Poets of John Company/The Suppliant Dove
R. T. H. GRIFFITH.
The Suppliant Dove.
Chased by a hawk, there came a dove
With worn and weary wing,
And took her stand upon the hand
Of Kasi's noble king.
The monarch smoothed her ruffled plumes.
And laid her on his breast;
And cried, "No fear shall vex thee here,
Rest, pretty egg-born, rest!
Fair Kasi's realm is rich and wide,
With golden harvests gay,
But all that's mine will I resign
Ere I my guest betray."
But, panting for his half-won spoil,
The hawk was close behind.
And with wild eye and eager cry
Came swooping down the wind:
"This bird," he cried, "my destined prize,
'Tis not for thee to shield:
'Tis mine by right and toilsome flight
O'er hill and dale and field.
Hunger and thirst oppress me sore.
And I am faint with toil:
Thou should'st not stay a bird of prey.
Who claims his rightful spoil.
They say thou art a glorious king,
And justice is thy care;
Then justly reign in thy domain,
Nor rob the birds of air."
Then cried the king: "A cow or deer
For thee shall straightway bleed,
Or let a ram or tender lamb
Be slain, for thee to feed.
Mine oath forbids me to betray
My little twice-born guest:
See, how she clings, with trembling wings.
To her protector's breast."
"No flesh of lambs," the hawk replied,
"No blood of deer for me;
The falcon loves to feed on doves.
And such is Heaven's decree.
But if affection for the dove
Thy pitying heart has stirred,
Let thine own flesh my maw refresh,
Weighed down against the bird."
He carved the flesh from off his side.
And threw it in the scale.
While women's cries smote on the skies
With loud lament and wail.
He hacked the flesh from side and arm,
From chest and back and thigh,
But still above the little dove
The monarch's scale stood high.
He heaped the scale with piles of flesh.
With sinews, blood, and skin.
And when alone was left him bone
He threw himself therein.
Then thundered voices through the air;
The sky grew black as night;
And fever took the earth that shook
To see that wondrous sight.
The blessed Gods, from every sphere,
By Indra led, came nigh;
While drum and flute and shell and lute
Made music in the sky.
They rained immortal chaplets down,
Which hands celestial twine,
And softly shed upon his head
Pure Amrit, drink divine.
Then God and Seraph, Bard and Nymph
Their heavenly voices raised.
And a glad throng with dance and song
The glorious monarch praised.
They set him on a golden car
That blazed with many a gem;
Then swiftly through the air they flew.
And bore him home with them.
Thus Kasi's lord, by noble deed,
Won Heaven and deathless fame;
And when the weak protection seek
From thee, do thou the same.