The Captive [poem by Rex Ingamells]

[Editor: This poem by Rex Ingamells was published in Gumtops (1935).]

The Captive

See the lion, see the tawny king,
Stretched on grey cement,
With unregarding, dreamy eyes,
Calm and innocent.

See those limbs, so lax and statuesque;
See that quiet head;
And view again those idle eyes,
Whence all fire has fled.

Blind he seems; yet . . . . far away is he,
Where his fathers dwelt;
The scorching sun of Africa
Beats upon the veldt.

Noontide hush . . . . rough stony ground . . . . mirage . . . .
A cub, he dozes there:
And nothing moves but brilliant flies
On the hazy air.

Brother cubs bask soundless by his hide,
Mother, sisters, too;
While father, higher on a rock,
Keeps the world in view.

Sudden wrenchings break his double dream;
Images are rife:
For father thunderously roars,
Mother leaps to life.

Up they scramble, every cub, to know
What this ire portends:
Loud noises wreak their parents’ deaths . . . .
Now all dreaming ends.

See the lion, see the tawny king;
Fire is in his eye;
He stands in savage fury, head
Lifted to the sky.

See those limbs, those quivering thews of strength;
Shackled is their power;
And shackled is his mighty heart.
Now no ibex cower.

Ominous and maddened is his roar.
When the veldt-lands hear
That sound, a million screeching birds
Flock the sky in fear.

Timid creatures of the rocks and bush
Scatter in dismay,
When the tawny lion comes
On his royal way.

Vainly has he roared; he glowers now,
Stalks in discontent,
And, tiring through sheer boredom, drops
On the dull cement.

See those limbs, so lax and statuesque;
See that quiet head;
And view again those idle eyes,
Whence all fire has fled.

Blind he seems; yet . . . . far away is he,
Where his fathers dwelt;
The midnight stars of Africa
Wink above the veldt.

Brushing dews, he hunts with lion stealth
On a sleeping plain;
And shrubs and spear-grass, sharp with dew,
Strip his tawny mane.

Let him range the veldt-land, let him roam
Where the glow-fires gleam.
Exiled and miserable here,
Rob him not of dream.

Blind he seems; yet . . . . far away is he,
To his dream-life called:
The evening sky of Africa
Is rose-rayed emerald.

Lights are changing . . . . dusk is hastening through . . . .
He is dream-enthralled:
The paling sky of Africa
Is star-flicked emerald.



Source:
Rex Ingamells. Gumtops, F. W. Preece & Sons, Adelaide, 1935, pages 44-47

Editor’s notes:
ibex = wild goats (of the genus Capra) which have long upwardly-curving horns

thews = muscles or sinews; physical strength or vitality

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