How now! swift as is our pursuit, I scarce can see him.
Sire, the ground here is full of hollows; I have therefore drawn in the reins and checked the speed of the chariot. Hence the deer has somewhat gained upon us. Now that we are passing over level ground, we shall have no difficulty in overtaking him.
Loosen the reins, then.
The King is obeyed.
[Drives the chariot at full speed.]
Great Prince, see I see!
Responsive to the slackened rein, the steeds,
Chafing with eager rivalry, career
With emulative fleetness o’er the plain;
Their necks outstretched, their waving plumes, that late
Fluttered above their brows, are motionless;
Their sprightly ears, but now erect, bent low;
Themselves unsullied by the circling dust,
That vainly follows on their rapid course.
In good sooth, the horses seem as if they would outstrip the steeds of Indra and the Sun.
That which but now showed to my view minute
Quickly assumes dimension; that which seemed
A moment since disjoined in diverse parts,
Looks suddenly like one compacted whole;
That which is really crooked in its shape
In the far distance left, grows regular;
Wondrous the chariot’s speed, that in a breath,
Makes the near distant and the distant near.
Now, Charioteer, see me kill the deer.
A VOICE BEHIND THE SCENES.
Hold, O King! this deer belongs to our hermitage.
Kill it not! kill it not!
CHARIOTEER. [Listening and looking.
Great King, some hermits have stationed themselves so as to screen the antelope at the very moment of its coming within range of your arrow.
Then stop the horses.
[Stops the chariot.
Enter a HERMIT, and two others with him.]
HERMIT. [Raising his hand.
This deer, O King, belongs to our hermitage.
it not! kill it not!
Now heaven forbid this barbed shaft descend
Upon the fragile body of a fawn,
Like fire upon a heap of tender flowers!
Can thy steel bolts no meeter quarry find
Than the warm life-blood of a harmless deer?
Restore, great Prince, thy weapon to its quiver.
More it becomes thy arms to shield the weak,
Than to bring anguish on the innocent.
[Replaces the arrow in its quiver.