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The Mountain-chase Post by :Mallam Category :Poems Author :George Borrow Date :August 2011 Read :2420

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The Mountain-chase

From the Mandchou or Chinese Tartar.
(An extract from the "Description of Moukden" by the Emperor Kian Loung.)

Autumn has fled and winter left our bounds;
Now for the chase amongst the mountain grounds,
Our troops their implements and arms prepare.
Like colour'd rainbow see our banners glare;
While paler far and like the waning bow,
Rustle the standards in the winds that blow;
Piercing the mists, above our heads that lower,
Aloft behold our stately Toron {1} tower,
Flapping the skies with its embroider'd rim.
Away we journey, hale in mind and limb;
Our cars of state are creaking in the rear,
Whilst in the front the active guides appear.

And now our children mount their colts of speed,
Their sculptur'd cars full little here they need;
From the right side they take the arrow keen,
Ne'er to its quiver to return, I ween;
The bow, the left side's fitting ornament;
The bow, the tough and pliant bow is bent;
It yields a sound, like thunder from afar,
While flies the arrow, like a streaming star.

None now expects a tale of fabled might;
Wang Liyang's {2} bridle will no more delight;
Nor how his chariot Siyan Ou did guide;
Nor how, incas'd in hauberk's steely pride,
His hundred myriads, at the cymbals' sound,
The falcon launch'd, or slipp'd the eager hound;
Or giving rein to every fiery steed
No more precipitous Tai Shan would heed,
Than stair which leadeth to some upper bower;
Or swarming down tumultuous to the shore,
Chain'd the sea-waters with the nets they cast--
For such wild miracles the time is past.

Numerous and brilliant spreads our hunting train,
Stilly or noisily the aim is ta'en,
Forth the shaft speedeth all athirst for blood,
Whilst the string rattleth sharp against the wood;
The stags we scatter, in the plain which browse,
Or from his cavern the rough boar uprouse;
We scare the bokoin to the highest steeps,
Hunt down the hare, along the plain which leaps.
But though we slaughter, nor the work resign
When stiff and wearied are each hand and spine,
On field and mountain still the beasts are spied
Plenteous as grasses in the summer tide;
As at three points the fierce attack I ply,
Seeing what numbers still remain to die,
Captains, pick'd captains I with speed despatch,
Who by the tail the spotted leopard catch,
Crash to the brain the furious tiger's head,
Grapple the bear so powerful and dread,
The ancient sow, the desert's haunter, slay--
Whilst with applause their prowess we survey.

When thus fresh meat they have obtain'd with glee,
The largest beasts the hunters bear to me,
From which we separate and cast aside
Whatever beast by frontal wound has died;
To those the preference we at once decree,
In whose left side the fatal mark we see,
Those to be offer'd to our fathers' manes,
Within their high and consecrated fanes,
To dry and cure in wooden trays are laid,
Till bak'd or roast the offering is made.
Our guests they dine on the rejected prey,
And what they leave is safely stor'd away;
The gross amount of what is slain and shot
Falls to the carmen and the rabble's lot.

Footnote: {1} The principal banner.

Footnote: {2} Wang Liyang and Siyan Ou were ancient kings of China, and mighty
hunters, of whose exploits many extravagant tales are related.

(The end)
George Borrow's poem: Mountain-Chase

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