Tiger Hunting In India With Elephants

By Isaac McLellan

We cross’d a brawling mountain torrent, far
From our Indian camp. The red, angry glare
Of crimson sunset shimmer’d through the clouds
Of dust that fill’d the air with their dull, coppery hues,
Presaging the near coming of a storm.

We pass’d the border-forest’s gloomy belt,
Behind which, tier on tier, the mighty range
Of the majestic Himalayas tower’d in air,
Till their snow-clad summits seem’d to pierce the sky;
Had pass’d thro’ villages in dense mango groves–
Past temples, shadow’d by great tamarind-trees;
Past crowded hamlets fill’d with din and dust;
Past the low country, covered with green crops;
Past patches of rice stubble, with dense grass between,
Whence rose the partridge, plover, and the quail,
And florican and pea-fowl, in dense flocks;
Past groves of feathery bamboo and the palm,
And plumy plaintains that conceal the huts,
‘Midst aloe-hedges festoon’d with gay vines.

There were few song-birds flitting thro’ the gloom
Of wood arcades, to make them musical.
The songless horn-bill darts from tree to tree;
The big woodpecker taps the hollow log,
With gorgeous plumage glistening in the sun;
Flights of green parrots scream above your head;
The golden oriole and the bulbul make
Their feeble chirrup, while at times resounds
The melancholy hoot of blinking owl,
Or golden pigeon’s soft and murmurous coo.

There, on the borders of the jungle wild,
The hunters pause ere they invade its depths.
‘Twas a dark, deep, impenetrable swamp,
Thick with tall reeds and wild vines interlac’d–
Homes of the savage creatures of the waste–
The tiger’s haunt, fierce monarch of the woods!
Here rang’d the brown hog-deer in browsing herds,
The wild pig and the boar, with gnashing tusks;
Here tramp’d the black rhinoceros on his way,
And wallow’d the big buffaloes at will;
The jackals rais’d at night their fearful howl,
While overhead great flocks of vultures soar’d.

And here the hunting elephants are rang’d
In line continuous, ready for the charge;
Each bears a howdah on his towering back,
Whereon the hunter with his rifle sits,
To stop the royal game with fatal aim.
Soon the long line advances thro’ the wood,
Trampling the bending branches and the reeds,
While loud the native beaters sound their drums,
And kindle into flames the jungle grass–
Kindle acacia shrubs and thorny bush.
So they press on, a wall of flame behind,
While fast before them flies the frantic game.

At length a tiger bounds away in fright,
And fast the goaded elephant pursues.
As fast he tears thro’ tangled jungles green,
Like great ship surging thro’ the ocean tides.
The Mahouts rain their blows upon his head,
The spearmen prick him with their lances keen;
While on thro’ bush and brake, thro’ thorny scrub,
Through stream, and down precipitous ravine,
The headlong chase is urg’d, till, brought to bay,
The tiger falls beneath th’ unerring shot.

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