High beats the hunter's heart when all the night,
Hid in some copse at edge of wood,
He watches the dim plain for wandering game.
Still sleeps the forest, save when swells the voice
Of prowling lion, or hyena's howl,
Or cracks the twig beneath some trampling hoof.
Soft falls the moonlight, filtering thro' the roof
Of the dense-matted foliage--soft it gilds,
With shimmering glory, all the desert space,
Shining on island-groves and grassy slopes.
From time to time, like drifting shadows, pass
In lengthen'd line the browsing buffalo;
The eland, gnu, and the black antelope
Glide past; the bulky elephant,
Swaying his tushes, crushes thro' the glade;
The black rhinoceros stalks unwieldy by,
Seeking sequester'd marsh or deep lagoon.
Tumultuous beats the hunter's throbbing heart
When thrills the forest with Gorilla's roar,
And thus one gallant forester recites
How first he slew the king of Afric land:
For days with his swart savages he track'd
The labyrinthine, unknown wilderness,
Seeking Gorilla; track'd him o'er rough hills,
Through mountainous defile and rocky gulch,
Where mossy boulders chok'd the rugged way.
They clamber'd granite cone and steepy cliff,
Clinging to swinging vine and drooping bough:
They skirted ravines, where the pouring fall
For ages long had thunder'd all unheard;
They cross'd dank swamps and morasses.
Where reptiles venomous assail'd the way.
At last! a savage bark, a hollow roar,
Muttering like rolling thunder, shook the air,
And with their weird reverberations woke
The sleeping echoes, warning that the lord
Of the wide wilderness held there his reign.
On came the monster, uttering fiendish cries,
Those quick and bark-like shrieks so full of rage,
So like demoniac yell of insane man.
In the dim light his Satyr-features fierce,
His devilish eyes of baleful, gloomy gray,
And grinding teeth, might well proclaim a form
Sent from infernal shades to walk the earth.
On, step by step, he came! with brawny fist
He smote his hairy breast in frantic rage,
Until it rang like hollow drum of war.
A frightful sound! Again, again his roar
Peal'd fiercely from his cavernous, deep chest,
As on he came. His eyes flash'd lurid fire;
The short black hair upon his forehead rose,
Twitching convulsive, while each grinning fang
Churn'd the white froth, and gnash'd with hellish rage.
Straight on he came, quick-beating at his breast
Still with redoubled roar and frenzied eye,
Till rang the shot; then with appalling shriek
So human, yet so brutal in its sound,
The monster reel'd and stiffen'd on the sod!
Stark, grim, and bloody, terrible in death,
Gorilla dies! And long the hunter views
With wonder and with awe those muscles vast,
Knotted in swelling bunches, the vast limbs
That might the tawny lioness o'ermatch.
And the strong hands, whose claw-like hooks might rend
Man's puny body, as with banded steel.