Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 5/A ballad of the Five Rivers

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Now is the “devil-horse”[1] come to Sindh;
Wah, wah, Gooroo![2] that is true!
His belly is stuffed with fire and wind,
But as good a horse had Runjeet Dehu.

It’s forty koss[3] from Lahore to the ford,
Forty, and more, to far Jummoo:
Fast may go the Feringhee Lord,
But never so fast as Runjeet Dehu.

Runjeet Dehu was King of the Hill,
Eagle of every crag and nest:—
Now the spears and the swords are still;
God will have it—and God knows best!

Rajah Runjeet sate in the sky,
Watching the loaded kafilas[4] in:
Affghan, Kashmeree, passing by
Paid him pushm[5] to save their skin.

Once he caracoled into the plain:
Wah!—the sparkle of steel on steel!—
And up the pass came singing again,
With a lakh of silver borne at his heel.

Once he trusted the Mussulman’s word;
Wah, wah!—trust a liar to lie!—
Far from his mountain they tempted the bird,
And clipped his wings, that he could not fly.

Fettered him fast in far Lahore,
Fast, in the mosque by the Roshunee pool;
Sad was the Ranee Neila Kour,
Glad the merchants of fat Cabool.

Ten years Runjeet lay in Lahore;
Wah! a hero’s heart is brass;
Ten years never did Neila Kour
Braid her hair in the tiring-glass.

There came a steed from Toorkistan,
God had made him to match the hawk!
Swift beside him the five grooms ran
To keep abreast of the Toorkman’s walk.

Black as the bear on Iskardoo,
Savage at heart as a tiger chained,
Fleeter than hawk that ever flew,
Not a Moslem could ride him reined.

Runjeet Dehu! come forth from the hold ”
(Wah! ten years had rusted his chain!)
Ride this Sheitan’s liver cold!”—
Runjeet twisted his hand in the mane.

Runjeet sprang to the Toorkman’s back—
Wah! a king on a kingly throne!
Snort, black Sheitan! till nostrils crack,
Rajah Runjeet sits, a stone.

Three times round the maidan he rode,
Touched its neck at the Kashmeree wall,
Struck his spur till it spirted blood,
Leapt the rampart before them all.

Breasted the wave of blue Ravee,
Forty horsemen mounting behind,
Forty bridle-chains flung free—
Wah, wah! better chase the wind!

Neila Kour sate sad in Jummoo;—
What is the horse-hoof rattles without?
Rise and welcome Runjeet Dehu!
Wash the Toorkman’s nostrils out!

Forty koss he is come, my life!
Forty koss back he must carry me;
Rajah Runjeet visits his wife,
He steals no steed like an Afreedee.[6]

They bade me teach them how to ride—
Wah-wah! now I have taught them well.”—
Neila Kour sank low at his side,
Rajah Runjeet rode the hill.

When he was come to far Lahore,
Long before ever the night[7] began,
Spake he, “Take your horse once more!
He carries well if he bears a man.”

Then they brought him a khillut[8] and gold—
All for his courage and grace and truth;
Sent him back to his mountain hold;
(Moslem manners know shame and ruth).

Sent him back with dances and drum;
Wah! my Rajah, Runjeet Dehu!
To Neila Kour and the Jummoo home—
Wah, wah futteh!—wah Gooroo![9]

Edwin Arnold.


  1. The locomotive engine.
  2. The Gooroo Nanuk, founder of the Sikh faith.
  3. Eighty miles.
  4. Caravans.
  5. The goat-wool of which the Cashmere shawls are woven.
  6. The robbers of the Punjab frontier.
  7. i.e. The second night: the ride was accomplished in forty hours.
  8. The Eastern present of honour.
  9. The Sikh huzza for joy or battle, meaning—“Ho, victory!—victory for the Gooroo!”