Canto I.


The day had fled, the moon arose,
Night straight began with evening's close--
A night whose calm and silvery sheen
Befitted well the wild yapeen.1
Within the circle of the camp
Blazed the clear fire, while measured tramp
Of dancing warriors shook the ground,
To song and time-sticks' throbbing sound.
There twice two hundred feet advanced,
There twice a hundred malkas2 glanced
Bright in the moon, that silvered o'er
The arms that all those malkas bore.
Wild the device, and strange the sign
That stared in many a snowy line
From beaming face and heaving breast,
And limbs that seldom paused to rest;
Whilst all the rib-like lines laid on,
Made each man seem a skeleton.
Nodded the feathers from the red
And netted band that bound each head,
And hoarsely rustling leaves of trees
Shook round dark ankles in the breeze.
The singers with their time-sticks rang
The cadence of the song they sang;
And every face and limb below,
And tree above them, caught the glow
That spread from camp-fire's rising blaze,
Lighting the yapeen's wond'rous maze
Of feet and ankles in the dance
With fitful gleam or twinkling glance.


Conspicuous 'mid the dancing crowd,
Whose ranks alternate swayed and bowed,
Shone Mamba, tricked with wild design,
And symbol traced in waving line.
No limbs more active wore the green
At yon great Ghim-boboke3 yapeen;
And no two arms more graceful there
In circling motion cleft the air
Than his--and his the eagle-eye
Inspiring all the minstrelsy.
The young and old in groups around
Drank in the sight, the joy, the sound;
And Mamba's form throughout the dance
Attraced every wondering glance.

More verses by George Gordon McCrae