Bahram The Hunter

by Robert Laurence Binyon

Laurence Binyon

When Bahram rode to the chase,
Then saw ye his soul's delight
Full on his kingly face.
Who could his steed outpace?
He swooped like a falcon's flight;
Like a sunbeam that strikes from a cloud,
Exulting and eager--browed,
So rode he his reckless race.
Bright flashed the pools at morn,
And the sun o'er the mountains burned
And gilded the antelope's horn
In the plain, and the wild ass in scorn
Of the hunter the hard soil spurned,
Snuffing the wind, most fleet
Of quarries, the beat of whose feet
Is music to kings' ears borne.
Bahram smiled as he rode
On the gold--bright sands; debonair
Was his look, and his glad voice flowed.
White was the horse he bestrode,
And over his black beard and hair
The white--furred cap on his head
Was hung with tassels of red:
On his mantle a gold sun glowed.
And round him glittering gay
Rode princes and lords; he turned
To each with a word to say
In his royal courtesy; nay,
Not a heart but joyously burned
To be near to a heart so great,
And was fain to be proved its mate
In a glorious deed this day.
But the king's men shouted; for lo!
The wild ass afar they espied
In the shallowing valley below,
Where bright springs fathomless flow.
He was shaking his neck in pride,
And his heels the dust upthrew:
Then Bahram shot forth to pursue,
As a bolt that is shot from a bow.
The princes of Persia spurred,
But he left them all; this day
There was neither second nor third
To the king. Now a startled bird
From the low thicket fluttered away;
Then the plain smoked up in a cloud
Behind them, and thundered aloud;
Yet never the king they neared.
Swifter the wild ass fled,
But swifter the king came nigher,
Wherever those fleet heels led;
Now soft upon mosses he sped,
Now the hoofs upon stone struck fire;
Till the wild ass turned in his fear
For an instant, and showed him clear
The eyeball strained in his head.
Then the princes shouted as one,
For they heard the king's glad shout,
And saw his spear raised in the sun,
And the light o'er the long shaft run;
As they looked for the steel to flash out
On a sudden the place was bare;
Bahram was no more there,
And the wild ass galloped alone.
Pale they spurred o'er the ground,
Then reined in close with a cry,
Gazing in terror around:
Neither king nor horse they found.
But before them laughed to the sky
A pool of springs that well
From the streams under earth and swell
Through her secret caverns profound.
The women of Ctesiphon wail,
And the young men cry in the street,
``No more now in the Vale
Of Heroes shall Bahram hail
His quarry of glancing feet,
No more shall his voice delight
Our hearts through the battle, and smite
The ranks of the Tartar pale!''
The mother of Bahram hath made
Amid pillars his empty tomb
Of porphyry, jasper and jade.
Clear gums in fire she hath frayed
To cloud it in idle fume.
Not riches from isles of the dawn
Nor spices from far Damaun
Lure hither the strong--winged shade.
Tomb nor prison shall tame
Bahram the hunter's soul.
As of old to the chase he came,
He is turned not aside from his aim,
He is mixed with the streams that roll
Unending as man's desire,
That shall not abate of its fire
Till the whole world crumble in flame.

Last updated January 14, 2019