Introduction

This ballad gives the account of an elephant who saved the life of its wounded master on the battlefield. The elephant faces death in order to save the life of Porus. It shows exemplary loyalty and courage. Animals, like the elephant, can express their emotions by crying and gasping just as humans do by expressing themselves in words.

About the Poet

Mary Dobson is an Oxford graduate who specialises in the history of medicine. She has a lot of varied interests and writes poems in addition to her books about medicinal history.

Theme

The theme of the poem is the bravery of animals and the bond between humans and animals.

Stanza 1 – 2 

Hear ye a tale of the days gone by,
(Days whose recording is short and scant)
This is a tale that can never die,
Told of a king and his elephant!

Out on the plain where the waters go,
Out on the banks of the Jhelum wide,
Porus the king went to meet his foe,
Porus the king in his battle-pride.

The poet tells us to listen to a tale of old, from days which have not been recorded much. She says that this is a tale that can never die, a tale of a king and his elephant.

Out on the plain where the rivers flow, on the wide banks of the river Jhelum, Porus the king went to meet his enemy in all his military glory.

Stanza 3 – 4

Drawn up his elephants in array,
Standing in state, in unbroken rank;
While Alexander the Great, for fray,
Led up his troops on the other bank.

Fierce raged the fight; it was hard to tell
What would betide, and they fought the more..
Till, from his elephant, sudden fell 
Porus the king, who was wounded sore.

Porus had his elephants drawn up in order and was standing in a dignified manner in unbroken rank so it would be difficult for enemies to break through. Meanwhile, Alexander the Great led up his troops on the other bank to attack Porus and his army.

A fierce battle occurred. It was hard to tell what would happen, and the fighting kept going on. It went on until suddenly Porus, being severely wounded, fell from his elephant.

Stanza 5 – 6

Then did the elephant, faithful beast,
For his defence play a gallant part;
Standing above him, lest e'er the least
Harm should assail him, from blow or dart.

Trumpeting loudly, he held at bay
Foreman with arrow or spear or sword.
Challenged them all to approach their prey,
Dared them to injure his wounded lord.

Then the elephant, being a faithful beast, bravely defended the fallen king. He protected Porus by standing above him to prevent any harm that could occur to him, either from blow or dart.

Trumpeting loudly, he held back soldiers with arrows or spears or swords. He challenged them to approach their prey and dared them to injure his wounded lord.

Stanza 7 – 8

Then at the last, with his mighty trunk,
Lifted him tenderly on his head,
Bore him in unconscious faintness sunk,
Where he could rest without fear or dread.

Ah! these dumb things that but cry and pant.
They, too, can love, for God made them so;
Porus was saved; but his elephant
Died from his wounds; thus the legends go.

Then at last, the elephant tenderly lifted Porus to his head with his mighty trunk. He carried an unconscious Porus to a place where he could rest safely.

The poet says that dumb creatures like elephants that just cry and pant can love too, because God created them to feel things too. Legends say that Porus was saved, but his elephant died from his wounds.