The New Zealand Reader
But while this passed upon the hill
The fight below was raging still;
And that resistless "Sounding Sea"
At last had met the enemy
Whose death the most, of all the heap
Of slaughter his remorseless blade
That day, a bloody harvest, made,
The haughty veteran cared to reap.
With satisfaction stern and deep
To feel his foe within his power,
He hurled—through clenching teeth that ground
As if with grim resolve that hour
Should be the, last of both or one
And see the hateful contest done—
Defiance at "the slave—the hound!"
Then rushed upon him with a shower
Of blows of such terrific power
And weight and swiftness, left and right—
The "Angry Star," who tried in vain
The pelting tempest to sustain,
Was backward borne in self-despite,
Parrying the blows as best he might;
Ducking his head from side to side
Lake tortured tree that scarce can bide
The beating of a gusty gale.
But Tangi's breath begins to fail,
The driving blows at length relax;
Less swiftly whirls his battle-axe;
And Whetu in his turn attacks;
But stalking round and round his foe
And watching where a blow to plant,
As runs a Tiger crouching low
Around some wary Elephant,
For chance, with viewless lightning-spring
His weight to launch upon the haunch
Of the dread monster and escape
The white destruction that in shape
Of those impaling tusks still gleams
Before him—still to face him seems
Turn where his eyes' green lustres may!
page 117 So watched Te Whetu when to fling
Himself upon that warrior grey—
So round him plied his swinging stride;
Then flew at him with yell and blow.
Twas well for Tangi, eye and hand
Were quick enough to slant aside—
And tough enough his battle-brand
Its sweeping fury to withstand.
Then such a whirling maze began
Of clattering weapons—stroke and guard
And feint and parry, thrust and ward,
As up and down the axes ran
Together, that no sharpest eye
Could follow their rapidity!
But Tangi, see! has clutched at last
Te Whetu by a necklace fast
The boastful savage ever wore
Of warrior's teeth, a ghastly wreath—
And twists it hard his foe to choke,
And shortens for a final stroke
His axe's hold—but fails once more—
The treacherous chain beneath the strain
Breaks, scattering wide the hideous beads.
Back springs Te Whetu—free again,
The deadly strife may still maintain:
Close follows Tangi; mad to be
Baulked of so sure a victory,
The road beneath him little heeds:
His step upon a spot is set
Where the hard clay is slippery wet
With gore; he slips—he stumbles o'er
A wounded wretch unseen who lies
Bight in his path, on crimsoned stones
And dust that chokes a ruddy rill,
Slow-creeping, but increasing still—
Lies in the pathway there—with eyes
That anguished roll, heartrending groans,
And writhings like a centipede's
Caught in a burning log—and bleeds.
Down, down the giant goes before
His Foe, who now began to rave
With joy at this unwonted run
page 118 Of luck his favouring Atuas gave!
Ere Tangi—old—with toil o'erdone—
Could raise him from his heavy fall,
He raised his poleaxe high to end
Him and his triumphs, once for all.
The blow was never to descend;
For at that instant at full speed
Up Ranolf ran to save his friend:
There was no time for thought, nor need:
Three balls in swift succession sent
Through Whetu's body crashing went;
Down drops his axe—his arms upthrown;
His eyes a moment wildly glare,
Then glaze with fixed and ghastly stare;
His staggering knees give way; and there
He lies a corpse, without a groan!
A pang smote Ranolf—though he knew
There was nought else for him to do.
Slowly rose Tangi; dauntless still,
And half disposed to take it ill
That Ranolf s shot his debt should pay,
And from his clutches snatch his prey.