The Bengali Book of English Verse/Fire Hunters (Greece Chunder Dutt)

Fire Hunters.

There are no abler adepts in the art
Of woodcraft, than the gentle Gonds, who dwell
In the wild region where the mighty sal,
The hardy salei, and Briarean saj,
O'erhung with creepers of enormous bulk,
Clothe the soft uplands, and the vales that lie
Round the head-waters of the rapid Sone.

Unused to agriculture, and devoid
Of e'en such lore as is required to rear
Cattle or sheep or poultry with success,
They look alone to what their woods supply,
Gums, berries, honey, wholesome nuts and game,
To meet their wants, and thus from youth become
Experienced trappers, wary, quick of eye,
And full of rare devices to ensnare
The game that furnishes their fires with meat.

They often start at eve in knots of four,
Equipped with a slight pole of pliant wood,
From which as from a balance-beam depend
A heap of branches, and an earthen jar
With blazing fagots piled of driest wood.
This strange machine, contrived with simple art,
To cast a flaring light upon the path,
The foremost hunter on his shoulder bears,
And while the second, as he jogs, oft shakes
A rod of iron garnished with ten rings,
That jingle lightly like a bunch of keys,
The hindmost follow with their hunting poles
Of toughened cane, six yards and more in length.

When near the covert side, the jingling sound
Excites the timid hare, nay bolder game,
To scour the precincts, and detect the cause:
It tempts the open, but the occult glare
Frustrates its purpose, and it stands agaze;
Till a quick thwack! delivered with just aim,
Cuts short its blank surprise and life at once.

If the sport lasts an hour or two, so rich
Are all the coverts of their woods in game,
The hunters come home with a varied bag
Of hares and porcupines and spotted deer.