Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 3/Temujin


The Imperial mandate to Pekin
Hath summoned every Tartar lord;
The highest place to Temujin,
Who hath only fifteen summers seen,
The Tartars yield with one accord.

Whence doth this froward youth derive,
His title to this high degree,
We deemed it our prerogative,
Precedence, honours, rank to give:
Who is the youth—whence cometh he?”

For valour, skill, and enterprise,
This Mongol boy is more than man;
The foremost e’er where danger lies,
Amid your routed enemies,—
The Tartar nation hailed him Khan.”

So young, yet held in such esteem,
He quarries at high game, forsooth!
His years such honours ill-beseem:
Dissolve we his ambitious dream,
This very night arrest the youth.”

In the Durbar with studied phrase
Of deep duplicity and guile,
The Emperor bids his peers give place
To the brave youth of Mongol race,
And greets him with most winning smile.

The court dismiss’d, the youth retires,
His tents are pitch’d beyond the walls;
No confidence that smile inspires—
The flattery suspicion fires:
To council all his friends he calls.

This is no place for Temujin,—
Saddle my horse, I must away;
To-night I sleep not in Pekin,
For as I read the hearts of men,
That king smiles on me to betray.”

Escaped! Shall we be baffled thus,
And by a beardless Mongol boy!
Leaves he the court unhid by us—
It is a treason dangerous;
The snake while young we must destroy.”

Proclaim’d a rebel with a price
Set on his head, young Temujin
For life across the desert flies.
Far in the west Mongolia lies;
Long is the road to Kra-Kooren.

A maiden at a cottage door
Sits plying hard her spinning-wheel;
Weak, weary, press’d by hunger sore,
A youth appears the maid before,
And asks the modest boon—a meal.

With ready hospitality
The maiden shares her humble store,
Prepares the mess of Tsamba tea,
Which while he swallows greedily,
A bed she spreads upon the floor.

Now, rest,” she saith, “and I will sit
And watch that danger come not near;
Thou hast not travell’d with such heat,
But for a cause,—I ask not it:
A brother thou while resting here.”

She quits her spinning-wheel and flies
To mount the watch-tower’s signal mast;
There scans th’ horizon with keen eyes,
Till in the distant mist she spies
A band of horsemen riding fast.

She hurries back to warn her guest,
Waking him up from heavy sleep:
If danger thou imaginest,
Under my cotton creep and rest,—
In yon dark corner lies the heap.”

The strangers come: “Say, maiden, say,
We seek the rebel Temujin,
His horse we found not far away,
A carcase of wild wolves the prey:
Hast thou the Mongol traitor seen?

A price is set upon his head,
Who shelter give his fate will share;
Show us the youth, alive or dead,
And for thyself when thou shalt wed,
A princely dower we can spare.”

Here at my door I sit and spin,
As simple Tartar maid should do,
I know not rebels from true men,
And never heard of Temujin,
Whom thus ye cruelly pursue.”

Simple she seemeth, but acute,
This youth she never would betray:
Dismount, my men, and search the hut;
Words we should waste to little fruit,—
Simple were we to trust her say.”

Temujin - William Holman Hunt.png

Two spearmen from their saddles leap,
And rudely rush the hut inside.
Ah! will they search that cotton-heap,
God grant my weary guest escape!—
The thought and feeling she must hide.

Ye do me justice, sirs,” saith she,
“Nor young nor old would I betray;
And yet it is small courtesy
To search the house of maid like me:
Ye merit not to find your prey.”

The searchers from the cottage door
Appear alone—their search was vain:
Adieu, we trouble thee no more.
Mount! men, the country round explore!”
And off they scour across the plain.

Now, rouse thee, Temujin! and tell
Why follow these thy trace so hot?
Ah! there is blood!—all is not well;
Say, honour’d guest, how this befel,
And yet the searchers found thee not.”

I am indeed proscribed, proclaim’d,
The persecuted Temujin;
But be not of thy guest ashamed,
A rebel only because named
Great Khan, unlicensed from Pekin.

These men pursue from avarice,
For greed of gold their search is keen;
Here nothing ’scaped their prying eyes,
They probed your cotton—pierced me twice,—
Still lay I motionless unseen.

The wounds are slight and need no care;
But had they pierced my very breast,
Death I had taken from their spear,
And ne’er betray’d that I was here,
Lest thou had suffer’d for thy guest.”

Ah! hath thy spirit such control
O’er nature’s impulse under pain?
Then wert thou born mankind to rule,
And hast indeed the noble soul
That Tartars look for in their Khan.

But rest thee now till close of day,
Thy fortunes I have made my own;
This night my father’s trusty grey
Shall speed thee onward on thy way:
But ’tis not fit thou go alone.

Myself will be the trusty guide,
To lead thee by the surest path;
Nor will I quit thy honour’d side
Till safe where Mongol friends abide
Thou mayst defy the tyrant’s wrath.

Then, as thou wilt, or send me back
To sit and spin in this my home,
Or let me follow in thy track,
And with thy Mongol kin partake
Thy glorious destiny to come.”

Nay, maiden, I accept not so,
The proffer of thy service tried;
Already life to thee I owe:
If thou’rt content with me to go,
Thou goest as my destined bride.”

The hosts of China gather’d are,
The emperor is at their head;
For freedom fights the brave Tartar,
Roused to resistance and to war,
By Temujin to battle led.

Conquest on his young banner waits,
Bright opens on him glory’s dawn;
From China to the Caspian gates,
The proudest kings and greatest states,
Yield to the mighty Jungeez Khan.

And she, the desert-given bride,
Who in the weary fugitive
The germ of this career descried,
Bravely she sits her lord beside,
And glories in her place of pride;—
Long shall her fame in story live.