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Bipeds and Quadrupeds

Salma Mahmud finds quadrupeds far more attractive than bipeds

Biped: A two-footed animal Quadruped: A four-footed animal

I wish I loved the human race; I wish I loved its silly face; I wish I liked the way it walks; I wish I liked the way it talks; And when Im introduced to one I wish I thought, What Jolly Fun!

This is what an unusual Professor of English had to say about us humans in 1914, while attending a garden party in June of that year, just a month before the outbreak of the First World War. That was when the silly faces of the human race were involved in a conflagration that lasted five years and decimated the youth of both sides in an essentially European conflict. Sir Walter Alexander Raleigh, no relative of the Elizabethan Raleigh, turned to writing about this war after it broke out. He was one of the most distinguished professors of English during the early part of the previous century, having graduated from Kings College Cambridge. He was Chair of English Literature at Merton College Oxford when he died at the age of 61, of typhoid contracted during a visit to the Near East, having spent four days stranded in the desert. He also taught English Literature at Liverpool and Glasgow universities, but what is not known to perhaps anyone other than a few students of Aligarh University is that he was the first professor of English at the Mohammaden Anglo Oriental College, Aligarh, when it was transferred from Calcutta University to Allahabad University in

1885. Eventually it became the principal Muslim institution of learning in India. Professor Raleigh taught there from 1885 to 1887, thus founding their department of English Literature, after which he returned to England due to health reasons. Professor Raleighs portrait available on the Internet shows us a face imbued with wry humour, a pursed mouth and amused, hooded eyes, and this quality of detatched hilarity is evident from the above-quoted poem and many other light-hearted verses and plays published by his son Hilary the year after his death, Laughter From a Cloud, 1923. One of the poems is entitled To a Lady with an Unruly and Ill-mannered Dog Who Bit Several Persons of Importance. And there are several other similar delectable items in this slender collection. In Song of Myself, for instance, he apologises to all and sundry for not being a poet, especially to his colonial Uncle Ned who said Raleigh was off his head. Uncle Ned Says poets need muzzling. He might Be right. Good-night! Suffice it to say that Sir Walter Raleigh should be taken fairly seriously in his condemnation of the silly human race. At least that is my opinion, especially when I compare trillions of ignoble bipeds who straddle this earth to the noble quadrupeds of whom I read both in history as well as in literature. Perhaps the most famous historical horse is Bucephalus, the beautiful stallion, jet black with a white star on his forehead, whom Alexander the Great tamed when he himself was just thirteen years of age. Bucephalus came from Thessaly, sacred to the memory of Poseidon, god of the ocean and the mythical creator of Thessalian horses, and of horses in general. He is said to have struck his trident on a rock, from where a horse emerged. Philonicus the Thessalian was the most noted horse-raiser of his time, and his stables were talked of from the Adriatic Sea to the Persian Gulf. Among his prized war horses was one that excelled all others in mettle, beauty and size. He was a handsome creature, with one gray eye and one brown, and no one could ride him. One legend said he was descended from the wild, man-eating mares of the giant Diomedes. Philonicus offered him to King Phillip of Macedonia for the enormous sum of thirteen talents, at a time when one talent was worth $2000. The king scoffed at him, since it was known that Bucephalus, the ox-headed, was untameable. However, Alexander took up the challenge, promising to pay for the horse himself if he was

unable to tame him. He had shrewdly noted that the horse was terrified of his own shadow, and so turned him to face the sun, and then spoke softly and soothingly in his ear, threw off his cloak and leapt onto him bareback. Bucephalus became his forever. When he rode back to Phillip, his father said, My son, find another land for thyself. Macedonia is too small for thee. The Oracle of Delphi had already predicted that whoever rode Bucephalus would conquer the world, and so it happened. What a beautiful friendship that was, between a world conquerer and his beloved horse, who would not let anyone but his master ride him, and who remained by his side for ten long years. Bucephalus was kidnapped briefly while Alexander was away from camp on a tour, probably in Hyrcania, the land of wolves, in Northern Iran, and when the king returned, he announced that he would destroy the entire area within a radius of fifty miles unless his horse was restored to him. Bucephalus came back and his kidnappers were forgiven. It was in India that Bucephalus died during the momentous Battle of the Hydaspes, on the banks of the River Jhelum, when Alexander pitted his strength againt the mighty Raja Porus. After a fiercesome struggle, when Alexanders cavalry fought against Poruss war elephants, the Macedonians were the final victors. Poruss royal white elephant carried his severely wounded master away from the thick of the fight, thereby saving his life, and knelt down so that Porus could descend with ease. The elephant then gently removed all the arrows from his masters body with his trunk. The two rulers finally came face to face when Porus was prevailed upon by Alexander to surrender, and when asked how he wished to be treated, Porus uttered the unforgettable reply, Like a king. Alexander was so overwhelmed by Poruss dignity that he returned all his lands to him and gave him extra territories as well. Alexander lost Bucephalus, however, who succumbed to his battle wounds. He was given a royal funeral during which his master wept copiously and founded a city named Bucephala on the banks of the Jhelum in memory of his dearest friend. This was most probably the city of Jhelum. Alexander possessed another beloved animal as well, his dog Peritas, a ferocious Molossian hound, a breed which is extinct today, given to him as a pup by the Albanian ruler Pyrrus of Epirus, of the royal house of Aeacid. Alexanders mother Olympias was a princess of this same royal house. Peritas was said to have fought and killed a lion and an elephant, as indeed he might, since he was reputed to be descended from a breed which had wolfs blood coursing through its veins. Peritas accompanied Alexander on all his campaigns, and met his death in India, while saving his masters life in the last big battle fought by the Macedonians at Mallhi near Multan. As was his wont, Alexander led his soldiers in an attack on the Mallhian citadel, but was trapped on the rooftop because the wooden ladder that had carried him and some of his

soldiers to the top, broke, leaving Alexander stranded up above. His close friend and bodyguard the royal Leonnatus, while still fighting down below, heard Peritas howling behind him, and told the faithful hound to rush up towards his master. A fresh ladder had already been put in place, but Alexander had in the meantime been severely wounded by a javelin thrust. This wound as it festered, may well have caused his ultimate death two years later in Babylon. Peritas attacked the Mallhians and held them at bay, but was fatally wounded with a javelin, and died with his head in his masters lap. The grieving Alexander founded a city named Peritas in the area, with the hounds grave and a statue in his honour placed in the city square, but there is no trace of this city today. So Alexander lost two beloved animals in India. Dies mali, evil days, indeed. A most romantic fictitious horse was the immortal Rakhsh, whose name means lightning, and who was the mighty Irani warrior Rustams steed in Firdausis great 11th century epic poem the Shahnameh. Rustam was the son of Zaal, a powerful albino hero , who was abandoned on Koh-e-Damavand in the Elburz Mountains by his father Saam, as he was considered unlucky, and was rescued by the Seemurgh, a mystic, magical bird who brought him up and remained his guardian spirit throughout his life. When Rustam began his career as a warrior he found no horse was strong enough to sustain his weight, until he spied Rakhsh among a group of wild horses in a field, and was able to tame him. Rider and horse were inseparable from then on. Rakhsh helped Rustam kill the dreaded Safed Dev, and was able to fight alongside him on many fronts. On one memorable occasion, Rustam was travelling across the dangerous province of Mazenderan, or Hyrcania, on his way to rescue Shah Kaikaus, who had been imprisoned by the devs, when he fell asleep in exhaustion in a pasture which was actually a lionss lair. The lion attacked Rakhsh, who trampled him to death. This was just one of many such exploits. His tremendous compassion was revealed when Rustam killed his own son Sohrab in a tragic encounter displaying the heros hamartia, and Rakhsh wept bitterly alongside his master. In the final climax to the career of a deeply flawed hero, his evil step-brother Shaghad, the son of a slave singer, conspired with the King of Kabul to kill Rustam by luring him into a hunting field in which a pit was concealed containing sharp poisoned spears at its bottom. Rakhsh sensed disaster and tried to warn Rustam by pulling back from the field, but his master whipped him into subjugation, and both horse and hero were killed in the most painful fashion. Rustam was able to pull himself out of the pit in his last moments and kill his brother, but it was all too late, and the gallant Rakhsh was already destroyed, impaled upon the spears. Thus died a mighty heart. And so, I wish I loved the human race, but find it increasingly difficult to do so. Am I then a Cynic, seeking Arete or excellence?

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BLURBS: When Rustam began his career as a warrior he found no horse was strong enough to sustain his weight, until he spied Rakhsh among a group of wild horses, and tamed him. Rider and horse were inseparable from then on. Alexander lost Bucephalus during the Battle of the Hydaspes, when his beloved horse was fatally wounded. Alexander was overwhelmed with grief and gave his steed a state funeral and founded a city after him, named Bucephala, which was most probably the city of Jhelum.