The Death of the Wolf

Original Text: 

Toru Dutt, A Sheaf Gleaned in French Fields (London: C. Kegan Paul, 1880): 59-63. Internet Archive

Written in the chateau of M * * *
1Across the large disk of the moon the clouds
2Ran like the smoke across a bonfire's blaze;
3And to the farthest limits of the sky
4The woods grew dark. We marched, in silence all,
5Upon the humid turf, in dense low furze,
6Or higher heath, when under stunted pines
7Like those that stud the moors, we dimly traced
8The big marks of the claws of wandering wolves
9We had already tracked. We stopped and held
10Our breath to listen. Neither in the wood,
11Nor in the plain far off, nor in the air,
12The faintest sound or sigh was audible;
13Only the distant village weathercock
14Creaked to the firmament as if it mourned;
15For high uplifted soared above the earth
16The wind, and it grazed only with its wings
17The solitary towers and dim-seen spires.
18While ancient oaks and other lofty trees.
19That leaned their brows against the rocks below.
20Seemed wrapt in slumber peaceful and profound.
21Amid this silence suddenly crouched down
22The oldest of us-- hunters on the search --
23More closely to regard the sand we trod,
24For sand it was at present. Soon he rose
25And in a low voice said, that thrilled through all --
26For never had he been in error yet
27On such a subject -- that the recent marks
28Announced the steady gait and powerful claws
29Of two wolves full-grown, followed by two cubs.
30We then got ready our broad-bladed knives
31And polished guns, and striving to conceal
32The flashing lustre of the steel that shone
33Too white in the surrounding darkness, moved
34Step after step, pushing the boughs aside
35That stretched across our path. Three stopped, -- and then
36While straining to find out what they had seen,
37At once I saw two blazing eyes like coals.
38And then four forms, agile, and lithe, and gaunt.
39That danced in the faint moonlight on the furze
40Like joyous greyhounds, such as oft are seen
41Clamorous around their master from the chase
42At eve returned. Similar was their form
43And similar the dance ; only the wolves
44And cubs gambolled in silence, as though they felt
45The neighbourhood of man, their mortal foe.
46The male stood on his feet, and farther on,
47Against a tree the female wolf rech'ned --
48A marble image, like the one adored
49By the old Romans as the heaven-sent nurse
50Of Romulus and Remus, demi-gods,
51Who from her shaggy side drew nourishment
52A slight noise, and the male wolf was alert.
53His hooked nails buried in the sand, he looked
54Intent around, then judged himself for lost
55He was surprised, and all retreat cut off!
56Then sudden springing forth with flaming jaws,
57He pounced upon the palpitating throat
58Of the bold dog that rashly had drawn near;
59Nor did he loose his terrible iron grip,
60Though rapid shots traversed his heaving flanks,
61And sharp knives in his monstrous entrails plunged
62Like lightnings crossed, and with each other clashed,
63Until faint, gasping, dead, the strangled hound
64Rolled at his feet. He left his vanquished foe
65And gazed at us. The knives still in his sides
66Rested, both buried to their very hilts.
67He had been well nigh pinned unto the turf
68Which his blood deluged. Still, around our guns
69Menaced him, levelled ominously close,
70A sinister crescent, but he heeded not.
71He looked at us again, and then lay down.
72Licking the blood bespattered round his mouth,
73And deigning not to know whence death had come,
74Shut his large eyes, and died without a cry.
75I leaned my forehead on my empty gun
76And fell into a train of random thought.
77Unwilling, it may be, or unresolved
78The she-wolf and her cubs to sacrifice.
79These three had waited for the wolf, now dead;
80But for her cubs, I verily believe,
81The fair and sombre female had done more;
82She never would have let him die alone.
83But to her heart her duty now was plain:
84Her mother's instinct told her she must save
85The offspring of her bowels with her life
86If need should be, that she might teach them, grown
87To wolfs estate, the duties of a wolf;
88To suffer without shrinking hunger's pangs,
89Never to enter into terms with man,
90(Such as exist between him and the tribes
91Of servile animals that bear his yoke,
92Or chase the first possessors of the woods
93And rocks before him, to obtain a place
94To sleep in, and a pittance from his hand,)
95And to hold freedom dearer far than life.
III.
96Alas! I thought, in despite of the name,
97Believed so great, the lofty name of man,
98How weak we are, how abject! And I felt
99A shame for all our race. Life to forsake.
100And all its weight of sorrows and of ills,
101With dignity, mute, touching and sublime,
102Is known alone to animals contemned.
103To sec what man, their lord, achieves on earth
104And what he leaves untouched, inspires this thought,
105-- Silence is great alone, and all the rest
106Is vanity and weakness here below.
107Ah ! I have learnt the lesson thou hast taught.
108Thou savage denizen of the forests wild.
109And thy last look has entered to my heart ;
110It said: - "If thou canst do it, mortal, strive
111So that thy soul attain, through constant thought
112And patient study, to the lofty height
113Of stoic pride that cares not for events;
114That height to which, bom free in pathless woods,
115I, without effort, from the first have reached.
116To groan, to cry, to seek for any aid
117Is cowardice. With energy and strength
118Perform the long and often heavy task.
119And walk in singleness of heart along
120The way where fate has placed thee, whether smooth
121Or rough it be. Fulfil thy calling high;
122Then after that, like me, without complaint.
123Suffer and die, nor care to leave a name."
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
Data entry: Sharine Leung
RPO Edition: 
2012