Thomas Aird

Nebuchadnezzar: Canto III: The Hunt

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Before her cavern stands at evening-tide
Cyra, her harp clear glittering by her side;
Now for the King she looks far east away,
And now she turns unto the setting day;
She veils her dazzled face, her garments shine
With molten gold, like angel robes divine,
Touched by the sun, as large he stoops to rest
Beyond the Assyrian kingdoms in the west.
Eastward again she looked: she cleared her eye—
Ha! yes, she sees come o'er yon mountain high
A courser white; swift dogs are on his rear;
Upcoming hunters on the hill appear.
Can that be Zublon? From the mountain fails
The chase now swallowed by the nearer vales,
Perplexed and wide; again it comes in sight,
And lo! 'tis Zublon sure that leads the flight.
He takes the river, stems it with disdain,
Paws the near shore, forth springs, comes on amain.
The yielding dogs float down athwart the flood,
Swarm on the bank, renew their yells for blood,
Regain their track; inextricable, dense,
With crowding heads they wedge their way intense.
In fear majestic on the charger drew;
White clouds of smoke his seething nostrils blew;
Now streamed his tail on high, now swept the plain;
Abroad were driven the terrors of his mane.
He toiled, he strained, he neared the well-known maid,
He saw his rock, turning he proudly neighed,
Went reeking past, and rushed into his cave;
And Cyra ran the gallant horse to save.

Quick dipped in oil, and lit, in either hand,
Of gummy pine she bore a waving brand,
Forth held them, hasted to the entrance back,
There met the brindled leaders of the pack,
Scorched their dry tongues, and blinded them with fire,
And still she kept them back, still forced them to retire.
One minute more! impelled by crowding power
And hungry rage, the damsel they'll devour.
But here be mountain woodmen; they have heard
The tumult, hasted, and the maid will guard,
True to the King: with banded axes they
Dashed off the dogs, and kept them still at bay,
Till Chud the hunter came with smarting thong,
And down the mountain lashed the yelling throng.

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Thomas Aird