing back the raven hair
That hid her shapely temples fair,
[5] Allured the gently-swimming boy,
Who cleaved the wave with cries of joy.
The boy, with mischief-loving eye,
Gained the firm ground, and stood breast-high
Where the white pebbles gleamed and danced,
By murmuring water-music tranced.
He stooped to lift the lily fair,
And wreathe with stolen flowers the hair
That curled about his dripping brow
Like ripples shot from rushing prow,
As Nerinella northwards flew,
On fishing bent, with light canoe.
The boy splashed on with quick'ning pace,
The pearl-drops raining, down his face,
Bright o'er his breast they trickling sped
From sidelong-shaken dripping head;
And many a patch of bubbling foam
Marked yet another step towards home.
Borote the gentle one - the fair - 
Stood in her brightness waiting there;
Beguiled the boy beside the brink - 
Not far from whence she saw him sink - 
One foot advanced the river kissed,
Whilst she took Mamba by the wrist,
And all the tide that met the green,
Like Mamba, seemed to own a queen.
She laid her in the feathery shade
That 'neath a dark mimosa played,
And clasp'd the child, still feigning coy,
With all a second mother's joy.
There, on the green turf, starr'd with flowers
Where branches rained their golden showers,
[6] They lay in joy, with brows unbent,
In one sweet, dark confusion blent.
She rose, and high the radiant-faced
Upon her rounded shoulder placed;
And took the path embower'd with bloom,
Whose matted masses 'mid the broom
Stared out, and mocked the burning skies
With azure and cerulean dyes;
The path - by maiden footsteps worn,
In water quest at early morn - 
Whose arching canopy of green
Shivered with ever-changing sheen - 
Whose every twig and tiny tree
Seemed vocal with bird melody.
Thus through the perfumed air they pass'd,
And reached their happy bower at last.
Young Mamba with the early day
Arose, and joined his peers at play;
In wandering through the sighing wood,
Or fording streamlets' mimic flood.
The robin, like a living coal,
Fired the young sportsman in his soul,
And soon, by well-directed blow,
His missile laid the scarlet low.
He tried his easy aim again,
An azure warbler kissed the plain;
Nor spared he, sitting on a spray,
The laughing usher of the day.
The wood, the plain, the river side,
The pebbly treasures of the tide - 
All, all were ransacked by the boy,
Who brought his motley hoard with joy
Back to the beauteous Borote's feet,
His young companions following fleet.
[7] He spread before her amber gum
A bounteous store, but lately come
From dark mimosa's wounded side,
That bleeding poured a golden tide;
The robin red, the warbler blue,
With wings and back of sable hue,
And bird that laughed his last "good day"
From white and nodding leafless spray;
A nest of withered twisted grass,
And hair and twigs - one felted mass,
With moss and fibres intertwined,
And red and yellow feathers lined;
The beetle's mail of brilliant sheen,
One glorious blaze of gold and green,
He placed 'mid speckled eggs of blue,
Of russet, brown, and crimson hue,
That nestled 'mid the whiter ones
Like pebbles where the current runs
Silent, and still - together pressed
Beneath the brooding water's breast.
And Mamba ever would beguile
The time with mirth-provoking smile,
And tale that brought to Borote bliss.
One I remember; it was this:-
Two birds were fighting furiously
A bird looked down and laughed to see.
I threw, but missed the fighting pair;
Then he looked down and laughed at me.
For this I took a steadier aim,
And hurled in stick at higher game.
He wildly laughed, and quivering fell - 
'Twas his last laugh - I laughed as well."
Short were the tales, and soft the clime - 
The summer in its early prime;
[8] So passed the days, so fled the hours,
Amid the wealth of birds and flowers.
But Mamba could not always be
A child among the children. He - 
Fired with the stories of the chase,
That lent new brightness to his face - 
Resolved, Nernepten-like, to stand
A hero-hunter 'mid the band.
Nernepten was a warrior bold,
Though grey of head yet scarcely old,
Who bore from all the palm away
In fishing, chase, in fight or fray.
He lived apart - a silent man,
A worker - wonder of the clan;
And brave must that bold spirit be
That dared to keep him company.
The old he loved - his ready spear
Oft furnish'd forth their festive cheer;
But for the well-grown stalwart ones,
He looked on these as younger sons,
And bade them exercise in chase
By his example in the race.
From blatant youth he turned away,
Finding but folly in their say;
But take to him the bright-eyed child,
You found him as a woman mild.
There were no scions of his stock;
He stood alone - a towering rock,
O'ershadowing with his mightiness
The weak ones in life's wilderness.
Nernepten, naked to the waist,
Sate 'mid the wood himself had placed
[9] That angled portion, soon to be
A wangiem whirling rapidly.
Stripped of its bark, the ruddy pride
Blushed deeply through the wounded side,
And painted, with prophetic might,
Blood to be spilt in future fight.
The long leangle's nascent form
Forespoke the distant battle-storm;
And club and malka's embryo shape
Seem'd longing for red wounds to gape.
The lance of wood, the spear of reed,
Stood symbols there of warlike deed.
Ah! well said Uimba, sage of old,
That each tall tree its story told.
The myrtle green to wild korang 
Its bloody fate prophetic sang;
And wind-shook tchyrels, as they moaned,
The hunted emeu's end intoned.
And so the wangiem-yielding tree, 
That sighs at sunset mournfully,
Sings to the wind - whose latest breath
Stirs its lank leaves - the song of death;
And vows the vengeance man must wreak
Where sounds the wangiem's battle-shriek.
*  *  * * *
The boy delighted marked the man
At work; and, as he still began
Another and another task,
Drew nearer yet, as if to ask
[10] Some question, with inquiring eye
That watched the worker curiously.
Nernepten bade the boy advance,
Whilst he was fashioning a lance,
And showed him how the crooked wood
Became the straightest shaft that stood
When bent on turf, o'erheaped with coals,
That slacked the fibres' rebel souls;
Taught him to hew the wangiem long,
And sing the wangiem-maker's song;
To mould the malka or the mace,
Arm and defence for danger's place.
In short, his brain the man imbued
Well with this maiden lesson rude.
Mamba returned each day to view
The axe that fell, the wood that flew,
The fragrant curls and splinters red
The green-stone mogo round it shed.
His wonder wild would never flag,
Searching the magic mocre-bag - 
The bunch of brown-barked willoo pins
That stretched the quaintly-figured skins - 
The ball of blended gum and clay - 
The roll of sinew-thread that lay
Next to the ochred forehead-band,
Wrought of the slend'rest sinew-strand
'Mid flinty fragments from the ford,
The busy workman's varied hoard;
The bath at dawn, the chase at noon,
By night the dance beneath the moon,
[11] The feast around the blazing fires,
Behind the snowy-beaded sires,
And then the ballad or the tale
Tow'rds morn, until the stars grew pale
And Borote watched, with fearful joy,
The man-like bearing of the boy.
*  *  * * *
He came one evening from the chase
With joy upon his wearied face,
And threw in silence on the ground
A korang never more to bound.
Borote, with all a mother's pride,
Sprang to the victor-hunter's side,
Admired the spoil and praised the spear,
And paused the hunting-tale to hear.
His maiden prize - his first success,
Both brought the boy some blessedness;
And bright as sun that cleaves the cloud,
The saddened mother still looked proud.
Too well she saw the sand nigh run,
The foster-mother's duty done,
The coming day, the missing face,
The fireside with an empty place;
Herself again without a mate,
Her bower - her bosom - desolate.
She clasped the boy until her breast,
Yielding, received the head she press'd.
*  *  * * *
Mamba! Thou learn'st these ways too fast,
The man arrives ere youth is past;
And thou - too soon - must take thy place
Among the elders of the race.
[12] I bore thee not - but oh, forgive
The heart that asks thee still to live
A while beside the little fire
That warmed 'the son without a sire'
For years, whilst thou without a peer
Hast reigned in this fond bosom here.
I bore thee not. Thy mother fled,
That thou might'st live - she sought the dead;
And I had lost (methought) my life,
When little Tono ended strife,
And turned upon his leafy bed,
Whereon I deemed my hopes lay dead.
"No sire had I - my husband lost - 
My only bud the cruel frost
Nipp'd, ere it bloomed a beauteous flower - 
Vain was the mother's tear-drop shower.
I thought ('twas ere these lids were dry)
That life was learning but to die;
And then thy mother's hope ('twas said)
Hung by a tiny, treacherous thread.
Alas! she went - and I in grief
Sought by her corpse the strange relief
That woe to woe vouchsafes alway,
By night, and hope with dawning day:
'Twas then I first beheld in thee
A Tono sent mysteriously.
'Tis wrong that we aloud should name
The lost, when life's extinguished flame
No longer warms the curdled red
That chokes the pulse's silent bed.
I chose a flower - the first I found
Upon the green and blessed ground,
[13] Where new-born Mamba sighed and smiled,
And Borote gained a second child.
'Tis thine for life; it bloomed for thee,
It smiled thy welcome pensively.
Long may it glad the much-loved plain,
And speak thy birth for years again.
And aye, where'er I build my bower,
Joy to greet the Mamba flower."
Mamba replied with speaking eye
That beamed with love despairingly.
It told her more than tongue could tell - 
How Mamba, tho' he loved her well,
Had cast his lot among the bold
That ruled the tribe since times of old.
She sighed, and said - "My life, my joy,
My cherished, too-ambitious boy - 
The wise men soon shall call thee hence,
Despite a mother's eloquence.
But thou from her hast nought to fear - 
From her no sigh, no falling tear,
Shall come to mar the fatal plan
That makes her Mamba yet a man."
Then Mamba, softening as he spoke,
Whispered the fearful Ghimbo-boke; 
But Borote smiling shook her head,
And her voice shook as thus she said - 
"Ne'er ask of me - I know it not,
What mystery marks the manly rite;
The hour, the day, the secret spot,
The words of wisdom or of might.
But this is mine - I know it well - 
Our fathers all have passed the same;
[14] The secret, man may never tell
Till youth assumes the manly name.
And thou art brave, and bold as they
Who faced the doubtful rite before,
And rose amid the sages grey,
A man among the men of yore.
But this is why I chiefly grieve:
To think a mother's care is o'er;
A mother's words can ne'er deceive - 
Thou ne'er shalt own a mother more."
The tale went round, the gibe and song,
Amid the young, the tall, the strong;
And many a bright and merry eye
Flashed with a pent-up mystery.
At length young Pahmeel laughed aloud.
And Ninghim too, until he bowed
Across the broken spear he mended,
That shook until his laughter ended,
And long, deep-drawn, escaping sighs
Relieved the breast and filled the eyes.
"Ninghim!" he faltered - (and he laughed
To Pahmeel, who had only quaffed
One mouthful from his calabash, 
And set it down, lest drinking rash
Should choke him, as he rocked in glee
With hands upon his up-drawn knee) - 
"They say young Mamba's found a sire.
(Beware!) The water's in the fire!
This crystal seems bewitched, I think,
And laughs at him who fain would drink."
"A sire indeed!" quoth Burtalcaang,
Belov'd as story-tellers sang
[15] Of old, when boys forsooth had rather
Lose aught in life except a father;
"But what's a sire to him or thee
That loves to rove the forest free?
His mother - she is not his own,
His father like the summer's flown;
Say, who shall lift the Borote-yoke,
And lead him to the Ghim-boboke?
A father, and a comrade too,
A choice let's hope he'll never rue."
To him, Pahmeel, a merry wight,
Whose large dark eyes were wild and bright - 
"Borote supplies his mother's place;
Nernepten takes him to the chase - 
Teaches him weapon-maker's art,
The warrior's and the hunter's part;
To wield the malka, stalk the game,
And burn the cover out with flame.
Methinks there's more in this than we
In all our wisdom seem to see;
Except myself and Ninghim wild,
That deem the boy Nernepten's child."
A laugh went round - "And Mamba's mother!"
Cried Bangan. "Yes! he had another;
But even Borote vows that she
Ne'er pierced that father mystery.
Borote's a foster-mother only - 
A woman by herself, and lonely,
But for the boy that shares her bower;
The name-son of a silly flower.
And brave Nernepten - for he's brave - 
Would sooner hide in mountain cave
Than where the clack of woman's tongue
Thro' all the forest mazes rung.
[16] If he did wed, we knew it not,
Nor in what wild secluded spot
He kept the wife he woo'd or stole - 
The solace of his secret soul."
"Shame on you all!" a voice exclaimed
"Shame!" flashed a pair of eyes that flamed,
And grey Terillin turned his beard
Tow'rds the wild group whose tongues were feared,
But most of all by youths and maids
That sighed o'er eyes or glossy braids;
Or chanted love-lays to the morn,
In murmurs as the day was born.
"Nernepten's brave - 'tis truly said,
And brave Nernepten wears a head
Where one, a water-drinker rash,
Wears nothing but a calabash."
With this he glanced at young Pahmeel
From heel to head, from head to heel;
And looked the cowering stripling down
With snowy, shaggy eyebrows' frown.
"You, Ninghim, too - and Bangan bold,
Sly and deceitful yet not old;
And Burtalcaang - that wear no yoke,
Yet never knew the Ghim-boboke - 
Shame on ye all! Ye cannot see
A woman succour misery - 
A childless man take up a child,
And train its aspirations wild - 
But ye must turn and twist the tale
To laughter's ends, with words that rail.
Mark me again, ye talkers rash:
If aught can one of you abash,
It should be this - an old man's word.
That else for long had been deferred
[17] To future time and wilder scene - 
The night of Ghim-boboke Yapeen." 
Nernepten never raised his head,
But hewed amain the wangiem red;
Nor turned with eagle eye askance
Upon the group an angry glance.
Borote heard frequent tales that flew
Around the camp: each breeze that blew
Bore in its murmur many a gibe
Against the sireless of the tribe.
But Borote, listening, only smiled,
And loved the more the changeling child
That heaven conferred, when she to earth
Consigned the infant of her birth.
Borote, with heavy heart and sad,
Traversed the wood, where birdlings glad
Mocked with their wildest warbling song
Her thoughts of woe - her dream of wrong.
The day had come, the morn had broke,
That ushered in the "Ghim-boboke."
From woman's eye that rite is bid,
To woman is the thought forbid
To pierce the cloud that veils the light
Of manhood merging into might.
Alas! 'Tis sad to grieve alone - 
To know one's chiefest joy is flown;
But doubly sad to see the sun
Of woe's first day, but just begun,
Smile on the face bedewed with tears,
And laughing, dart a ray that sears
[18] The heart that aches in deep'ning sorrow,
Expectant of a dark to-morrow.
Mamba remote and silent sate
Secluded, like the youths who wait
The bidding of the tribal sires
To join them by the myst'ry fires,
Not ours the wisdom nor the light
To shadow forth that solemn rite;
Nor what the word, nor what the way,
That moulds a man from boyish clay.
*  *  * * *
Let it suffice - the rite was o'er;
They led him to the river shore,
Whose grassy curves wound in and out
Between the tree-trunks tall and stout.
Headlong he plunged, came out again,
Shook from his locks the river rain,
And stood between his guard and guide
A new-made man, in all his pride,
Flowers on his brow, a golden wreath,
They placed: his bright eyes beamed beneath;
And thus, with nodding blossoms crowned,
They homewards led the "newly-found."
Terillin rose - the grave, the grey - 
And met the comers on their way;
Advancing, took the crown'd one's hand,
And led him tow'rds the snow-capped band,
"Fathers!" he cried, "I bring with me
One pass'd the ancient mystery,
That ye and I, and all the old
Have known, but ne'er to stranger told.
[19] He comes, a man amongst our men - 
Heaven send us such a one again!
What, though no father's name he bears,
Nor badge of father's bravery wears,
Shall he be less among his peers
Because as yet unfleshed his spears?
Did Burtalcaang, who bears no yoke,
E'er face the dreaded Ghim-boboke?
Or Pahmeel, whose wild laughter rings
Through all the camp, e'er trim the wings
Of flying foes, that fell before
His spear-shaft, stained with traitor's gore?
Ninghim, or Bangan, can they say
Mamba's without a sire to-day?
His sire behold! Am I not he - 
His father in the mystery?
Nameless should be the silent dead 
(And here Terillin bowed his head);
But, though all nameless in the dust,
To nameless memory be just.
His father was the gallant son
Whom glory from affection won.
When, waking once from dreams of joy,
They told me I had lost my boy,
Red was my spear and red my hand - 
I raised the camp with fiery brand;
But all the blood was spilt in vain,
I could not bring him back again.
Childless for long, I see my son,
His life as 'twere again begun.
But I am old, unnerved, and grey,
And half my strength is snatched away.
[20] Thus to Nernepten I bequeath
The boy who wears the golden wreath.
Behold in me thy sires proud sire;
Embrace me, boy! join fire to fire."
This to young Mamba, as he flew
Into the arms of grandsire true.
Pahmeel and Ninghim hung the head;
The history round the camp-fire spread
And Bangan bold and Burtalcaang
Each felt of burning shame the pang.
"'Twas glorious - yes! but was it well
(Cried Taalar) of the dead to tell?
To raise again from where it rests
The secret buried in our breasts - 
The woe felt when our hero slain
Victorious fell on Ryndia's plain?
Oh! Death may chance to be forespoke,
E'en at our solemn Ghim-boboke.
And though, methink, a brave grandsire
Sits next him by the mystery fire;
And though his sire at last is known - 
Albeit his burning soul is flown - 
Mamba may never live to mourn
Terillin from his children torn."
This, hoarsely whispered by Taalar,
All silent else both near and far;
And Mamba, 'mid the elders placed,
Sate while his face with lines they traced.
The day had fled, the moon arose,
Night straight began with evening's close - 
A night whose calm and silvery sheen
Befitted well the wild yapeen.
[21] Within the circle of the camp
Blazed the clear fire, while measured tramp
Of dancing warriors shook the ground,
To song and time-sticks' throbbing sound.
There twice two hundred feet advanced,
There twice a hundred malkas glanced
Bright in the moon, that silvered o'er
The arms that all those malkas bore.
Wild the device, and strange the sign
That stared in many a snowy line
From beaming face and heaving breast,
And limbs that seldom paused to rest;
Whilst all the rib-like lines laid on,
Made each man seem a skeleton.
Nodded the feathers from the red
And netted band that bound each head,
And hoarsely rustling leaves of trees
Shook round dark ankles in the breeze.
The singers with their time-sticks rang
The cadence of the song they sang;
And every face and limb below,
And tree above them, caught the glow
That spread from camp-fire's rising blaze,
Lighting the yapeen's wond'rous maze
Of feet and ankles in the dance
With fitful gleam or twinkling glance.
Conspicuous 'mid the dancing crowd,
Whose ranks alternate swayed and bowed,
Shone Mamba, tricked with wild design,
And symbol traced in waving line.
No limbs more active wore the green
At yon great Ghim-boboke yapeen;
And no two arms more graceful there
In circling motion cleft the air
[22] Than his - and his the eagle-eye
Inspiring all the minstrelsy.
The young and old in groups around
Drank in the sight, the joy, the sound;
And Mamba's form throughout the dance
Attracted every wondering glance.
Borote! She viewed him and she wept - 
Proud of her son; and then she crept
Alone into the darkness wild,
And there bewailed her sundered child.
Out far beyond the camp leant she
Her aching head against a tree;
The fires behind her brightly burned,
The turf the dancers lightly spurned;
And thro' the forest, laughter rang,
As all the sitting matrons sang,
To "time-stick" cadence by the fire,
The joy of him "that lacked a sire."
"Ah me!" groaned Borote, "is it well
That I should live the tale to tell
Of love bestowed and love returned,
Love lost again, or all unlearned?
That I - the only joy he knew - 
False to myself, to him still true,
Should here alone with salt tears flow,
Weep o'er his joy and call it woe?"
She sobbed; the tears ran down apace - 
Blent in each other on her face,
Like sorrows such as seldom come
Alone - but join and make the sum
Of one vast melting, burning grief,
That ever brings its own relief,
She wept, and found her heart's distress
Worthless and worse than nothingness;
Reproached herself, and yet she sighed,
As her sweet streaming face she dried;
[23] And passing to her bower alone,
With dragging foot and fitful moan,
Paused sadly by the ashes there,
For the dark hearth was cold and bare;
Then laid her down, all lost in woe.
Her lullaby the river's flow.
Grief brought it's balm - now past the worst,
And all the river-murmurs nurst
Her soul to sleep, nor sent a dream,
Nor yet of joy nor hope a gleam.
*  *  * * *
Suns set, and many a changing moon
Shone on the sad one all too soon;
Tho' Mamba still increased in grace,
Whilst the bright radiance of his face,
Was foremost theme with young and old - 
His port the envy of the bold;
A mighty, stalwart hunter he
Fit hero for camp minstrelsy.
The bright-eyed Mamba on the trail
Followed his quarry 'gainst the gale;
Outstripped in flight the swift korang
His dogs, with late ensanguined fang;
And every breeze that eastward blew
Bore on its wings the boy's halloo,
As crying eager to his hounds
The hills sent back the cheery sounds;
The shout, the barking chorus rang
Till all the grim, grey forest sang,
And rustling leaves, and boughs that bent
Joined in the airy merriment.
The youth was not unseen. His track
For miles, for leagues, behind his back,
[24] Hard followed by an anxious few,
Gave hopes of victim soon in view.
Mamba, with hunter's practised ear,
Caught the first sounds as man drew near
And standing motionless and still,
He silent scanned the glade and hill,
Revolving in his mind what chance
Might next require his spear or lance.
Scarce out of sight, with heads to wind,
With listening ears to turf inclined,
There crouched a mute and murderous band
That Mamba's swift destruction plann'd.
They rose, by turns, on hands and knees,
Peered through the brushwood and the trees,
Saw the tall plume on Mamba's head,
But heard no more his springy tread;
For Mamba, warned by air-borne sound,
And pointed ear of whining hound,
Stood like a statue, black as night,
Relieved against a flood of light.
The broad sun smiled on bad and good,
On swift pursuer and pursued;
One golden gleam the follower caught,
The followed seeker and the sought.
*  *  * * *
Sudden before young Mamba stood,
With green branch riven from the wood,
A figure tall, athletic, dark,
All knotted, sinewy, stout and stark - 
Advancing waved the peaceful green,
That emblem'd friendship might be seen
But Mamba still uncertain gazed
Upon the flutt'ring symbol raised,
[25] Yet dropped his stout death-dealing spear,
As scorning to acknowledge fear.
The foe (for foe it was) drew nigh
With strangely wild uncertain eye;
Him followed - crawling on the ground
Like snakes, and with as little sound - 
The other ruffians - Wamthalar
And Yal-yal, Yarat, Mambanar.
Each in his crookt foot-fingers brought
A something for the life he sought:
One trailed a black and long-barb'd spear,
With all a murderer's covert fear;
And one a club, a nerum-noose, 
That o'er the arm hung long and loose.
With noiseless foot and curving frame,
One onwards, then another, came.