Part 7 out of 10
The King who plied his task austere:--
'Blest Monarch, of a glorious race,
Thy fervent rites have won my grace.
Well hast thou wrought thine awful task,
Some boon in turn, O Hermit, ask.'
Bhagírath, rich in glory's light,
The hero with the arm of might,
Thus to the Lord of earth and sky
Raised suppliant hands and made reply:--
'If the great God his favor deigns,
And my long toil its fruit obtains,
Let Sagar's sons receive from me
Libations that they long to see.
Let Gangá with her holy wave
The ashes of the heroes lave--
That so my kinsmen may ascend
To heavenly bliss that ne'er shall end.
And give, I pray, O God, a son,
Nor let my house be all undone.
Sire of the worlds! be this the grace
Bestowed upon Ikshváku's race,'
The Sire, when thus the King had prayed,
In sweet kind words his answer made:--
'High, high thy thought and wishes are,
Bhagírath of the mighty car!
Ikshváku's line is blest in thee,
And as thou prayest it shall be.
Gangá, whose waves in Swarga flow,
Is daughter of the Lord of Snow.
Win Śiva that his aid be lent
To hold her in her mid-descent--
For earth alone will never bear
Those torrents hurled from upper air;
And none may hold her weight but He,
The Trident-wielding deity,'
Thus having said, the Lord supreme
Addressed him to the heavenly stream;
And then with Gods and Maruts went
To heaven, above the firmament."
[_Translation by Sir Monier Monier-Williams_]
The drama is always the latest development of a national poetry--for the
origin of poetry is in the religious rite, where the hymn or the ode is
used to celebrate the glories of some divinity, or some hero who has
been received into the circle of the gods. This at least is the case in
Sanscrit as in Greek literature, where the hymn and ballad precede the
epic. The epic poem becomes the stable form of poetry during the middle
period in the history of literature, both in India and Greece. The union
of the lyric and the epic produces the drama. The speeches uttered by
the heroes in such poems as the "Iliad" are put into the mouths of real
personages who appear in sight of the audience and represent with
fitting gestures and costumes the characters of the story. The dialogue
is interspersed with songs or odes, which reach their perfection in the
choruses of Sophocles.
The drama is undoubtedly the most intellectual, as it is the most
artificial, form of poetry. The construction of the plot, and the
arrangement of the action, give room for the most thoughtful and
deliberate display of genius. In this respect the Greek drama stands
forth as most philosophically perfect. The drama, moreover, has always
been by far the most popular form of poetry; because it aids, as much as
possible, the imagination of the auditor, and for distinctness and
clearness of impression stands preëminent above both the epic narrative
and the emotional description of the lyric.
The drama in India appears to have been a perfectly indigenous creation,
although it was of very late development, and could not have appeared
even so early as the Alexandrian pastorals which marked the last phase
of Greek poetry. When it did appear, it never took the perfect form of
the drama at Athens. It certainly borrowed as little from Greece as it
did from China or Japan, and the Persians and Arabians do not appear to
have produced any dramatic masterpieces. The greatest of dramatists in
the Sanscrit language is undoubtedly Kálidása, whose date is placed, by
different scholars, anywhere from the first to the fifth century of our
era. His masterpiece, and indeed the masterpiece of the Indian drama, is
the "Śakoontalá," which has all the graces as well as most of the faults
of Oriental poetry. There can be no doubt that to most Europeans the
charm of it lies in the exquisite description of natural scenery and of
that atmosphere of piety and religious calm--almost mediaeval in its
austere beauty and serenity--which invests the hermit life of India. The
abode of the ascetics is depicted with a pathetic grace that we only
find paralleled in the "Admetus" of Euripides. But at the same time the
construction of the drama is more like such a play as Milton's "Comus,"
than the closely-knit, symmetrical, and inevitable progress of such a
work of consummate skill as the "King Oedipus" of Sophocles. Emotion,
and generally the emotion of love, is the motive in the "Śakoontalá" of
Kálidása, and different phases of feeling, rather than the struggles of
energetic action, lead on to the _dénouement_ of the play. The
introduction of supernatural agencies controlling the life of the
personages, leaves very little room for the development and description
of human character. As the fate of the hero is dependent altogether upon
the caprice of superhuman powers, the moral elements of a drama are but
faintly discernible. Thus the central action of Śakoontalá hinges on the
fact that the heroine, absorbed in thoughts of love, neglects to welcome
with due respect the great saint Durvasas--certainly a trifling and
venial fault--but he is represented as blighting her with a curse which
results in all the unhappiness of the drama, and which is only ended at
last by the intervention of a more powerful being. By this principle of
construction the characters are reduced to mere shadow creations:
beautiful as arabesques, delicate as a piece of ivory carving, tinted
like the flat profiles of an Oriental fan or the pattern of a porcelain
vase, but deficient in robustness and vigorous coloring. Humanity is
absolutely dwarfed and its powers rendered inoperative by the crowd of
supernatural creatures that control its destiny. Even in the "Tempest"
of Shakespeare, in which the supernatural plays a greater part than in
any other English drama, the strength and nobility of human character
are allowed full play--and man in his fortitude, in his intellect and
will, even more than in his emotions, keeps full possession of the
stage, and imparts a reality to every scene which makes the wildest
flight of fancy bear a real relation to the common experiences of human
The "Śakoontalá" is divided into seven acts, and is a mixture of prose
and verse;--each character rising in the intensity of emotional
utterance into bursts of lyric poetry. The first act introduces the King
of India, Dushyanta, armed with bow and arrows, in a chariot with his
driver. They are passing through a forest in pursuit of a black
antelope, which they fail to overtake before the voice of some hermit
forbids them to slay the creature as it belongs to the hermitage. The
king piously desists and reaches the hermitage of the great saint Kanwa,
who has left his companions in charge of his foster-daughter,
Śakoontalá, while he is bound on a pilgrimage. Following these hermits
the king finds himself within the precincts of a sacred grove, where
rice is strewn on the ground to feed the parrots that nest in the hollow
trunks, and where the unterrified antelopes do not start at the human
voice. The king stops his chariot and alights, so as not to disturb the
dwellers in the holy wood. He feels a sudden throb in his right arm,
which augurs happy love, and sees hermit maidens approaching to sprinkle
the young shrubs, with watering-pots suited to their strength. The forms
of these hermit maidens eclipse those found in queenly halls, as the
luxuriance of forest vines excels the trim vineyards of cultivation.
Amongst these maidens the king, concealed by the trees, observes
Śakoontalá, dressed in the bark garment of a hermit--like a blooming bud
enclosed within a sheath of yellow leaves. When she stands by the
_keśara_-tree, the king is impressed by her beauty, and regrets that she
is, if of a purely Bráhmanic origin, forbidden to marry one of the
warrior class, even though he be a king. A very pretty description is
given of the pursuit of Śakoontalá by a bee which her sprinkling has
startled from a jasmine flower. From this bee she is rescued by the
king, and is dismayed to find that the sight of the stranger affects her
with an emotion unsuited to the holy grove. She hurries off with her two
companions, but as she goes she declares that a prickly _kusa_-grass has
stung her foot; a _kuruvaka_-bush has caught her garment, and while her
companions disentangle it, she takes a long look at the king, who
confesses that he cannot turn his mind from Śakoontalá. This is the
opening episode of their love.
The second act introduces the king's jester, a Bráhman on confidential
terms with his master, who, while Dushyanta is thinking of love, is
longing to get back to the city. He is tired of the hot jungle, the
nauseating water of bitter mountain streams, the racket of fowlers at
early dawn, and the eternal galloping, by which his joints are bruised.
The king is equally tired of hunting, and confesses that he cannot bend
his bow against those fawns which dwell near Śakoontalá's abode, and
have taught their tender glance to her. He calls back the beaters sent
out to surround the forest, takes off his hunting-suit, and talks to the
jester about the charms of Śakoontalá--whom the Creator, he says, has
formed by gathering in his mind all lovely shapes, so as to make a
peerless woman-gem. He recalls the glance which she shot at him as she
cried, "a _kusha-grass_ has stung my foot." Meanwhile two hermits
approach him with the news that the demons have taken advantage of
Kanwa's absence to disturb the sacrifices. They request him to take up
his abode in the grove for a few days, in order to vanquish the enemies.
A messenger arrives to tell him that his mother, in four days, will be
offering a solemn sacrifice for her son's welfare, and invites his
presence at the rite. But he cannot leave Śakoontalá, and sends the
jester Máthavya in his stead, telling him to say nothing about his love
In the third act the love of the king and the hermit girl reaches its
climax. The king is found walking in the hermitage, invoking the God of
Love, whose shafts are flowers, though the flowery darts are hard as
steel. "Mighty God of Love, hast Thou no pity on me?" What better
relief, he asks, than the sight of my beloved? He traces Śakoontalá, by
the broken tubes which bore the blossoms she had culled, to the arbor,
enclosed by the plantation of canes, and shaded by vines, at whose
entrance he observes in the sand the track of recent footsteps. Peering
through the branches, he perceives her reclining on a stone seat strewn
with flowers. Her two companions are with her, and she is sick unto
death. The king notices that her cheeks are wasted, her breasts less
swelling, her slender waist more slender, her roseate hue has grown
pale, and she seems like some poor _madhave_ creeper touched by winds
that have scorched its leaves. Her companions anxiously inquire the
cause of her sickness, and, after much hesitation, she reveals her love
by inscribing a poem, with her fingernail, on a lotus leaf smooth as a
parrot's breast. The king hears the avowal of her love, rushes in to
her, and declares his passion: adding that daughters of a royal saint
have often been wedded by _Gandharva_ rites, without ceremonies or
parental consent, yet have not forfeited the father's blessing. He thus
overcomes her scruples. Gautamí, the matron of the hermitage, afterwards
enters, and asks, "My child, is your fever allayed?" "Venerable mother,"
is the reply, "I feel a grateful change." As the king sits in solitude
that evening in the deserted arbor, he hears a voice outside, uttering
the verses--"The evening rites have begun; but, dark as the clouds of
night, the demons are swarming round the altar fires." With these words
of ill-omen the third act comes to an end.
The fourth act describes the fulfilment of this evil omen. The king has
now returned to the city, and has given Śakoontalá a signet ring, with
an inscription on it, pronouncing that after there have elapsed as many
days as there are letters in this inscription he will return. As the two
maiden companions of Śakoontalá are culling flowers in the garden of the
hermitage, they hear a voice exclaiming, "It is I! give heed!" This is
the great Durvasas, whom Śakoontalá, lost in thoughts of her absent
husband, has neglected at once to go forth to welcome. The voice from
behind the scenes is soon after heard uttering a curse--"Woe unto her
who is thus neglectful of a guest," and declaring that Dushyanta, of
whom alone she is thinking, regardless of the presence of a pious saint,
shall forget her in spite of all his love, as the wine-bibber forgets
his delirium. The Hindoo saint is here described in all his arrogance
and cruelty. One of the maidens says that he who had uttered the curse
is now retiring with great strides, quivering with rage--for his wrath
is like a consuming fire. A pretty picture is given of Śakoontalá, who
carries on her finger the signet ring, which has the virtue of restoring
the king's love, if ever he should forget her. "There sits our beloved
friend," cries one of the maidens: "motionless as a picture; her cheek
supported by her left hand, so absorbed in thoughts of her absent lover
that she is unconscious of her own self--how much more of a passing
In the fourth act there is an exquisite description of the return of
Kanwa from his pilgrimage, and the preparations for the start of
Śakoontalá for her husband's palace, in the city. The delicate pathos of
the scene is worthy of Euripides. "Alas! Alas!" exclaim the two maidens,
"Now Śakoontalá has disappeared behind the trees of the forest. Tell us,
master, how shall we enter again the sacred grove made desolate by her
departure?" But the holy calm, broken for a moment by the excitement of
his child's departure, is soon restored to Kanwa's mind. "Now that my
child is dismissed to her husband's home, tranquillity regains my soul."
The closing reflection is worthy of a Greek dramatist: "Our maids we
rear for the happiness of others; and now that I have sent her to her
husband I feel the satisfaction that comes from restoring a trust."
In the fifth act, the scene is laid in Dushyanta's palace, where the
king is living, under the curse of Durvasas, in complete oblivion of
Śakoontalá. The life of the court is happily suggested, with its
intrigues and its business. The king has yet a vague impression of
restlessness, which, on hearing a song sung behind the scenes, prompts
him to say, "Why has this strain flung over me so deep a melancholy, as
though I was separated from some loved one; can this be the faint
remembrance of affections in some previous existence?" It is here that
the hermits, with Gautamí, arrive, bringing Śakoontalá, soon to be made
a mother, into the presence of the king; but she has been utterly
forgotten by him. He angrily denies his marriage; and when she proposes
to bring forth the ring, she finds she has lost it from her finger. "It
must have slipped off," suggested Gautamí, "when thou wast offering
homage to Śachí's holy lake." The king smiles derisively. Śakoontalá
tries to quicken his memory:--"Do you remember how, in the jasmine
bower, you poured water from the lotus cup into the hollow of my hand?
Do you remember how you said to my little fawn, Drink first, but she
shrunk from you--and drank water from my hand, and you said, with a
smile, 'Like trusts Like,' for you are two sisters in the same grove."
The king calls her words "honeyed falsehoods." Śakoontalá buries her
face in her mantle and bursts into tears.
The tenderness of this scene, its grace and delicacy, are quite idyllic,
and worthy of the best ages of the pastoral drama. The ring is at
length restored to Dushyanta, having been found by a fisherman in the
belly of a carp. On its being restored to the king's finger, he is
overcome with a flood of recollection: he gives himself over to mourning
and forbids the celebration of the Spring festival. He admits that his
palsied heart had been slumbering, and that, now it is roused by
memories of his fawn-eyed love, he only wakes to agonies of remorse.
Meanwhile Śakoontalá had been carried away like a celestial nymph to the
sacred grove of Kaśyapa, far removed from earth in the upper air. The
king, being summoned by Indra to destroy the brood of giants,
descendants of Kalamemi, the monster of a hundred arms and heads,
reaches in the celestial car Indra, the grove where dwell his wife and
child, an heroic boy whom the hermits call Sarva-damana--the all-tamer.
The recognition and reconciliation of husband and wife are delineated
with the most delicate skill, and the play concludes with a prayer to
DUSHYANTA, King of India.
MÁTHAVYA, the Jester, friend and companion of the King.
KANWA, chief of the Hermits, foster-father of Śakoontalá.
SÁRNGARAVA, SÁRADWATA, two Bráhmans, belonging to the hermitage of
MITRÁVASU, brother-in-law of the King, and Superintendent of the city
JÁNUKA, SÚCHAKA, two constables.
VÁTÁYANA, the Chamberlain or attendant on the women's apartments.
SOMARÁTA, the domestic Priest.
KARABHAKA, a messenger of the Queen-mother.
RAIVATAKA, the warder or door-keeper.
MÁTALI, charioteer of Indra.
SARVA-DAMANA, afterwards Bharata, a little boy, son of Dushyanta by
KAŚYAPA, a divine sage, progenitor of men and gods, son of Maríchi and
grandson of Brahmá.
ŚAKOONTALÁ, daughter of the sage Viśwámitra and the nymph Menaká,
foster-child of the hermit Kanwa.
PRIYAMVADÁ and ANASÚYÁ, female attendants, companions of Śakoontalá.
GAUTAMÍ, a holy matron, Superior of the female inhabitants of the
VASUMATÍ, the Queen of Dushyanta.
SÁNUMATÍ, a nymph, friend of Śakoontalá.
TARALIKÁ, personal attendant of the King.
CHATURIKÁ, personal attendant of the Queen.
VETRAVATÍ, female warder, or door-keeper.
PARABARITIKÁ and MADHUKARIKÁ, maidens in charge of the royal gardens.
SUVRATÁ, a nurse.
ADITI, wife of Kaśyapa; grand-daughter of Brahmá, through her father,
Charioteer, Fisherman, Officers, and Hermits.
RULES FOR PRONUNCIATION OF PROPER NAMES
Observe, that in order to secure the correct pronunciation of the title
of this Drama, "Śakuntalá" has been spelt "Śa-koontalá," the _u_ being
pronounced like the _u_ in the English word _rule_.
The vowel _a_ must invariably be pronounced with a dull sound, like the
_a_ in _organ_, or the _u_ in _fun, sun. Dushyanta_ must therefore be
pronounced as if written _Dooshyunta_. The long vowel _a_ is pronounced
like the _a_ in _last, cart; i_ like the _i_ in _pin, sin_; _í_ like the
_i_ in _marine; e_ like the _e_ in _prey; o_ like the _o_ in _so; ai_
like the _ai_ in _aisle; au_ like _au_ in the German word _baum_, or
like the _ou_ in _our_.
The consonants are generally pronounced as in English, but _g_ has
always the sound of _g_ in _gun, give_, never of _g_ in _gin. S_ with
the accent over it (ś) has the sound of _s_ in _sure_, or of the last
_s_ in _session_.
Iśa preserve you! he who is revealed
In these eight forms by man perceptible--
Water, of all creation's works the first;
The fire that bears on high the sacrifice
Presented with solemnity to heaven;
The Priest, the holy offerer of gifts;
The Sun and Moon, those two majestic orbs,
Eternal marshallers of day and night;
The subtle Ether, vehicle of sound,
Diffused throughout the boundless universe;
The Earth, by sages called "The place of birth
Of all material essences and things";
And Air, which giveth life to all that breathe.
STAGE-MANAGER [_after the recitation of the benediction, looking towards
the tiring-room._]--Lady, when you have finished attiring yourself, come
ACTRESS [_entering._]--Here I am, Sir; what are your commands?
STAGE-MANAGER.--We are here before the eyes of an audience of educated
and discerning men; and have to represent in their presence a new drama
composed by Kálidása, called "Śakoontalá, or the Lost Ring." Let the
whole company exert themselves to do justice to their several parts.
ACTRESS,--You, Sir, have so judiciously managed the cast of the
characters, that nothing will be defective in the acting.
STAGE-MANAGER.--Lady, I will tell you the exact state of the case.
No skill in acting can I deem complete,
Till from the wise the actor gain applause:
Know that the heart e'en of the truly skilful,
Shrinks from too boastful confidence in self.
ACTRESS [_modestly_].--You judge correctly. And now, what are your
STAGE-MANAGER.--What can you do better than engage the attention of the
audience by some captivating melody?
ACTRESS.--Which among the seasons shall I select as the subject of my
STAGE-MANAGER.--You surely ought to give the preference to the present
Summer season that has but recently commenced, a season so rich in
enjoyment. For now
Unceasing are the charms of halcyon days,
When the cool bath exhilarates the frame;
When sylvan gales are laden with the scent
Of fragrant Pátalas; when soothing sleep
Creeps softly on beneath the deepening shade;
And when, at last, the dulcet calm of eve
Entrancing steals o'er every yielding sense.
ACTRESS.--I will. [_Sings._
Fond maids, the chosen of their hearts to please,
Entwine their ears with sweet Śirísha flowers,
Whose fragrant lips attract the kiss of bees
That softly murmur through the summer hours.
STAGE-MANAGER.--Charmingly sung! The audience are motionless as statues,
their souls riveted by the enchanting strain. What subject shall we
select for representation, that we may insure a continuance of their
ACTRESS.--Why not the same, Sir, announced by you at first? Let the
drama called "Śakoontalá, or the Lost Ring," be the subject of our
STAGE-MANAGER.--Rightly reminded! For the moment I had forgotten it.
Your song's transporting melody decoyed
My thoughts, and rapt with ecstasy my soul;
As now the bounding antelope allures
The King Dushyanta on the chase intent. [_Exeunt._
_Enter King Dushyanta, armed with a bow and arrow, in a chariot, chasing
an antelope, attended by his Charioteer_.
CHARIOTEER [_looking at the deer, and then at the King_].--
When on the antelope I bend my gaze,
And on your Majesty, whose mighty bow
Has its string firmly braced; before my eyes
The god that wields the trident seems revealed,
Chasing the deer that flies from him in vain.
KING.--Charioteer, this fleet antelope has drawn us far from my
attendants. See! there he runs:--
Aye and anon his graceful neck he bends
To cast a glance at the pursuing car;
And dreading now the swift-descending shaft,
Contracts into itself his slender frame:
About his path, in scattered fragments strewn,
The half-chewed grass falls from his panting mouth;
See! in his airy bounds he seems to fly,
And leaves no trace upon th'elastic turf.
How now! swift as is our pursuit, I scarce can see him.
CHARIOTEER.--Sire, the ground here is full of hollows; I have therefore
drawn in the reins and checked the speed of the chariot. Hence the deer
has somewhat gained upon us. Now that we are passing over level ground,
we shall have no difficulty in overtaking him.
KING.--Loosen the reins, then.
CHARIOTEER.--The King is obeyed. [_Drives the chariot at full speed_.]
Great Prince, see! see!
Responsive to the slackened rein, the steeds
Chafing with eager rivalry, career
With emulative fleetness o'er the plain;
Their necks outstretched, their waving plumes, that late
Fluttered above their brows, are motionless;
Their sprightly ears, but now erect, bent low;
Themselves unsullied by the circling dust,
That vainly follows on their rapid course.
KING [_joyously_].--In good sooth, the horses seem as if they would
outstrip the steeds of Indra and the Sun.
That which but now showed to my view minute
Quickly assumes dimension; that which seemed
A moment since disjoined in diverse parts,
Looks suddenly like one compacted whole;
That which is really crooked in its shape
In the far distance left, grows regular;
Wondrous the chariot's speed, that in a breath,
Makes the near distant and the distant near.
Now, Charioteer, see me kill the deer. [_Takes aim_.
A VOICE [_behind the scenes_].--Hold, O King! this deer belongs to our
hermitage. Kill it not! kill it not!
CHARIOTEER [_listening and looking_].--Great King, some hermits have
stationed themselves so as to screen the antelope at the very moment of
its coming within range of your arrow.
KING [_hastily_].--Then stop the horses.
CHARIOTEER.--I obey. [_Stops the chariot_.
_Enter a Hermit, and two others with him_.
HERMIT [_raising his hand_].--This deer, O King, belongs to our
hermitage. Kill it not! kill it not!
Now heaven forbid this barbèd shaft descend
Upon the fragile body of a fawn,
Like fire upon a heap of tender flowers!
Can thy steel bolts no meeter quarry find
Than the warm life-blood of a harmless deer?
Restore, great Prince, thy weapon to its quiver;
More it becomes thy arms to shield the weak,
Than to bring anguish on the innocent.
KING.--'Tis done. [_Replaces the arrow in its quiver_.
HERMIT.--Worthy is this action of a Prince, the light of Puru's race.
Well does this act befit a Prince like thee,
Right worthy is it of thine ancestry.
Thy guerdon be a son of peerless worth,
Whose wide dominion shall embrace the earth.
BOTH THE OTHER HERMITS [_raising their hands_].--May heaven indeed grant
thee a son, a sovereign of the earth from sea to sea!
KING [_bowing._]--I accept with gratitude a Bráhman's benediction.
HERMIT.--We came hither, mighty Prince, to collect sacrificial wood.
Here on the banks of the Máliní you may perceive the hermitage of the
great sage Kanwa. If other duties require not your presence, deign to
enter and accept our hospitality.
When you behold our penitential rites
Performed without impediment by Saints
Rich only in devotion, then with pride
Will you reflect, Such are the holy men
Who call me Guardian; such the men for whom
To wield the bow I bare my nervous arm,
Scarred by the motion of the glancing string.
KING.--Is the Chief of your Society now at home?
HERMIT.--No; he has gone to Soma-tírtha to propitiate Destiny, which
threatens his daughter Śakoontalá with some calamity; but he has
commissioned her in his absence to entertain all guests with
KING.--Good! I will pay her a visit. She will make me acquainted with
the mighty sage's acts of penance and devotion.
HERMIT.--And we will depart on our errand.
[_Exit with his companions_.
KING.--Charioteer, urge on the horses. We will at least purify our souls
by a sight of this hallowed retreat.
CHARIOTEER.--Your Majesty is obeyed.
[_Drives the chariot with great velocity_.
KING [_looking all about him_].--Charioteer, even without being told, I
should have known that these were the precincts of a grove consecrated
to penitential rites.
KING.--Do not you observe?
Beneath the trees, whose hollow trunks afford
Secure retreat to many a nestling brood
Of parrots, scattered grains of rice lie strewn.
Lo! here and there are seen the polished slabs
That serve to bruise the fruit of Ingudí.
The gentle roe-deer, taught to trust in man,
Unstartled hear our voices. On the paths
Appear the traces of bark-woven vests
Borne dripping from the limpid fount of waters.
And mark! Laved are the roots of trees by deep canals,
Whose glassy waters tremble in the breeze;
The sprouting verdure of the leaves is dimmed
By dusky wreaths of upward curling smoke
From burnt oblations; and on new-mown lawns
Around our car graze leisurely the fawns.
CHARIOTEER.--I observe it all.
KING [_advancing a little further_].--The inhabitants of this sacred
retreat must not be disturbed. Stay the chariot, that I may alight.
CHARIOTEER.--The reins are held in. Your Majesty may descend.
KING [_alighting_].--Charioteer, groves devoted to penance must be
entered in humble attire. Take these ornaments.
[_Delivers his ornaments and bow to the Charioteer_.]
Charioteer, see that the horses are watered, and attend to them until I
return from visiting the inhabitants of the hermitage.
CHARIOTEER.--I will. [_Exit_.
KING [_walking and looking about_].--Here is the entrance to the
hermitage. I will now go in.
[_Entering he feels a throbbing sensation in his arm_
Serenest peace is in this calm retreat,
By passion's breath unruffled; what portends
My throbbing arm? Why should it whisper here
Of happy love? Yet everywhere around us
Stand the closed portals of events unknown.
A VOICE [_behind the scenes_].--This way, my dear companions; this way.
KING [_listening_].--Hark! I hear voices to the right of yonder grove of
trees. I will walk in that direction. [_Walking and looking about_.] Ah!
here are the maidens of the hermitage coming this way to water the
shrubs, carrying watering-pots proportioned to their strength. [_Gazing
at them_.] How graceful they look!
In palaces such charms are rarely ours;
The woodland plants outshine the garden flowers.
I will conceal myself in this shade and watch them.
[_Stands gazing at them_.
_Enter Śakoontalá, with her two female companions, employed in the
ŚAKOONTALÁ.--This way, my dear companions; this way.
ANASÚYÁ.--Dear Śakoontalá, one would think that father Kanwa had more
affection for the shrubs of the hermitage even than for you, seeing he
assigns to you who are yourself as delicate as the fresh-blown jasmine,
the task of filling with water the trenches which encircle their roots.
ŚAKOONTALÁ.--Dear Anasúyá, although I am charged by my good father with
this duty, yet I cannot regard it as a task. I really feel a sisterly
love for these plants.
[_Continues watering the shrubs_.
KING.--Can this be the daughter of Kanwa? The saintly man, though
descended from the great Kaśyapa, must be very deficient in judgment to
habituate such a maiden to the life of a recluse.
The sage who would this form of artless grace
Inure to penance--thoughtlessly attempts
To cleave in twain the hard acacia's stem
With the soft edge of a blue lotus leaf.
Well! concealed behind this tree, I will watch her without raising her
suspicions. [_Conceals himself_.
ŚAKOONTALÁ.--Good Anasúyá, Priyamvadá has drawn this bark-dress too
tightly about my chest. I pray thee, loosen it a little.
ANASÚYÁ.--I will. [_Loosens it_.
PRIYAMVADÁ [_smiling_].--Why do you lay the blame on me? Blame rather
your own blooming youthfulness which imparts fulness to your bosom.
KING.--A most just observation!
This youthful form, whose bosom's swelling charms
By the bark's knotted tissue are concealed,
Like some fair bud close folded in its sheath,
Gives not to view the blooming of its beauty.
But what am I saying? In real truth, this bark-dress, though ill-suited
to her figure, sets it off like an ornament.
The lotus with the Saivala entwined
Is not a whit less brilliant: dusky spots
Heighten the lustre of the cold-rayed moon:
This lovely maiden in her dress of bark
Seems all the lovelier. E'en the meanest garb
Gives to true beauty fresh attractiveness.
ŚAKOONTALÁ [_looking before her_].--Yon Keśara-tree beckons to me with
its young shoots, which, as the breeze waves them to and fro, appear
like slender fingers. I will go and attend to it. [_Walks towards it_.
PRIYAMVADÁ.--Dear Śakoontalá, prithee, rest in that attitude one moment.
PRIYAMVADÁ.--The Keśara-tree, whilst your graceful form bends about its
stem, appears as if it were wedded to some lovely twining creeper.
ŚAKOONTALÁ.--Ah! saucy girl, you are most appropriately named Priyamvadá
("Speaker of flattering things").
KING.--What Priyamvadá says, though complimentary, is nevertheless true.
Her ruddy lip vies with the opening bud;
Her graceful arms are as the twining stalks;
And her whole form is radiant with the glow
Of youthful beauty, as the tree with bloom.
ANASÚYÁ.--See, dear Śakoontalá, here is the young jasmine, which you
named "the Moonlight of the Grove," the self-elected wife of the
mango-tree. Have you forgotten it?
ŚAKOONTALÁ.--Rather will I forget myself. [_Approaching the plant and
looking at it_.] How delightful is the season when the jasmine-creeper
and the mango-tree seem thus to unite in mutual embraces! The fresh
blossoms of the jasmine resemble the bloom of a young bride, and the
newly-formed shoots of the mango appear to make it her natural
protector. [_Continues gazing at it_.
PRIYAMVADÁ [_smiling_].--Do you know, my Anasúyá, why Śakoontalá gazes
so intently at the jasmine?
ANASÚYÁ.--No, indeed, I cannot imagine. I pray thee tell me.
PRIYAMVADÁ.--She is wishing that as the jasmine is united to a suitable
tree, so, in like manner, she may obtain a husband worthy of her.
ŚAKOONTALÁ.--Speak for yourself, girl; this is the thought in your own
mind. [_Continues watering the flowers_.
KING.--Would that my union with her were permissible! and yet I hardly
dare hope that the maiden is sprung from a caste different from that of
the Head of the hermitage. But away with doubt:--
That she is free to wed a warrior-king
My heart attests. For, in conflicting doubts,
The secret promptings of the good man's soul
Are an unerring index of the truth.
However, come what may, I will ascertain the fact.
ŚAKOONTALÁ [_in a flurry_].--Ah! a bee, disturbed by the sprinkling of
the water, has left the young jasmine, and is trying to settle on my
face. [_Attempts to drive it away_.
KING [_gazing at her ardently_].--Beautiful! there is something charming
even in her repulse.
Where'er the bee his eager onset plies,
Now here, now there, she darts her kindling eyes:
What love hath yet to teach, fear teaches now,
The furtive glances and the frowning brow.
[_In a tone of envy_.
Ah happy bee! how boldly dost thou try
To steal the lustre from her sparkling eye;
And in thy circling movements hover near,
To murmur tender secrets in her ear;
Or, as she coyly waves her hand, to sip
Voluptuous nectar from her lower lip!
While rising doubts my heart's fond hopes destroy,
Thou dost the fulness of her charms enjoy.
ŚAKOONTALÁ.--This impertinent bee will not rest quiet. I must move
elsewhere. [_Moving a few steps off, and casting a glance around_.] How
now! he is following me here. Help! my dear friends, help! deliver me
from the attacks of this troublesome insect.
PRIYAMVADÁ AND ANASÚYÁ.--How can we deliver you? Call Dushyanta to your
aid. The sacred groves are under the king's special protection.
KING.--An excellent opportunity for me to show myself. Fear
not--[_Checks himself when the words are half-uttered._ _Aside_.] But
stay, if I introduce myself in this manner, they will know me to be the
King. Be it so, I will accost them, nevertheless.
ŚAKOONTALÁ [_moving a step or two further off_].--What! it still
persists in following me.
KING [_advancing hastily_].--When mighty Puru's offspring sways the
And o'er the wayward holds his threatening rod,
Who dares molest the gentle maids that keep
Their holy vigils here in Kanwa's grove?
[_All look at the King, and are embarrassed_.
ANASÚYÁ.--Kind Sir, no outrage has been committed; only our dear friend
here was teased by the attacks of a troublesome bee.
[_Points to Śakoontalá_.
KING [_turning to Śakoontalá_].--I trust all is well with your
[_Śakoontalá stands confused and silent_.
ANASÚYÁ.--All is well, indeed, now that we are honored by the reception
of a distinguished guest. Dear Śakoontalá, go, bring from the hermitage
an offering of flowers, rice, and fruit. This water that we have brought
with us will serve to bathe our guest's feet.
KING.--The rites of hospitality are already performed; your truly kind
words are the best offering I can receive.
PRIYAMVADÁ.--At least be good enough, gentle Sir, to sit down awhile,
and rest yourself on this seat shaded by the leaves of the Sapta-parna
KING.--You, too, must all be fatigued by your employment.
ANASÚYÁ.--Dear Śakoontalá, there is no impropriety in our sitting by the
side of our guest: come, let us sit down here.
[_All sit down together_.
ŚAKOONTALÁ [_aside_].--How is it that the sight of this man has made me
sensible of emotions inconsistent with religious vows?
KING [_gazing at them all by turns_].--How charmingly your friendship is
in keeping with the equality of your ages and appearance!
PRIYAMVADÁ [_aside to Anasúyá_].--Who can this person be, whose lively
yet dignified manner, and polite conversation, bespeak him a man of high
ANASÚYÁ.--I, too, my dear, am very curious to know. I will ask him
myself. [_Aloud_]. Your kind words, noble Sir, fill me with confidence,
and prompt me to inquire of what regal family our noble guest is the
ornament? what country is now mourning his absence? and what induced a
person so delicately nurtured to expose himself to the fatigue of
visiting this grove of penance?
ŚAKOONTALÁ [_aside_].--Be not troubled, O my heart, Anasúyá is giving
utterance to thy thoughts.
KING [_aside_].--How now shall I reply? shall I make myself known, or
shall I still disguise my real rank? I have it; I will answer her thus.
[_Aloud_]. I am the person charged by his majesty, the descendant of
Puru, with the administration of justice and religion; and am come to
this sacred grove to satisfy myself that the rites of the hermits are
free from obstruction.
ANASÚYÁ.--The hermits, then, and all the members of our religious
society have now a guardian.
[_Śakoontalá gazes bashfully at the King_.
PRIYAMVADÁ AND ANASÚYÁ [_perceiving the state of her feelings, and of
the King's. Aside to Śakoontalá_].--Dear Śakoontalá, if father Kanwa
were but at home to-day------
ŚAKOONTALÁ [_angrily_].--What if he were?
PRIYAMVADÁ AND ANASÚYÁ.--He would honor this our distinguished guest
with an offering of the most precious of his possessions.
ŚAKOONTALÁ.--Go to! you have some silly idea in your minds. I will not
listen to such remarks.
KING.--May I be allowed, in my turn, to ask you maidens a few
particulars respecting your friend?
PRIYAMVADÁ AND ANASÚYÁ.--Your request, Sir, is an honor.
KING.--The sage Kanwa lives in the constant practice of austerities.
How, then, can this friend of yours be called his daughter?
ANASÚYÁ.--I will explain to you, Sir. You have heard of an illustrious
sage of regal caste, Viśwámitra, whose family name is Kaúsika.
ANASÚYÁ.--Know that he is the real father of our friend. The venerable
Kanwa is only her reputed father. He it was who brought her up, when she
was deserted by her mother.
KING.--"Deserted by her mother!" My curiosity is excited; pray let me
hear the story from the beginning.
ANASÚYÁ.--You shall hear it, Sir. Some time since, this sage of regal
caste, while performing a most severe penance on the banks of the river
Godávarí, excited the jealousy and alarm of the gods; insomuch that they
despatched a lovely nymph named Menaká to interrupt his devotions.
KING.--The inferior gods, I am aware, are jealous of the power which the
practice of excessive devotion confers on mortals.
ANASÚYÁ.--Well, then, it happened that Viśwámitra, gazing on the
bewitching beauty of that nymph at a season when, spring being in its
[_Stops short, and appears confused_.
KING.--The rest may be easily divined. Śakoontalá, then, is the
offspring of the nymph.
KING.--It is quite intelligible.
How could a mortal to such charms give birth?
The lightning's radiance flashes not from earth.
[_Śakoontalá remains modestly seated with downcast eyes.
[Aside_]. And so my desire has really scope for its indulgence. Yet I am
still distracted by doubts, remembering the pleasantry of her female
companions respecting her wish for a husband.
PRIYAMVADÁ [_looking with a smile at Śakoontalá, and then turning
towards the King_].--You seem desirous, Sir, of asking something
[_Śakoontalá makes a chiding gesture with her finger_.
KING.--You conjecture truly. I am so eager to hear the particulars of
your friend's history, that I have still another question to ask.
PRIYAMVADÁ.--Scruple not to do so. Persons who lead the life of hermits
may be questioned unreservedly.
KING.--I wish to ascertain one point respecting your friend--
Will she be bound by solitary vows
Opposed to love, till her espousals only?
Or ever dwell with these her cherished fawns,
Whose eyes, in lustre vieing with her own,
Return her gaze of sisterly affection?
PRIYAMVADÁ.--Hitherto, Sir, she has been engaged in the practice of
religious duties, and has lived in subjection to her foster-father; but
it is now his fixed intention to give her away in marriage to a husband
worthy of her.
KING [_aside_].--His intention may be easily carried into effect.
Be hopeful, O my heart, thy harrowing doubts
Are past and gone; that which thou didst believe
To be as unapproachable as fire,
Is found a glittering gem that may be touched.
ŚAKOONTALÁ [_pretending anger_].--Anasúyá, I shall leave you.
ŚAKOONTALÁ.--That I may go and report this impertinent Priyamvadá to the
venerable matron, Gautamí.
ANASÚYÁ.--Surely, dear friend, it would not be right to leave a
distinguished guest before he has received the rights of hospitality,
and quit his presence in this wilful manner.
[_Śakoontalá, without answering a word, moves away_.
KING [_making a movement to arrest her departure, but checking himself.
Aside_].--Ah! a lover's feelings betray themselves by his gestures.
When I would fain have stayed the maid, a sense
Of due decorum checked my bold design:
Though I have stirred not, yet my mien betrays
My eagerness to follow on her steps.
PRIYAMVADÁ [_holding Śakoontalá back_].--Dear Śakoontalá, it does not
become you to go away in this manner.
ŚAKOONTALÁ [_frowning_].--Why not, pray?
PRIYAMVADÁ.--You are under a promise to water two more shrubs for me.
When you have paid your debt, you shall go, and not before.
[_Forces her to turn back_.
KING.--Spare her this trouble, gentle maiden. The exertion of watering
the shrubs has already fatigued her.
The water-jar has overtasked the strength
Of her slim arms; her shoulders droop, her hands
Are ruddy with the glow of quickened pulses;
E'en now her agitated breath imparts
Unwonted tremor to her heaving breast;
The pearly drops that mar the recent bloom
Of the Śirísha pendant in her ear,
Gather in clustering circles on her cheek;
Loosed is the fillet of her hair: her hand
Restrains the locks that struggle to be free.
Suffer me, then, thus to discharge the debt for you.
[_Offers a ring to Priyamvadá. Both the maidens, reading the name
Dushyanta on the seal, look at each other with surprise._
KING.--Nay, think not that I am King Dushyanta. I am only the king's
officer, and this is the ring which I have received from him as my
PRIYAMVADÁ.--The greater the reason you ought not to part with the ring
from your finger. I am content to release her from her obligation at
your simple request. [_With a smile_.] Now, Śakoontalá my love, you are
at liberty to retire, thanks to the intercession of this noble stranger,
or rather of this mighty prince.
ŚAKOONTALÁ [_aside_].--My movements are no longer under my own control.
[_Aloud_.] Pray, what authority have you over me, either to send me away
or keep me back?
KING [_gazing at Śakoontalá. Aside_].--Would I could ascertain whether
she is affected towards me as I am towards her! At any rate, my hopes
are free to indulge themselves. Because,
Although she mingles not her words with mine,
Yet doth her listening ear drink in my speech;
Although her eye shrinks from my ardent gaze,
No form but mine attracts its timid glances.
A VOICE [_behind the scenes_].--O hermits, be ready to protect the
animals belonging to our hermitage. King Dushyanta, amusing himself with
hunting, is near at hand.
Lo! by the feet of prancing horses raised,
Thick clouds of moving dust, like glittering swarms
Of locusts in the glow of eventide,
Fall on the branches of our sacred trees;
Where hang the dripping vests of woven bark,
Bleached by the waters of the cleansing fountain.
Scared by the royal chariot in its course,
With headlong haste an elephant invades
The hallowed precincts of our sacred grove;
Himself the terror of the startled deer,
And an embodied hindrance to our rites.
The hedge of creepers clinging to his feet,
Feeble obstruction to his mad career,
Is dragged behind him in a tangled chain;
And with terrific shock one tusk he drives
Into the riven body of a tree,
Sweeping before him all impediments.
KING [_aside_].--Out upon it! my retinue are looking for me, and are
disturbing this holy retreat. Well! there is no help for it; I must go
and meet them.
PRIYAMVADÁ AND ANASÚYÁ.--Noble Sir, we are terrified by the accidental
disturbance caused by the wild elephant. Permit us to return into the
KING [_hastily_].--Go, gentle maidens. It shall be our care that no
injury happen to the hermitage. [_All rise up_.
PRIYAMVADÁ AND ANASÚYÁ.--After such poor hospitality we are ashamed to
request the honor of a second visit from you.
KING.--Say not so. The mere sight of you, sweet maidens, has been to me
the best entertainment.
ŚAKOONTALÁ.--Anasúyá, a pointed blade of Kuśa-grass has pricked my
foot; and my bark-mantle is caught in the branch of a Kuruvaka-bush. Be
so good as to wait for me until I have disentangled it.
[_Exit with her two companions, after making pretexts for delay, that
she may steal glances at the King_.
KING.--I have no longer any desire to return to the city. I will
therefore rejoin my attendants, and make them encamp somewhere in the
vicinity of this sacred grove. In good truth, Śakoontalá has taken such
possession of my thoughts, that I cannot turn myself in any other
My limbs drawn onward leave my heart behind,
Like silken pennon borne against the wind.
 The speed of the chariot resembled that of the wind and the sun.
Indra was the god of the firmament or atmosphere. The sun, in Hindoo
mythology, is represented as seated in a chariot drawn by seven green
horses, having before him a lovely youth without legs, who acts as
charioteer, and who is Aruna, or the Dawn personified.
 The Matron or Superior of the female part of the society of
hermits. Their authority resembled that of an abbess in a convent of
 A grass held sacred by the Hindoos and freely used at their
religious ceremonies. Its leaves are very long and taper to a
Scene.--A Plain on the Skirts of the Forest
_Enter the Jester, Máthavya, in a melancholy mood_.
MÁTHAVYA [_sighing_].--Heigh-ho! what an unlucky fellow I am! worn to a
shadow by my royal friend's sporting propensities. "Here's a deer!"
"There goes a boar!" "Yonder's a tiger!" This is the only burden of our
talk, while in the heat of the meridian sun we toil on from jungle to
jungle, wandering about in the paths of the woods, where the trees
afford us no shelter. Are we thirsty? We have nothing to drink but the
foul water of some mountain stream, filled with dry leaves which give it
a most pungent flavor. Are we hungry? We have nothing to eat but roast
game, which we must swallow down at odd times, as best we can. Even at
night there is no peace to be had. Sleeping is out of the question, with
joints all strained by dancing attendance upon my sporting friend; or if
I do happen to doze, I am awakened at the very earliest dawn by the
horrible din of a lot of rascally beaters and huntsmen, who must needs
surround the wood before sunrise, and deafen me with their clatter. Nor
are these my only troubles. Here's a fresh grievance, like a new boil
rising upon an old one! Yesterday, while we were lagging behind, my
royal friend entered yonder hermitage after a deer; and there, as
ill-luck would have it? caught sight of a beautiful girl, called
Śakoontalá, the hermit's daughter. From that moment, not another thought
about returning to the city! and all last night, not a wink of sleep did
he get for thinking of the damsel. What is to be done? At any rate, I
will be on the watch for him as soon as he has finished his toilet.
[[_Walking and looking about_.] Oh! here he comes, attended by the
Yavana women with bows in their hands, and wearing garlands of wild
flowers. What shall I do? I have it. I will pretend to stand in the
easiest attitude for resting my bruised and crippled limbs.
[_Stands leaning on a staff_.
_Enter King Dushyanta, followed by a retinue in the manner described_.
KING.--True, by no easy conquest may I win her,
Yet are my hopes encouraged by her mien.
Love is not yet triumphant; but, methinks,
The hearts of both are ripe for his delights.
[_Smiling_.] Ah! thus does the lover delude himself; judging of the
state of his loved one's feelings by his own desires. But yet,
The stolen glance with half-averted eye,
The hesitating gait, the quick rebuke
Addressed to her companion, who would fain
Have stayed her counterfeit departure; these
Are signs not unpropitious to my suit.
So eagerly the lover feeds his hopes,
Claiming each trivial gesture for his own.
MÁTHAVYA [_still in the same attitude_].--Ah, friend, my hands cannot
move to greet you with the usual salutation. I can only just command my
lips to wish your majesty victory.
KING.--Why, what has paralyzed your limbs?
MÁTHAVYA.--You might as well ask me how my eye comes to water after you
have poked your finger into it.
KING.--I don't understand you; speak more intelligibly.
MÁTHAVYA.--Ah, my dear friend, is yonder upright reed transformed into a
crooked plant by its own act, or by the force of the current?
KING.--The current of the river causes it, I suppose.
MÁTHAVYA.--Aye; just as you are the cause of my crippled limbs.
MÁTHAVYA.--Here are you living the life of a wild man of the woods in a
savage, unfrequented region, while your state affairs are left to shift
for themselves; and as for poor me, I am no longer master of my own
limbs, but have to follow you about day after day in your chases after
wild animals, till my bones are all crippled and out of joint. Do, my
dear friend, let me have one day's rest.
KING [_aside_].--This fellow little knows, while he talks in this
manner, that my mind is wholly engrossed by recollections of the
hermit's daughter, and quite as disinclined to the chase as his own.
No longer can I bend my well-braced bow
Against the timid deer; nor e'er again
With well-aimed arrows can I think to harm
These her beloved associates, who enjoy
The privilege of her companionship;
Teaching her tender glances in return.
MÁTHAVYA [_looking in the King's face_].--I may as well speak to the
winds, for any attention you pay to my requests. I suppose you have
something on your mind, and are talking it over to yourself.
KING [_smiling_].--I was only thinking that I ought not to disregard a
MÁTHAVYA.--Then may the King live forever! [_Moves off_.
KING.--Stay a moment, my dear friend. I have something else to say to
MÁTHAVYA.--Say on, then.
KING.--When you have rested, you must assist me in another business,
which will give you no fatigue.
MÁTHAVYA.--In eating something nice, I hope.
KING.--You shall know at some future time.
MÁTHAVYA.--No time better than the present.
KING.--What ho! there.
WARDER [_entering_].--What are your Majesty's commands?
KING.--O Raivataka! bid the General of the forces attend.
WARDER.--I will, Sire. [_Exit and reënters with the General_]
Come forward, General; his Majesty is looking towards you, and has some
order to give you.
GENERAL [_looking at the King_].--Though hunting is known to produce ill
effects, my royal master has derived only benefit from it. For
Like the majestic elephant that roams
O'er mountain wilds, so does the King display
A stalwart frame, instinct with vigorous life.
His brawny arms and manly chest are scored
By frequent passage of the sounding string;
Unharmed he bears the mid-day sun; no toil
His mighty spirit daunts; his sturdy limbs,
Stripped of redundant flesh, relinquish nought
Of their robust proportions, but appear
In muscle, nerve, and sinewy fibre cased.
[_Approaching the King_.] Victory to the King! We have tracked the wild
beasts to their lairs in the forest. Why delay, when everything is
KING.--My friend Máthavya here has been disparaging the chase, till he
has taken away all my relish for it.
GENERAL [_aside to Máthavya_].--Persevere in your opposition, my good
fellow; I will sound the King's real feelings, and humor him
accordingly. [_Aloud_]. The blockhead talks nonsense, and your Majesty,
in your own person, furnishes the best proof of it. Observe, Sire, the
advantage and pleasure the hunter derives from the chase.
Freed from all grosser influences, his frame
Loses its sluggish humors, and becomes
Buoyant, compact, and fit for bold encounter.
'Tis his to mark with joy the varied passions,
Fierce heats of anger, terror, blank dismay,
Of forest animals that cross his path.
Then what a thrill transports the hunter's soul,
When, with unerring course, his driven shaft
Pierces the moving mark! Oh! 'tis conceit
In moralists to call the chase a vice;
What recreation can compare with this?
MÁTHAVYA [_angrily_].--Away! tempter, away! The King has recovered his
senses, and is himself again. As for you, you may, if you choose, wander
about from forest to forest, till some old bear seizes you by the nose,
and makes a mouthful of you.
KING.--My good General, as we are just now in the neighborhood of a
consecrated grove, your panegyric upon hunting is somewhat ill-timed,
and I cannot assent to all you have said. For the present,
All undisturbed the buffaloes shall sport
In yonder pool, and with their ponderous horns
Scatter its tranquil waters, while the deer,
Couched here and there in groups beneath the shade
Of spreading branches, ruminate in peace.
And all securely shall the herd of boars
Feed on the marshy sedge; and thou, my bow,
With slackened string enjoy a long repose.
GENERAL.--So please your Majesty, it shall be as you desire.
KING.--Recall, then, the beaters who were sent in advance to surround
the forest. My troops must not be allowed to disturb this sacred
retreat, and irritate its pious inhabitants.
Know that within the calm and cold recluse
Lurks unperceived a germ of smothered flame,
All-potent to destroy; a latent fire
That rashly kindled bursts with fury forth:--
As in the disc of crystal that remains
Cool to the touch, until the solar ray
Falls on its polished surface, and excites
The burning heat that lies within concealed.
GENERAL.--Your Majesty's commands shall be obeyed.
MÁTHAVYA.--Off with you, you son of a slave! Your nonsense won't go down
here, my fine fellow. [_Exit General_.
KING [_looking at his attendants_].--Here, women, take my hunting-dress;
and you, Raivataka, keep guard carefully outside.
ATTENDANTS.--We will, sire. [_Exeunt._
MÁTHAVYA.--Now that you have got rid of these plagues, who have been
buzzing about us like so many flies, sit down, do, on that stone slab,
with the shade of the tree as your canopy, and I will seat myself by you
KING.--Go you, and sit down first.
MÁTHAVYA.--Come along, then.
[_Both walk on a little way, and seat themselves_.
KING.--Máthavya, it may be said of you that you have never beheld
anything worth seeing: for your eyes have not yet looked upon the
loveliest object in creation.
MÁTHAVYA.--How can you say so, when I see your Majesty before me at this
KING.--It is very natural that everyone should consider his own friend
perfect; but I was alluding to Śakoontalá, the brightest ornament of
these hallowed groves.
MÁTHAVYA [_aside_].--I understand well enough, but I am not going to
humor him. [_Aloud_.] If, as you intimate, she is a hermit's daughter,
you cannot lawfully ask her in marriage. You may as well, then, dismiss
her from your mind, for any good the mere sight of her can do.
KING.--Think you that a descendant of the mighty Puru could fix his
affections on an unlawful object?
Though, as men say, the offspring of the sage,
The maiden to a nymph celestial owes
Her being, and by her mother left on earth,
Was found and nurtured by the holy man
As his own daughter, in this hermitage;--
So, when dissevered from its parent stalk,
Some falling blossom of the jasmine, wafted
Upon the sturdy sunflower, is preserved
By its support from premature decay.
MÁTHAVYA [_smiling_].--This passion of yours for a rustic maiden, when
you have so many gems of women at home in your palace, seems to me very
like the fancy of a man who is tired of sweet dates, and longs for sour
tamarinds as a variety.
KING.--You have not seen her, or you would not talk in this fashion.
MÁTHAVYA.--I can quite understand it must require something surpassingly
attractive to excite the admiration of such a great man as you.
KING.--I will describe her, my dear friend, in a few words--
Man's all-wise Maker, wishing to create
A faultless form, whose matchless symmetry
Should far transcend Creation's choicest works,
Did call together by his mighty will,
And garner up in his eternal mind,
A bright assemblage of all lovely things:--
And then, as in a picture, fashion them
Into one perfect and ideal form.
Such the divine, the wondrous prototype,
Whence her fair shape was moulded into being.
MÁTHAVYA.--If that's the case, she must indeed throw all other beauties
into the shade.
KING.--To my mind she really does.
This peerless maid is like a fragrant flower,
Whose perfumed breath has never been diffused;
A tender bud, that no profaning hand
Has dared to sever from its parent stalk;
A gem of priceless water, just released
Pure and unblemished from its glittering bed.
Or may the maiden haply be compared
To sweetest honey, that no mortal lip
Has sipped; or, rather to the mellowed fruit
Of virtuous actions in some former birth,
Now brought to full perfection? Lives the man
Whom bounteous heaven has destined to espouse her?
MÁTHAVYA.--Make haste, then, to her aid; you have no time to lose, if
you don't wish this fruit of all the virtues to drop into the mouth of
some greasy-headed rustic of devout habits.
KING.--The lady is not her own mistress, and her foster-father is not at
MÁTHAVYA.--Well, but tell me, did she look at all kindly upon you?
KING.--Maidens brought up in a hermitage are naturally shy and reserved;
but for all that,
She did look towards me, though she quick withdrew
Her stealthy glances when she met my gaze;
She smiled upon me sweetly, but disguised
With maiden grace the secret of her smiles.
Coy love was half unveiled; then, sudden checked
By modesty, left half to be divined.
MÁTHAVYA.--Why, of course, my dear friend, you never could seriously
expect that at the very first sight she would fall over head and ears in
love with you, and without more ado come and sit in your lap.
KING.--When we parted from each other, she betrayed her liking for me by
clearer indications, but still with the utmost modesty.
Scarce had the fair one from my presence passed,
When, suddenly, without apparent cause,
She stopped, and counterfeiting pain, exclaimed,
"My foot is wounded by this prickly grass."
Then glancing at me tenderly, she feigned
Another charming pretext for delay,
Pretending that a bush had caught her robe,
And turned as if to disentangle it.
MÁTHAVYA.--I trust you have laid in a good stock of provisions, for I
see you intend making this consecrated grove your game-preserve, and
will be roaming here in quest of sport for some time to come.
KING.--You must know, my good fellow, that I have been recognized by
some of the inmates of the hermitage. Now I want the assistance of your
fertile invention, in devising some excuse for going there again.
MÁTHAVYA.--There is but one expedient that I can suggest. You are the
King, are you not?
MÁTHAVYA.--Say you have come for the sixth part of their grain, which
they owe you for tribute.
KING.--No, no, foolish man; these hermits pay me a very different kind
of tribute, which I value more than heaps of gold or jewels; observe,
The tribute which my other subjects bring
Must moulder into dust, but holy men
Present me with a portion of the fruits
Of penitential services and prayers--
A precious and imperishable gift.
A VOICE [_behind the scenes_].--We are fortunate; here is the object of
KING [_listening],_--Surely those must be the voices of hermits, to
judge by their deep tones.
WARDER [_entering],_--Victory to the King! two young hermits are in
waiting outside, and solicit an audience of your Majesty.
KING.--Introduce them immediately.
WARDER.--I will, my liege. [_Goes out, and reënters with two young
Hermits_.] This way, Sirs, this way.
[_Both the Hermits look at the King_
FIRST HERMIT.--How majestic is his mien, and yet what confidence it
inspires! But this might be expected in a king whose character and
habits have earned for him a title only one degree removed from that of
In this secluded grove, whose sacred joys
All may participate, he deigns to dwell
Like one of us; and daily treasures up
A store of purest merit for himself,
By the protection of our holy rites.
In his own person wondrously are joined
Both majesty and saintlike holiness:--
And often chanted by inspired bards,
His hallowed title of "Imperial Sage"
Ascends in joyous accents to the skies.
SECOND HERMIT.--Bear in mind, Gautama, that this is the great Dushyanta,
the friend of Indra.
FIRST HERMIT.--What of that?
SECOND HERMIT.--Where is the wonder if his nervous arm,
Puissant and massive as the iron bar
That binds a castle-gateway, singly sways
The sceptre of the universal earth,
E'en to its dark-green boundary of waters?
Or if the gods, beholden to his aid
In their fierce warfare with the powers of hell,
Should blend his name with Indra's in their songs
Of victory, and gratefully accord
No lower meed of praise to his braced bow,
Than to the thunders of the god of heaven?
BOTH THE HERMITS [_approaching_].--Victory to the King!
KING [_rising from his seat_].--Hail to you both!
BOTH THE HERMITS.--Heaven bless your Majesty!
[_They offer fruits_.
KING [_respectfully receiving the offering_].--Tell me, I pray you, the
object of your visit.
BOTH THE HERMITS.--The inhabitants of the hermitage having heard of your
Majesty's sojourn in our neighborhood, make this humble petition.
KING.--What are their commands?
BOTH THE HERMITS.--In the absence of our Superior, the great Sage Kanwa,
evil demons are disturbing our sacrificial rites. Deign, therefore,
accompanied by your charioteer, to take up your abode in our hermitage
for a few days.
KING.--I am honored by your invitation.
MÁTHAVYA [_aside_].--Most opportune and convenient, certainly!
KING [_smiling_].--Ho! there, Raivataka! Tell the charioteer from me to
bring round the chariot with my bow.
WARDER.--I will, Sire. [_Exit._
BOTH THE HERMITS [_joyfully_].--Well it becomes the King by acts of
To emulate the virtues of his race.
Such acts thy lofty destiny attest;
Thy mission is to succor the distressed.
KING [_bowing to the Hermits_].--Go first, reverend Sirs, I will follow
BOTH THE HERMITS.--May victory attend you! [_Exeunt._
KING.--My dear Máthavya, are you not full of longing to see Śakoontalá?
MÁTHAVYA.--To tell you the truth, though I was just now brimful of
desire to see her, I have not a drop left since this piece of news about
KING.--Never fear; you shall keep close to me for protection.
MÁTHAVYA.--Well, you must be my guardian-angel, and act the part of a
very Vishnu to me.
WARDER--[_entering_].--Sire, the chariot is ready, and only waits to
conduct you to victory. But here is a messenger named Karabhaka, just
arrived from your capital, with a message from the Queen, your mother.
KING--[_respectfully_].--How say you? a messenger from the venerable
KING.--Introduce him at once.
WARDER.--I will, Sire. [_Goes out, and re-ënters with Karabhaka_.]
Behold the King! Approach.
KARABHAKA.--Victory to the King! The Queen-mother bids me say that in
four days from the present time she intends celebrating a solemn
ceremony for the advancement and preservation of her son. She expects
that your Majesty will honor her with your presence on that occasion.
KING.--This places me in a dilemma. Here, on the one hand, is the
commission of these holy men to be executed; and, on the other, the
command of my revered parent to be obeyed. Both duties are too sacred to
be neglected. What is to be done?
MÁTHAVYA.--You will have to take up an intermediate position between the
two, like King Triśanku, who was suspended between heaven and earth,
because the sage Viśwámitra commanded him to mount up to heaven, and the
gods ordered him down again.
KING.--I am certainly very much perplexed. For here,
Two different duties are required of me
In widely distant places; how can I
In my own person satisfy them both?
Thus is my mind distracted and impelled
In opposite directions, like a stream
That, driven back by rocks, still rushes on,
Forming two currents in its eddying course.
[_Reflecting_.] Friend Máthavya, as you were my playfellow in childhood,
the Queen has always received you like a second son; go you, then, back
to her and tell her of my solemn engagement to assist these holy men.
You can supply my place in the ceremony, and act the part of a son to
MÁTHAVYA.--With the greatest pleasure in the world; but don't suppose
that I am really coward enough to have the slightest fear of those
KING [_smiling_].--Oh! of course not; a great Bráhman like you could not
possibly give way to such weakness.
MÁTHAVYA.--You must let me travel in a manner suitable to the King's
KING.--Yes, I shall send my retinue with you, that there may be no
further disturbance in this sacred forest.
MÁTHAVYA [_with a strut_].--Already I feel quite like a young prince.
KING [_aside_].--This is a giddy fellow, and in all probability he will
let out the truth about my present pursuit to the women of the palace.
What is to be done? I must say something to deceive him. [_Aloud to
Máthavya, taking him by the hand_.] Dear friend, I am going to the
hermitage wholly and solely out of respect for its pious inhabitants,
and not because I have really any liking for Śakoontalá, the hermit's
What suitable communion could there be
Between a monarch and a rustic girl?
I did but feign an idle passion, friend,
Take not in earnest what was said in jest.
MÁTHAVYA.--Don't distress yourself; I quite understand.
 The religious rites of holy men were often disturbed by certain
evil spirits called Rákshasas, who were the determined enemies of piety
 Vishnu, the Preserver, was one of the three principal gods.
PRELUDE TO ACT THIRD
_Enter a young Bráhman, carrying bundles of Kuśa-grass for the use of
the sacrificing priests_.
YOUNG BRÁHMAN.--How wonderful is the power of King Dushyanta! No sooner
did he enter our hermitage, than we were able to proceed with our
sacrificial rites, unmolested by the evil demons.
No need to fix the arrow to the bow;
The mighty monarch sounds the quivering string,
And, by the thunder of his arms dismayed,
Our demon foes are scattered to the wind.
I must now, therefore, make haste and deliver to the sacrificing priests
these bundles of Kuśa-grass, to be strewn round the altar. [_Walking and
looking about; then addressing someone off the stage_.] Why, Priyamvadá,
for whose use are you carrying that ointment of Usíra-root and those
lotus leaves with fibres attached to them? [_Listening for her answer_.]
What say you?--that Śakoontalá is suffering from fever produced by
exposure to the sun, and that this ointment is to cool her burning
frame? Nurse her with care, then, Priyamvadá, for she is cherished by
our reverend Superior as the very breath of his nostrils. I, for my
part, will contrive that soothing waters, hallowed in the sacrifice, be
administered to her by the hands of Gautamí.
Scene.--The Sacred Grove
_Enter King Dushyanta, with the air of one in love_.
KING [_sighing thoughtfully_].--The holy sage possesses magic power
In virtue of his penance; she, his ward,
Under the shadow of his tutelage
Rests in security. I know it well;
Yet sooner shall the rushing cataract
In foaming eddies re-ascend the steep,
Than my fond heart turn back from its pursuit.
God of Love! God of the flowery shafts! we are all of us cruelly
deceived by thee, and by the Moon, however deserving of confidence you
may both appear.
For not to us do these thine arrows seem
Pointed with tender flowerets; not to us
Doth the pale moon irradiate the earth
With beams of silver fraught with cooling dews:--
But on our fevered frames the moon-beams fall
Like darts of fire, and every flower-tipped shaft
Of Káma, as it probes our throbbing hearts,
Seems to be barbed with hardest adamant.
Adorable god of love! hast thou no pity for me? [_In a tone of
anguish_.] How can thy arrows be so sharp when they are pointed with
flowers? Ah! I know the reason:
E'en now in thine unbodied essence lurks
The fire of Siva's anger, like the flame
That ever hidden in the secret depths
Of ocean, smoulders there unseen. How else
Couldst thou, all immaterial as thou art,
Inflame our hearts thus fiercely?--thou, whose form
Was scorched to ashes by a sudden flash
From the offended god's terrific eye.
Welcome this anguish, welcome to my heart
These rankling wounds inflicted by the god,
Who on his scutcheon bears the monster-fish
Slain by his prowess: welcome death itself,
So that, commissioned by the lord of love,
This fair one be my executioner.
Adorable divinity! Can I by no reproaches excite your commiseration?
Have I not daily offered at thy shrine
Innumerable vows, the only food
Of thine ethereal essence? Are my prayers
Thus to be slighted? Is it meet that thou
Shouldst aim thy shafts at thy true votary's heart,
Drawing thy bow-string even to thy ear?
[_Pacing up and down in a melancholy manner_.] Now that the holy men
have completed their rites, and have no more need of my services, how
shall I dispel my melancholy? [_Sighing._ I have but one resource. Oh
for another sight of the idol of my soul! I will seek her. [_Glancing at
the sun._] In all probability, as the sun's heat is now at its height,
Śakoontalá is passing her time under the shade of the bowers on the
banks of the Máliní, attended by her maidens. I will go and look for her
there. [_Walking and looking about._] I suspect the fair one has but
just passed by this avenue of young-trees.
Here, as she tripped along, her fingers plucked
The opening buds: these lacerated plants,
Shorn of their fairest blossoms by her hand,
Seem like dismembered trunks, whose recent wounds
Are still unclosed; while from the bleeding socket
Of many a severed stalk, the milky juice
Still slowly trickles, and betrays her path.
[_Feeling a breeze._] What a delicious breeze meets me in this spot!
Here may the zephyr, fragrant with the scent
Of lotuses, and laden with the spray
Caught from the waters of the rippling stream,
Fold in its close embrace my fevered limbs.
[_Walking and looking about._] She must be somewhere in the neighborhood
of this arbor of overhanging creepers, enclosed by plantations of cane.
For at the entrance here I plainly see
A line of footsteps printed in the sand.
Here are the fresh impressions of her feet;
Their well-known outline faintly marked in front,
More deeply towards the heel; betokening
The graceful undulation of her gait.
I will peep through those branches. [_Walking and looking. With
transport._] Ah! now my eyes are gratified by an entrancing sight.
Yonder is the beloved of my heart reclining on a rock strewn with
flowers, and attended by her two friends. How fortunate! Concealed
behind the leaves, I will listen to their conversation, without raising
their suspicions. [_Stands concealed, and gazes at them._]
_Śakoontalá and her two attendants, holding fans in their hands are
discovered as described_.
PRIYAMVADÁ AND ANASÚYÁ [_fanning her. In a tone of affection._]--Dearest
Śakoontalá, is the breeze raised by these broad lotus leaves refreshing
ŚAKOONTALÁ.--Dear friends, why should you trouble yourselves to fan me?
[_Priyamvadá and Anasúyá look sorrowfully at one another._]
KING.--Śakoontalá seems indeed to be seriously ill. [_Thoughtfully._]Can
it be the intensity of the heat that has affected her? or does my heart
suggest the true cause of her malady? [_Gazing at her passionately._]
Why should I doubt it?
The maiden's spotless bosom is o'erspread
With cooling balsam; on her slender arm
Her only bracelet, twined with lotus stalks,
Hangs loose and withered; her recumbent form
Expresses languor. Ne'er could noon-day sun
Inflict such fair disorder on a maid--
No, love, and love alone, is hereto blame.
PRIYAMVADÁ [_aside to Anasúyá._]--I have observed, Anasúyá, that
Śakoontalá has been indisposed ever since her first interview with King
Dushyanta. Depend upon it, her ailment is to be traced to this source.
ANASÚYÁ.--The same suspicion, dear Priyamvadá, has crossed my mind. But
I will at once ask her and ascertain the truth. [_Aloud._] Dear
Śakoontalá, I am about to put a question to you. Your indisposition is
really very serious.
ŚAKOONTALÁ [_half-rising from her couch_].--What were you going to ask?
ANASÚYÁ.--We know very little about love-matters, dear Śakoontalá; but
for all that, I cannot help suspecting your present state to be
something similar to that of the lovers we have read about in romances.
Tell us frankly what is the cause of your disorder. It is useless to
apply a remedy, until the disease be understood.
KING.--Anasúyá bears me out in my suspicion.
ŚAKOONTALÁ [_aside_].--I am, indeed, deeply in love; but cannot rashly
disclose my passion to these young girls.
PRIYAMVADÁ.--What Anasúyá says, dear Śakoontalá, is very just. Why give
so little heed to your ailment? Every day you are becoming thinner;
though I must confess your complexion is still as beautiful as ever.
KING.--Priyamvadá speaks most truly.
Sunk is her velvet cheek; her wasted bosom
Loses its fulness; e'en her slender waist
Grows more attenuate; her face is wan,
Her shoulders droop;--as when the vernal blasts
Sear the young blossoms of the Mádhaví,
Blighting their bloom; so mournful is the change,
Yet in its sadness, fascinating still,
Inflicted by the mighty lord of love
On the fair figure of the hermit's daughter.
ŚAKOONTALÁ.--Dear friends, to no one would I rather reveal the nature of
my malady than to you; but I should only be troubling you.
PRIYAMVADÁ AND ANASÚYÁ.--Nay, this is the very point about which we are
so solicitous. Sorrow shared with affectionate friends is relieved of
half its poignancy.
KING.--Pressed by the partners of her joys and griefs, Her much beloved
companions, to reveal The cherished secret locked within her breast,
She needs must utter it; although her looks Encourage me to hope, my
bosom throbs As anxiously I listen for her answer.
ŚAKOONTALÁ.--Know then, dear friends, that from the first moment the
illustrious Prince, who is the guardian of our sacred grove, presented
himself to my sight--
[_Stops short, and appears confused._]
PRIYAMVADÁ AND ANASÚYÁ.--Say on, dear Śakoontalá, say on.
ŚAKOONTALÁ.--Ever since that happy moment, my heart's affections have
been fixed upon him, and my energies of mind and body have all deserted
me, as you see.
KING [_with rapture_].--Her own lips have uttered the words I most
longed to hear.
Love lit the flame, and Love himself allays
My burning fever, as when gathering clouds
Rise o'er the earth in summer's dazzling noon,
And grateful showers dispel the morning heat.
ŚAKOONTALÁ.--You must consent, then, dear friends, to contrive some
means by which I may find favor with the King, or you will have ere long
to assist at my funeral.
KING [_with rapture_].--Enough! These words remove all my doubts.
PRIYAMVADÁ [_aside to Anasúyá_].--She is far gone in love, dear Anasúyá,
and no time ought to be lost. Since she has fixed her affections on a
monarch who is the ornament of Puru's line, we need not hesitate for a
moment to express our approval.
ANASÚYÁ.--I quite agree with you.
PRIYAMVADÁ [_aloud_].--We wish you joy, dear Śakoontalá. Your affections
are fixed on an object in every respect worthy of you. The noblest river
will unite itself to the ocean, and the lovely Mádhaví-creeper clings
naturally to the Mango, the only tree capable of supporting it.
KING.--Why need we wonder if the beautiful constellation Viśákhá pines
to be united with the Moon.
ANASÚYÁ.--By what stratagem can we best secure to our friend the
accomplishment of her heart's desire, both speedily and secretly?
PRIYAMVADÁ.--The latter point is all we have to think about. As to
"speedily," I look upon the whole affair as already settled.
PRIYAMVADÁ.--Did you not observe how the King betrayed his liking by the
tender manner in which he gazed upon her, and how thin he has become the
last few days, as if he had been lying awake thinking of her?
KING [_looking at himself_].--Quite true! I certainly am becoming thin
from want of sleep:--
As night by night in anxious thought I raise
This wasted arm to rest my sleepless head,
My jewelled bracelet, sullied by the tears
That trickle from my eyes in scalding streams,
Slips towards my elbow from my shrivelled wrist.
Oft I replace the bauble, but in vain;
So easily it spans the fleshless limb
That e'en the rough and corrugated skin,
Scarred by the bow-string, will not check its fall.
PRIYAMVADÁ [_thoughtfully_].--An idea strikes me, Anasúyá. Let
Śakoontalá write a love-letter; I will conceal it in a flower, and
contrive to drop it in the King's path. He will surely mistake it for
the remains of some sacred offering, and will, in all probability, pick
ANASÚYÁ.--A very ingenious device! It has my entire approval; but what
ŚAKOONTALÁ.--I must consider before I can consent to it.
PRIYAMVADÁ.--Could you not, dear Śakoontalá, think of some pretty
composition in verse, containing a delicate declaration of your love?
ŚAKOONTALÁ.--Well, I will do my best; but my heart trembles when I think
of the chances of a refusal.
KING [_with rapture_].--Too timid maid, here stands the man from whom
Thou fearest a repulse; supremely blessed
To call thee all his own. Well might he doubt
His title to thy love; but how couldst thou
Believe thy beauty powerless to subdue him?
PRIYAMVADÁ AND ANASÚYÁ.--You undervalue your own merits, dear
Śakoontalá. What man in his senses would intercept with the skirt of his
robe the bright rays of the autumnal moon, which alone can allay the
fever of his body?
ŚAKOONTALÁ [_smiling_].--Then it seems I must do as I am bid.
[_Sits down and appears to be thinking._]
KING.--How charming she looks! My very eyes forget to wink, jealous of
losing even for an instant a sight so enchanting.
How beautiful the movement of her brow,
As through her mind love's tender fancies flow!
And, as she weighs her thoughts, how sweet to trace
The ardent passion mantling in her face!
ŚAKOONTALÁ.--Dear girls, I have thought of a verse, but I have no
writing-materials at hand.
PRIYAMVADÁ.--Write the letters with your nail on this lotus leaf, which
is smooth as a parrot's breast.
ŚAKOONTALÁ [_after writing the verse_].--Listen, dear friends, and tell
me whether the ideas are appropriately expressed.
PRIYAMVADÁ AND ANASÚYÁ.--We are all attention.
I know not the secret thy bosom conceals,
Thy form is not near me to gladden my sight;
But sad is the tale that my fever reveals,
Of the love that consumes me by day and by night.
KING [_advancing hastily towards her_].--
Nay, Love does but warm thee, fair maiden--thy frame
Only droops like the bud in the glare of the noon;
But me he consumes with a pitiless flame,
As the beams of the day-star destroy the pale moon.
PRIYAMVADÁ AND ANASÚYÁ [_looking at him joyfully, and rising to salute
him_].--Welcome, the desire of our hearts, that so speedily presents
[_Śakoontalá makes an effort to rise._]
KING.--Nay, trouble not thyself, dear maiden,
Move not to do me homage; let thy limbs
Still softly rest upon their flowery couch,
And gather fragrance from the lotus stalks
Bruised by the fevered contact of thy frame.
ANASÚYÁ.--Deign, gentle Sir, to seat yourself on the rock on which our
friend is reposing.
[_The King sits down. Śakoontalá is confused._]
PRIYAMVADÁ.--Anyone may see at a glance that you are deeply attached to
each other. But the affection I have for my friend prompts me to say
something of which you hardly require to be informed.
KING.--Do not hesitate to speak out, my good girl. If you omit to say
what is in your mind, you may be sorry for it afterwards.
PRIYAMVADÁ.--Is it not your special office as a King to remove the
suffering of your subjects who are in trouble?
KING.--Such is my duty, most assuredly.
PRIYAMVADÁ.--Know, then, that our dear friend has been brought to her
present state of suffering entirely through love for you. Her life is in
your hands; take pity on her and restore her to health.
KING.--Excellent maiden, our attachment is mutual. It is I who am the
most honored by it.
ŚAKOONTALÁ [_looking at Priyamvadá_].--What do you mean by detaining the
King, who must be anxious to return to his royal consorts after so long
KING.--Sweet maiden, banish from thy mind the thought
That I could love another. Thou dost reign
Supreme, without a rival, in my heart,
And I am thine alone: disown me not,
Else must I die a second deadlier death--
Killed by thy words, as erst by Káma's shafts.
ANASÚYÁ.--Kind Sir, we have heard it said that kings have many favorite
consorts. You must not, then, by your behavior towards our dear friend,
give her relations cause to sorrow for her.
KING.--Listen, gentle maiden, while in a few words I quiet your anxiety.
Though many beauteous forms my palace grace,
Henceforth two things alone will I esteem
The glory of my royal dynasty;--
My sea-girt realm, and this most lovely maid.
PRIYAMVADÁ AND ANASÚYÁ.--We are satisfied by your assurances.
PRIYAMVADÁ [_glancing on one side_],--See, Anasúyá, there is our
favorite little fawn running about in great distress, and turning its
eyes in every direction as if looking for its mother; come, let us help
the little thing to find her.
[_Both move away._]
ŚAKOONTALÁ.--Dear friends, dear friends, leave me not alone and
unprotected. Why need you both go?
PRIYAMVADÁ AND ANASÚYÁ.--Unprotected! when the Protector of the world is
at your side. [_Exeunt._]
ŚAKOONTALÁ.--What! have they both really left me?
KING.--Distress not thyself, sweet maiden. Thy adorer is at hand to wait
Oh, let me tend thee, fair one, in the place
Of thy dear friends; and, with broad lotus fans,
Raise cooling breezes to refresh thy frame;