The Jaguar Hunt

THE dark jaguar was abroad in the land ;
His strength and his fierceness what foe could withstand ?
The breath of his anger was hot on the air.
And the white lamb of Peace he had dragged to his lair.
Then up rose the Farmer; he summoned his sons:
“Now saddle your horses, now look to your guns!”
And he called to his hound, as he sprang from the ground
To the back of his black pawing steed with a bound.
Oh, their hearts, at the word, how they tingled and stirred !
They followed, all belted and booted and spurred.
“Buckle tight, boys!” said he, “for who gallops with me,
Such a hunt as was never before he shall see !
“This traitor, we know him ! for when he was younger,
We flattered him, patted him, fed his fierce hunger :
But now far too long we have borne with the wrong,
For each morsel we tossed makes him savage and strong.”
Then said one, “ He must die ! ” And they took up the cry,
“For this last crime of his he must die! he must die!”
But the slow eldest-born sauntered sad and forlorn,
For his heart was at home on that fair hunting-morn.
“I remember,” he said, “how this fine cub we track
Has carried me many a time on his back ! ”
And he called to his brothers, “ Fight gently! be kind ! ”
And he kept the dread hound, Retribution, behind.
The dark jaguar on a bough in the brake
Crouched, silent and wily, and lithe as a snake:
They spied not their game, but, as onward they came,
Through the dense leafage gleamed two red eyeballs of flame.
Black-spotted, and mottled, and whiskered, and grim,
White-bellied, and yellow, he lay on the limb,
All so still that you saw but just one tawny paw
Lightly reach through the leaves and as softly withdraw.
Then shrilled his fierce cry, as the riders drew nigh,
And he shot from the bough like a bolt from the sky :
In the foremost he fastened his fangs as he fell,
While all the black jungle reëchoed his yell.
Oh, then there was carnage by field and by flood !
The green sod was crimsoned, the rivers ran blood,
The cornfields were trampled, and all in their track
The beautiful valley lay blasted and black.
Now the din of the conflict swells deadly and loud,
And the dust of the tumult rolls up like a cloud :
Then afar down the slope of the Southland recedes
The wild rapid clatter of galloping steeds.
With wide nostrils smoking, and flanks dripping gore,
The black stallion bore his bold rider before,
As onward they thundered through forest and glen,
A-hunting the dark jaguar to his den.
In April, sweet April, the chase was begun ;
It was April again, when the hunting was done :
The snows of four winters and four summers green
Lay red-streaked and trodden and blighted between.
Then the monster stretched all his grim length on the ground ;
His life-blood was wasting from many a wound;
Ferocious and gory and snarling he lay,
Amid heaps of the whitening bones of his prey.
Then up spoke the slow eldest son, and he said,
“All he needs now is just to be fostered and fed!
Give over the strife ! Brothers, put up the knife !
We will tame him, reclaim him, but take not his life ! ”
But the Farmer flung back the false words in his face:
“He is none of my race, who gives counsel so base!
Now let loose the hound! ” And the hound was unbound,
And like lightning the heart of the traitor he found.
“So rapine and treason forever shall cease!”
And they wash the stained fleece of the pale lamb of Peace ;
When, lo ! a strong angel stands wingèd and white
In a wonderful raiment of ravishing light!
Peace is raised from the dead ! In the radiance shed
By the halo of glory that shines round her head,
Fair gardens shall bloom where the black jungle grew,
And all the glad valley shall blossom anew!