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Hindu Literature by Epiphanius Wilson

Part 8 out of 10

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Or shall I rather, with caressing touch,
Allay the fever of thy limbs, and soothe
Thy aching feet, beauteous as blushing lilies?

SAKOONTALA.--Nay, touch me not. I will not incur the censure of those
whom I am bound to respect.
[_Rises and attempts to go._]

KING.--Fair one, the heat of noon has not yet subsided, and thy body is
still feeble.
How canst thou quit thy fragrant couch of flowers,
And from thy throbbing bosom cast aside
Its covering of lotus leaves, to brave
With weak and fainting limbs the noon-day heat?

[_Forces her to turn back._]

SAKOONTALA.--Infringe not the rules of decorum, mighty descendant of
Puru. Remember, though I love you, I have no power to dispose of myself.

KING.--Why this fear of offending your relations, timid maid? When your
venerable foster-father hears of it, he will not find fault with you. He
knows that the law permits us to be united without consulting him.
In Indra's heaven, so at least 'tis said,
No nuptial rites prevail,[39] nor is the bride
Led to the altar by her future spouse;
But all in secret does the bridegroom plight
His troth, and each unto the other vow
Mutual allegiance. Such espousals, too,
Are authorized on earth, and many daughters
Of royal saints thus wedded to their lords,
Have still received their father's benison.

SAKOONTALA.--Leave me, leave me; I must take counsel with my female

KING.--I will leave thee when------


KING.--When I have gently stolen from thy lips
Their yet untasted nectar, to allay
The raging of my thirst, e'en as the bee
Sips the fresh honey from the opening bud.
[_Attempts to raise her face. Sakoontala tries to prevent him_.

A VOICE [_behind the scenes_].--The loving birds, doomed by fate to
nightly separation, must bid farewell to each other, for evening is at

SAKOONTALA [_in confusion_].--Great Prince, I hear the voice of the
matron Gautami. She is coming this way, to inquire after my health.
Hasten and conceal yourself behind the branches.

KING.--I will. [_Conceals himself_.

_Enter Gautami with a vase in her hand, preceded by two attendants_.

ATTENDANTS.--This way, most venerable Gautami.

GAUTAMI [_approaching Sakoontala_].--My child, is the fever of thy limbs

SAKOONTALA.--Venerable mother, there is certainly a change for the

GAUTAMI.--Let me sprinkle you with this holy water, and all your
ailments will depart. [_Sprinkling Sakoontala on the head_.] The day is
closing, my child; come, let us go to the cottage.
[_They all move away_.

SAKOONTALA [_aside_].--Oh my heart! thou didst fear to taste of
happiness when it was within thy reach. Now that the object of thy
desires is torn from thee, how bitter will be thy remorse, how
distracting thine anguish! [_Moving on a few steps and stopping.
Aloud_.] Farewell! bower of creepers, sweet soother of my sufferings,
farewell! may I soon again be happy under thy shade.
[_Exit reluctantly with the others_.

KING [_returning to his former seat in the arbor. Sighing_].--Alas! how
many are the obstacles to the accomplishment of our wishes!
Albeit she did coyly turn away
Her glowing cheek, and with her fingers guard
Her pouting lips, that murmured a denial
In faltering accents, she did yield herself
A sweet reluctant captive to my will,
As eagerly I raised her lovely face:
But ere with gentle force I stole the kiss,
Too envious Fate did mar my daring purpose.
Whither now shall I betake myself? I will tarry for a brief space in
this bower of creepers, so endeared to me by the presence of my beloved
[_Looking round_.
Here printed on the flowery couch I see
The fair impression of her slender limbs;
Here is the sweet confession of her love,
Traced with her nail upon the lotus leaf--
And yonder are the withered lily stalks
That graced her wrist. While all around I view
Things that recall her image, can I quit
This bower, e'en though its living charm be fled?

A VOICE [_in the air_].--Great King,
Scarce is our evening sacrifice begun,
When evil demons, lurid as the clouds
That gather round the dying orb of day,
Cluster in hideous troops, obscene and dread,
About our altars, casting far and near
Terrific shadows, while the sacred fire
Sheds a pale lustre o'er their ghostly shapes.

KING.--I come to the rescue, I come.

[38] Kama, the Hindoo Cupid, or god of love. He has five arrows, each
tipped with the blossom of a flower, which pierce the heart through the
five senses.

[39] A marriage without the usual ceremonies is called Gandharva. It was
supposed to be the form of marriage prevalent among the nymphs of
Indra's heaven.


Scene.--The Garden of the Hermitage

_Enter Priyamvada and Anasuya in the act of gathering flowers_.

ANASUYA.--Although, dear Priyamvada, it rejoices my heart to think that
Sakoontala has been happily united to a husband in every respect worthy
of her, by the form of marriage prevalent among Indra's celestial
musicians, nevertheless, I cannot help feeling somewhat uneasy in my


ANASUYA.--You know that the pious King was gratefully dismissed by the
hermits on the successful termination of their sacrificial rites. He has
now returned to his capital, leaving Sakoontala under our care; and it
may be doubted whether, in the society of his royal consorts, he will
not forget all that has taken place in this hermitage of ours.

PRIYAMVADA.--On that score be at ease. Persons of his noble nature are
not so destitute of all honorable feeling. I confess, however, that
there is one point about which I am rather anxious. What, think you,
will father Kanwa say when he hears what has occurred?

ANASUYA.--In my opinion, he will approve the marriage.

PRIYAMVADA.--What makes you think so?

ANASUYA.--From the first, it was always his fixed purpose to bestow the
maiden on a husband worthy of her; and since heaven has given her such a
husband, his wishes have been realized without any trouble to himself.

PRIYAMVADA [_looking at the flower-basket_].--We have gathered flowers
enough for the sacred offering, dear Anasuya.

ANASUYA.--Well, then, let us now gather more, that we may have wherewith
to propitiate the guardian-deity of our dear Sakoontala.

PRIYAMVADA.--By all means. [_They continue gathering_.

A VOICE [_behind the scenes_].--Ho there! See you not that I am here?

ANASUYA [_listening_].--That must be the voice of a guest announcing his

PRIYAMVADA.--Surely, Sakoontala is not absent from the cottage.
[_Aside_.] Her heart at least is absent, I fear.

ANASUYA.--Come along, come along; we have gathered flowers enough.
[_They move away_.

THE SAME VOICE [_behind the scenes_].--Woe to thee, maiden, for daring
to slight a guest like me!
Shall I stand here unwelcomed; even I,
A very mine of penitential merit,
Worthy of all respect? Shalt thou, rash maid,
Thus set at nought the ever sacred ties
Of hospitality? and fix thy thoughts
Upon the cherished object of thy love,
While I am present? Thus I curse thee, then--
He, even he of whom thou thinkest, he
Shall think no more of thee; nor in his heart
Retain thine image. Vainly shalt thou strive
To waken his remembrance of the past;
He shall disown thee, even as the sot,
Roused from his midnight drunkenness, denies
The words he uttered in his revellings.

PRIYAMVADA.--Alas! alas! I fear a terrible misfortune has occurred.
Sakoontala, from absence of mind, must have offended some guest whom she
was bound to treat with respect. [_Looking behind the scenes_.] Ah! yes;
I see, and no less a person than the great sage Durvasas, who is known
to be most irascible. He it is that has just cursed her, and is now
retiring with hasty strides, trembling with passion, and looking as if
nothing could turn him. His wrath is like a consuming fire.

ANASUYA.--Go quickly, dear Priyamvada, throw yourself at his feet, and
persuade him to come back, while I prepare a propitiatory offering for
him, with water and refreshments.

PRIYAMVADA.--I will. [_Exit._

ANASUYA [_advancing hastily a few steps and stumbling_].--Alas! alas!
this comes of being in a hurry. My foot has slipped and my basket of
flowers has fallen from my hand.
[_Stays to gather them up_.

PRIYAMVADA [_reentering_].--Well, dear Anasuya, I have done my best; but
what living being could succeed in pacifying such a cross-grained,
ill-tempered old fellow? However, I managed to mollify him a little.

ANASUYA [_smiling_].--Even a little was much for him. Say on.

PRIYAMVADA.--When he refused to turn back, I implored his forgiveness in
these words: "Most venerable sage, pardon, I beseech you, this first
offence of a young and inexperienced girl, who was ignorant of the
respect due to your saintly character and exalted rank."

ANASUYA.--And what did he reply?

PRIYAMVADA.--"My word must not be falsified; but at the sight of the
ring of recognition the spell shall cease." So saying, he disappeared.

ANASUYA.--Oh! then we may breathe again; for now I think of it, the King
himself, at his departure, fastened on Sakoontala's finger, as a token
of remembrance, a ring on which his own name was engraved. She has,
therefore, a remedy for her misfortune at her own command.

PRIYAMVADA.--Come, dear Anasuya, let us proceed with our religious
duties. [_They walk away_.

PRIYAMVADA [_looking off the stage_].--See, Anasuya, there sits our dear
friend, motionless as a statue, resting her face on her left hand, her
whole mind absorbed in thinking of her absent husband. She can pay no
attention to herself, much less to a stranger.

ANASUYA.--Priyamvada, let this affair never pass our lips. We must spare
our dear friend's feelings. Her constitution is too delicate to bear
much emotion.

PRIYAMVADA.--I agree with you. Who would think of watering a tender
jasmine with hot water?


Scene.--The Neighborhood of the Hermitage

_Enter one of Kanwa's pupils, just arisen from his couch at the dawn of

PUPIL.--My master, the venerable Kanwa, who is but lately returned from
his pilgrimage, has ordered me to ascertain how the time goes. I have
therefore come into the open air to see if it be still dark. [_Walking
and looking about_.] Oh! the dawn has already broken.
Lo! in one quarter of the sky, the Moon,
Lord of the herbs and night-expanding flowers,
Sinks towards his bed behind the western hills;
While in the east, preceded by the Dawn,
His blushing charioteer, the glorious Sun
Begins his course, and far into the gloom
Casts the first radiance of his orient beams,
Hail! co-eternal orbs, that rise to set,
And set to rise again; symbols divine
Of man's reverses, life's vicissitudes.
And now,
While the round Moon withdraws his looming disc
Beneath the western sky, the full-blown flower
Of the night-loving lotus sheds her leaves
In sorrow for his loss, bequeathing nought
But the sweet memory of her loveliness
To my bereaved sight: e'en as the bride
Disconsolately mourns her absent lord,
And yields her heart a prey to anxious grief.

ANASUYA [_entering abruptly_].--Little as I know of the ways of the
world, I cannot help thinking that King Dushyanta is treating Sakoontala
very improperly.

PUPIL.--Well, I must let my revered preceptor know that it is time to
offer the burnt oblation. [_Exit._

ANASUYA.--I am broad awake, but what shall I do? I have no energy to go
about my usual occupations. My hands and feet seem to have lost their
power. Well, Love has gained his object; and Love only is to blame for
having induced our dear friend, in the innocence of her heart, to
confide in such a perfidious man. Possibly, however, the imprecation of
Durvasas may be already taking effect. Indeed, I cannot otherwise
account for the King's strange conduct, in allowing so long a time to
elapse without even a letter; and that, too, after so many promises and
protestations. I cannot think what to do, unless we send him the ring
which was to be the token of recognition. But which of these austere
hermits could we ask to be the bearer of it? Then, again, Father Kanwa
has just returned from his pilgrimage: and how am I to inform him of
Sakoontala's marriage to King Dushyanta, and her expectation of being
soon a mother? I never could bring myself to tell him, even if I felt
that Sakoontala had been in fault, which she certainly has not. What is
to be done?

PRIYAMVADA [_entering; joyfully_].--Quick! quick! Anasuya! come and
assist in the joyful preparations for Sakoontala's departure to her
husband's palace.

ANASUYA.--My dear girl, what can you mean?

PRIYAMVADA.--Listen, now, and I will tell you all about it. I went just
now to Sakoontala, to inquire whether she had slept comfortably--

ANASUYA.--Well, well; go on.

PRIYAMVADA.--She was sitting with her face bowed down to the very ground
with shame, when Father Kanwa entered and, embracing her, of his own
accord offered her his congratulations. "I give thee joy, my child," he
said, "we have had an auspicious omen. The priest who offered the
oblation dropped it into the very centre of the sacred fire, though
thick smoke obstructed his vision. Henceforth thou wilt cease to be an
object of compassion. This very day I purpose sending thee, under the
charge of certain trusty hermits, to the King's palace; and shall
deliver thee into the hands of thy husband, as I would commit knowledge
to the keeping of a wise and faithful student."

ANASUYA.--Who, then, informed the holy Father of what passed in his

PRIYAMVADA.--As he was entering the sanctuary of the consecrated fire,
an invisible being chanted a verse in celestial strains.

ANASUYA [_with astonishment_].--Indeed! pray repeat it.

PRIYAMVADA [_repeats the verse_].--
Glows in thy daughter King Dushyanta's glory,
As in the sacred tree the mystic fire.
Let worlds rejoice to hear the welcome story;
And may the son immortalize the sire.

ANASUYA [_embracing Priyamvada_].--Oh, my dear Priyamvada, what
delightful news! I am pleased beyond measure; yet when I think that we
are to lose our dear Sakoontala this very day, a feeling of melancholy
mingles with my joy.

PRIYAMVADA.--We shall find means of consoling ourselves after her
departure. Let the dear creature only be made happy, at any cost.

ANASUYA.--Yes, yes, Priyamvada, it shall be so; and now to prepare our
bridal array. I have always looked forward to this occasion, and some
time since, I deposited a beautiful garland of Kesara flowers in a
cocoa-nut box, and suspended it on a bough of yonder mango-tree. Be good
enough to stretch out your hand and take it down, while I compound
unguents and perfumes with this consecrated paste and these blades of
sacred grass.

PRIYAMVADA.--Very well.

[_Exit Anasuya. Priyamvada takes down the flowers._

A VOICE [_behind the scenes_].--Gautami, bid Sarngarava and the others
hold themselves in readiness to escort Sakoontala.

PRIYAMVADA [_listening_].--Quick, quick, Anasuya! They are calling the
hermits who are to go with Sakoontala to Hastinapur.

ANASUYA [_reentering, with the perfumed unguents in her hand_].--Come
along then, Priyamvada; I am ready to go with you. [_They walk away_.

PRIYAMVADA [_looking_].--See! there sits Sakoontala, her locks arranged
even at this early hour of the morning. The holy women of the hermitage
are congratulating her, and invoking blessings on her head, while they
present her with wedding-gifts and offerings of consecrated wild-rice.
Let us join them. [_They approach_.

_Sakoontala is seen seated, with women surrounding her, occupied in the
manner described_.

FIRST WOMAN [_to Sakoontala_].--My child, may'st thou receive the title
of "Chief-queen," and may thy husband delight to honor thee above all

SECOND WOMAN.--My child, may'st thou be the mother of a hero!

THIRD WOMAN.--My child, may'st thou be highly honored by thy lord!

[_Exeunt all the women, excepting Gautami, after blessing Sakoontala._

PRIYAMVADA AND ANASUYA [_approaching_].--Dear Sakoontala, we are come to
assist you at your toilet, and may a blessing attend it!

SAKOONTALA.--Welcome, dear friends, welcome. Sit down here.

PRIYAMVADA AND ANASUYA [_taking the baskets containing the bridal
decorations, and sitting down_].--Now, then, dearest, prepare to let us
dress you. We must first rub your limbs with these perfumed unguents.

SAKOONTALA.--I ought indeed to be grateful for your kind offices, now
that I am so soon to be deprived of them. Dear, dear friends, perhaps I
shall never be dressed by you again. [_Bursts into tears_.

PRIYAMVADA AND ANASUYA.--Weep not, dearest, tears are out of season on
such a happy occasion.

[_They wipe away her tears and begin to dress her_.

PRIYAMVADA.--Alas! these simple flowers and rude ornaments which our
hermitage offers in abundance, do not set off your beauty as it

_Enter two young Hermits, bearing costly presents_.

BOTH HERMITS.--Here are ornaments suitable for a queen.

[_The women look at them in astonishment_.

GAUTAMI.--Why, Narada, my son, whence came these?

FIRST HERMIT.--You owe them to the devotion of Father Kanwa.

GAUTAMI.--Did he create them by the power of his own mind?

SECOND HERMIT.--Certainly not; but you shall hear. The venerable sage
ordered us to collect flowers for Sakoontala from the forest-trees; and
we went to the wood for that purpose, when
Straightway depending from a neighboring tree
Appeared a robe of linen tissue, pure
And spotless as a moon-beam--mystic pledge
Of bridal happiness; another tree
Distilled a roseate dye wherewith to stain
The lady's feet; and other branches near
Glistened with rare and costly ornaments.
While, 'midst the leaves, the hands of forest-nymphs,
Vying in beauty with the opening buds,
Presented us with sylvan offerings.

PRIYAMVADA [_looking at Sakoontala_].--The wood-nymphs have done you
honor, indeed. This favor doubtless signifies that you are soon to be
received as a happy wife into your husband's house, and are from this
forward to become the partner of his royal fortunes.
[_Sakoontala appears confused_.

FIRST HERMIT.--Come, Gautama; Father Kanwa has finished his ablutions.
Let us go and inform him of the favor we have received from the deities
who preside over our trees.

SECOND HERMIT.--By all means. [_Exeunt._

PRIYAMVADA AND ANASUYA.--Alas! what are we to do? We are unused to such
splendid decorations, and are at a loss how to arrange them. Our
knowledge of painting must be our guide. We will dispose the ornaments
as we have seen them in pictures.

SAKOONTALA.--Whatever pleases you, dear girls, will please me. I have
perfect confidence in your taste. [_They commence dressing her_.

_Enter Kanwa, having just finished his ablutions_.

KANWA.--This day my loved one leaves me, and my heart
Is heavy with its grief: the streams of sorrow
Choked at the source, repress my faltering voice.
I have no words to speak; mine eyes are dimmed
By the dark shadows of the thoughts that rise
Within my soul. If such the force of grief
In an old hermit parted from his nursling,
What anguish must the stricken parent feel--
Bereft forever of an only daughter?
[_Advances towards Sakoontala_

PRIYAMVADA AND ANASUYA.--Now, dearest Sakoontala, we have finished
decorating you. You have only to put on the two linen mantles.
[_Sakoontala rises and puts them on_.

GAUTAMI.--Daughter, see, here comes thy foster-father; he is eager to
fold thee in his arms; his eyes swim with tears of joy. Hasten to do him

SAKOONTALA [_reverently_].--My father, I salute you.

KANWA.--My daughter,
May'st thou be highly honored by thy lord,
E'en as Yayati Sarmishtha adored!
And, as she bore him Puru; so may'st thou
Bring forth a son to whom the world shall bow!

GAUTAMI.--Most venerable father, she accepts your benediction as if she
already possessed the boon it confers.

KANWA.--Now come this way, my child, and walk reverently round these
sacrificial fires. [_They all walk round_.

KANWA [_repeats a prayer in the metre of the Rig-veda_].--
Holy flames, that gleam around
Every altar's hallowed ground;
Holy flames, whose frequent food
Is the consecrated wood,
And for whose encircling bed,
Sacred Kusa-grass is spread;
Holy flames, that waft to heaven
Sweet oblations daily given,
Mortal guilt to purge away;--
Hear, oh hear me, when I pray--
Purify my child this day!
Now then, my daughter, set out on thy journey. [_Looking on one side_.]
Where are thy attendants, Sarngarava and the others?

YOUNG HERMIT [_entering_].--Here we are, most venerable father.

KANWA.--Lead the way for thy sister.

SARNGARAVA.--Come, Sakoontala, let us proceed.
[_All move away_.

KANWA.--Hear me, ye trees that surround our hermitage!
Sakoontala ne'er moistened in the stream
Her own parched lips, till she had fondly poured
Its purest water on your thirsty roots;
And oft, when she would fain have decked her hair
With your thick-clustering blossoms, in her love
She robbed you not e'en of a single flower.
Her highest joy was ever to behold
The early glory of your opening buds:
Oh, then, dismiss her with a kind farewell!
This very day she quits her father's home,
To seek the palace of her wedded lord.
[_The note of a Koeil is heard_.
Hark! heard'st thou not the answer of the trees,
Our sylvan sisters, warbled in the note
Of the melodious Koeil? they dismiss
Their dear Sakoontala with loving wishes.

VOICES [_in the air_].--
Fare thee well, journey pleasantly on amid streams
Where the lotuses bloom, and the sun's glowing beams
Never pierce the deep shade of the wide-spreading trees,
While gently around thee shall sport the cool breeze;
Then light be thy footsteps and easy thy tread,
Beneath thee shall carpets of lilies be spread.
Journey on to thy lord, let thy spirit be gay,
For the smiles of all Nature shall gladden thy way.
[_All listen with astonishment_.

GAUTAMI.--Daughter! the nymphs of the wood, who love thee with the
affection of a sister, dismiss thee with kind wishes for thy happiness.
Take thou leave of them reverentially.

SAKOONTALA [_bowing respectfully and walking on. Aside to her
friend_].--Eager as I am, dear Priyamvada, to see my husband once more,
yet my feet refuse to move, now that I am quitting forever the home of
my girlhood.

PRIYAMVADA.--You are not the only one, dearest, to feel the bitterness
of parting. As the time of separation approaches, the whole grove seems
to share your anguish.
In sorrow for thy loss, the herd of deer
Forget to browse; the peacock on the lawn
Ceases its dance; the very trees around us
Shed their pale leaves, like tears, upon the ground.

SAKOONTALA [_recollecting herself_].--My father, let me, before I go,
bid adieu to my pet jasmine, the Moonlight of the Grove. I love the
plant almost as a sister.

KANWA.--Yes, yes, my child, I remember thy sisterly affection for the
creeper. Here it is on the right.

SAKOONTALA [_approaching the jasmine_],--My beloved jasmine, most
brilliant of climbing plants, how sweet it is to see thee cling thus
fondly to thy husband, the mango-tree; yet, prithee, turn thy twining
arms for a moment in this direction to embrace thy sister; she is going
far away, and may never see thee again.

KANWA.--Daughter, the cherished purpose of my heart
Has ever been to wed thee to a spouse
That should be worthy of thee; such a spouse
Hast thou thyself, by thine own merits, won.
To him thou goest, and about his neck
Soon shalt thou cling confidingly, as now
Thy favorite jasmine twines its loving arms
Around the sturdy mango. Leave thou it
To its protector--e'en as I consign
Thee to thy lord, and henceforth from my mind
Banish all anxious thought on thy behalf.
Proceed on thy journey, my child.

SAKOONTALA [_to Priyamvada and Anasuya_].--To you, my sweet companions,
I leave it as a keepsake. Take charge of it when I am gone.

PRIYAMVADA AND ANASUYA [_bursting into tears_].--And to whose charge do
you leave us, dearest? Who will care for us when you are gone?

KANWA.--For shame, Anasuya! dry your tears. Is this the way to cheer
your friend at a time when she needs your support and consolation?
[_All move on_.

SAKOONTALA.--My father, see you there my pet deer, grazing close to the
hermitage? She expects soon to fawn, and even now the weight of the
little one she carries hinders her movements. Do not forget to send me
word when she becomes a mother.

KANWA.--I will not forget it.

SAKOONTALA [_feeling herself drawn back_].--What can this be, fastened
to my dress? [_Turns round_.

KANWA.--My daughter,
It is the little fawn, thy foster-child.
Poor helpless orphan! it remembers well
How with a mother's tenderness and love
Thou didst protect it, and with grains of rice
From thine own hand didst daily nourish it;
And, ever and anon, when some sharp thorn
Had pierced its mouth, how gently thou didst tend
The bleeding wound, and pour in healing balm.
The grateful nursling clings to its protectress,
Mutely imploring leave to follow her.

SAKOONTALA.--My poor little fawn, dost thou ask to follow an unhappy
woman who hesitates not to desert her companions? When thy mother died,
soon after thy birth, I supplied her place, and reared thee with my own
hand; and now that thy second mother is about to leave thee, who will
care for thee? My father, be thou a mother to her. My child, go back,
and be a daughter to my father. [_Moves on, weeping_.

KANWA.--Weep not, my daughter, check the gathering tear
That lurks beneath thine eyelid, ere it flow
And weaken thy resolve; be firm and true--
True to thyself and me; the path of life
Will lead o'er hill and plain, o'er rough and smooth,
And all must feel the steepness of the way;
Though rugged be thy course, press boldly on.

SARNGARAVA.--Venerable sire! the sacred precept is--"Accompany thy
friend as far as the margin of the first stream." Here then, we are
arrived at the border of a lake. It is time for you to give us your
final instructions and return.

KANWA.--Be it so; let us tarry for a moment under the shade of this
fig-tree. [_They do so_.

KANWA [_aside_].--I must think of some appropriate message to send to
his majesty King Dushyanta. [_Reflects._

SAKOONTALA [_aside to Anasuya_].--See, see, dear Anasuya, the poor
female Chakravaka-bird, whom cruel fate dooms to nightly separation
from her mate, calls to him in mournful notes from the other side of the
stream, though he is only hidden from her view by the spreading leaves
of the water-lily. Her cry is so piteous that I could almost fancy she
was lamenting her hard lot in intelligible words.

ANASUYA.--Say not so, dearest.
Fond bird! though sorrow lengthen out her night
Of widowhood, yet with a cry of joy
She hails the morning light that brings her mate
Back to her side. The agony of parting
Would wound us like a sword, but that its edge
Is blunted by the hope of future meeting.

KANWA.--Sarngarava, when you have introduced Sakoontala into the
presence of the King, you must give him this message from me.

SARNGARAVA.--Let me hear it, venerable father.

KANWA.--This is it--
Most puissant prince! we here present before thee
One thou art bound to cherish and receive
As thine own wife; yea, even to enthrone
As thine own queen--worthy of equal love
With thine imperial consorts. So much, Sire,
We claim of thee as justice due to us,
In virtue of our holy character--
In virtue of thine honorable rank--
In virtue of the pure spontaneous love
That secretly grew up 'twixt thee and her,
Without consent or privity of us.
We ask no more--the rest we freely leave
To thy just feeling and to destiny.

SARNGARAVA.--A most suitable message. I will take care to deliver it

KANWA.--And now, my child, a few words of advice for thee. We hermits,
though we live secluded from the world, are not ignorant of worldly

SARNGARAVA.--No, indeed. Wise men are conversant with all subjects.

KANWA.--Listen, then, my daughter. When thou reachest thy husband's
palace, and art admitted into his family,
Honor thy betters; ever be respectful
To those above thee; and, should others share
Thy husband's love, ne'er yield thyself a prey
To jealousy; but ever be a friend,
A loving friend, to those who rival thee
In his affections. Should thy wedded lord
Treat thee with harshness, thou must never be
Harsh in return, but patient and submissive.
Be to thy menials courteous, and to all
Placed under thee, considerate and kind:
Be never self-indulgent, but avoid
Excess in pleasure; and, when fortune smiles,
Be not puffed up. Thus to thy husband's house
Wilt thou a blessing prove, and not a curse.
What thinks Gautami of this advice?

GAUTAMI.--An excellent compendium, truly, of every wife's duties! Lay it
well to heart, my daughter.

KANWA.--Come, my beloved child, one parting embrace for me and for thy
companions, and then we leave thee.

SAKOONTALA.--My father, must Priyamvada and Anasuya really return with
you? They are very dear to me.

KANWA.--Yes, my child; they, too, in good time, will be given in
marriage to suitable husbands. It would not be proper for them to
accompany thee to such a public place. But Gautami shall be thy

SAKOONTALA [_embracing him_].--Removed from thy bosom, my beloved
father, like a young tendril of the sandal-tree torn from its home in
the western mountains,[40] how shall I be able to support life in a
foreign soil?

KANWA.--Daughter, thy fears are groundless:--
Soon shall thy lord prefer thee to the rank
Of his own consort; and unnumbered cares
Befitting his imperial dignity
Shall constantly engross thee. Then the bliss
Of bearing him a son--a noble boy,
Bright as the day-star--shall transport thy soul
With new delights, and little shalt thou reck
Of the light sorrow that afflicts thee now
At parting from thy father and thy friends.

[_Sakoontala throws herself at her foster-father's feet_.

KANWA.--Blessings on thee, my child! May all my hopes of thee be

SAKOONTALA [_approaching her friends_].--Come, my two loved companions,
embrace me--both of you together.

PRIYAMVADA AND ANASUYA [_embracing her_].--Dear Sakoontala, remember, if
the King should by any chance be slow in recognizing you, you have only
to show him this ring, on which his own name is engraved.

SAKOONTALA.--The bare thought of it puts me in a tremor.

PRIYAMVADA AND ANASUYA.--There is no real cause for fear, dearest.
Excessive affection is too apt to suspect evil where none exists.

SARNGARAVA.--Come, lady, we must hasten on. The sun is rising in the

SAKOONTALA [_looking towards the hermitage_].--Dear father, when shall I
ever see this hallowed grove again?

KANWA.--I will tell thee; listen--
When thou hast passed a long and blissful life
As King Dushyanta's queen, and jointly shared
With all the earth his ever-watchful care;
And hast beheld thine own heroic son,
Matchless in arms, united to a spouse
In happy wedlock; when his aged sire,
Thy faithful husband, hath to him resigned
The helm of state; then, weary of the world,
Together with Dushyanta thou shalt seek
The calm seclusion of thy former home:--
There amid holy scenes to be at peace,
Till thy pure spirit gain its last release.

GAUTAMI.--Come, my child, the favorable time for our journey is fast
passing. Let thy father return. Venerable Sire, be thou the first to
move homewards, or these last words will never end.

KANWA.--Daughter, detain me no longer. My religious duties must not be

SAKOONTALA [_again embracing her foster-father_].--Beloved father, thy
frame is much enfeebled by penitential exercises. Do not, oh! do not,
allow thyself to sorrow too much on my account.

KANWA [_sighing_].--How, O my child, shall my bereaved heart
Forget its bitterness, when, day by day,
Full in my sight shall grow the tender plants
Reared by thy care, or sprung from hallowed grain
Which thy loved hands have strewn around the door--
A frequent offering to our household gods?
Go, my daughter, and may thy journey be prosperous.

[_Exit Sakoontala with her escort_.

PRIYAMVADA AND ANASUYA [_gazing after Sakoontala_].--Alas! alas! she is
gone, and now the trees hide our darling from our view.

KANWA [_sighing_].--Well, Anasuya, your sister has departed. Moderate
your grief, both of you, and follow me. I go back to the hermitage.

PRIYAMVADA AND ANASUYA.--Holy father, the sacred grove will be a desert
without Sakoontala. How can we ever return to it?

KANWA.--It is natural enough that your affection should make you view it
in this light. [_Walking pensively on_.] As for me, I am quite surprised
at myself. Now that I have fairly dismissed her to her husband's house,
my mind is easy: for indeed,
A daughter is a loan--a precious jewel
Lent to a parent till her husband claim her.
And now that to her rightful lord and master
I have delivered her, my burdened soul
Is lightened, and I seem to breathe more freely.


[40] The sandal-tree is a large kind of myrtle, with pointed leaves. The
wood affords many highly esteemed perfumes and is celebrated for its
delicious scent. It is chiefly found on the slopes of the Malay
mountains or Western Ghants, on the Malabar coast.


Scene.--A Room in the Palace

_The King Dushyanta and the Jester Mathavya are discovered seated_.

MATHAVYA [_listening_].--Hark! my dear friend, listen a minute, and you
will hear sweet sounds proceeding from the music-room. Someone is
singing a charming air. Who can it be? Oh! I know. The queen Hansapadika
is practising her notes, that she may greet you with a new song.

KING.--Hush! Let me listen.

A VOICE [_sings behind the scenes_].--
How often hither didst thou rove,
Sweet bee, to kiss the mango's cheek;
Oh! leave not, then, thy early love,
The lily's honeyed lip to seek.

KING.--A most impassioned strain, truly!

MATHAVYA.--Do you understand the meaning of the words?

KING [_smiling_].--She means to reprove me, because I once paid her
great attention, and have lately deserted her for the queen Vasumati.
Go, my dear fellow, and tell Hansapadika from me that I take her
delicate reproof as it is intended.

MATHAVYA.--Very well. [_Rising from his seat_.] But stay--I don't much
relish being sent to bear the brunt of her jealousy. The chances are
that she will have me seized by the hair of the head and beaten to a
jelly. I would as soon expose myself, after a vow of celibacy, to the
seductions of a lovely nymph, as encounter the fury of a jealous woman.

KING.--Go, go; you can disarm her wrath by a civil speech; but give her
my message.

MATHAVYA.--What must be must be, I suppose. [_Exit._

KING [_aside_].--Strange! that song has filled me with a most peculiar
sensation. A melancholy feeling has come over me, and I seem to yearn
after some long-forgotten object of affection. Singular, indeed! but,
Not seldom in our happy hours of ease,
When thought is still, the sight of some fair form,
Or mournful fall of music breathing low,
Will stir strange fancies, thrilling all the soul
With a mysterious sadness, and a sense
Of vague yet earnest longing. Can it be
That the dim memory of events long past,
Or friendships formed in other states of being,
Flits like a passing shadow o'er the spirit?
[_Remains pensive and sad_.

_Enter the Chamberlain_.

CHAMBERLAIN.--Alas! to what an advanced period of life have I attained!
Even this wand betrays the lapse of years;
In youthful days 'twas but a useless badge
And symbol of my office; now it serves
As a support to prop my tottering steps.

Ah me! I feel very unwilling to announce to the King that a deputation
of young hermits from the sage Kanwa has arrived, and craves an
immediate audience. Certainly, his majesty ought not to neglect a matter
of sacred duty, yet I hardly like to trouble him when he has just risen
from the judgment-seat. Well, well; a monarch's business is to sustain
the world, and he must not expect much repose; because--

Onward, forever onward, in his car
The unwearied Sun pursues his daily course,
Nor tarries to unyoke his glittering steeds.
And ever moving speeds the rushing Wind
Through boundless space, filling the universe
With his life-giving breezes. Day and night,
The King of Serpents on his thousand heads
Upholds the incumbent earth; and even so,
Unceasing toil is aye the lot of kings,
Who, in return, draw nurture from their subjects.

I will therefore deliver my message. [_Walking on and looking about_.]
Ah! here comes the King:--

His subjects are his children; through the day,
Like a fond father, to supply their wants,
Incessantly he labors; wearied now,
The monarch seeks seclusion and repose--
E'en as the prince of elephants defies
The sun's fierce heat, and leads the fainting herd
To verdant pastures, ere his wayworn limbs
He yields to rest beneath the cooling shade.

[_Approaching_.] Victory to the King! So please your majesty, some
hermits who live in a forest near the Snowy Mountains have arrived here,
bringing certain women with them. They have a message to deliver from
the sage Kanwa, and desire an audience. I await your Majesty's commands.

KING [_respectfully_].--A message from the sage Kanwa, did you say?

CHAMBERLAIN.--Even so, my liege.

KING.--Tell my domestic priest, Somarata, to receive the hermits with
due honor, according to the prescribed form. He may then himself
introduce them into my presence. I will await them in a place suitable
for the reception of such holy guests.

CHAMBERLAIN.--Your Majesty's commands shall be obeyed. [_Exit._

KING [_rising and addressing the Warder_].--Vetravati, lead the way to
the chamber of the consecrated fire.

WARDER.--This way, Sire.

KING [_walking on, with the air of one oppressed by the cares of
government_].--People are generally contented and happy when they have
gained their desires; but kings have no sooner attained the object of
their aspirations than all their troubles begin.
'Tis a fond thought that to attain the end
And object of ambition is to rest;
Success doth only mitigate the fever
Of anxious expectation; soon the fear
Of losing what we have, the constant care
Of guarding it doth weary. Ceaseless toil
Must be the lot of him who with his hands
Supports the canopy that shields his subjects.

Two HERALDS [_behind the scenes_].--May the King be victorious!

FIRST HERALD.--Honor to him who labors day by day
For the world's weal, forgetful of his own.
Like some tall tree that with its stately head
Endures the solar beam, while underneath
It yields refreshing shelter to the weary.

SECOND HERALD.--Let but the monarch wield his threatening rod
And e'en the guilty tremble; at his voice
The rebel spirit cowers; his grateful subjects
Acknowledge him their guardian; rich and poor
Hail him a faithful friend, a loving kinsman.

KING.--Weary as I was before, this complimentary address has refreshed
me. [_Walks on_.

WARDER.--Here is the terrace of the hallowed fire-chamber, and yonder
stands the cow that yields the milk for the oblations. The sacred
enclosure has been recently purified, and looks clean and beautiful.
Ascend, Sire.

KING [_leans on the shoulders of his attendants, and ascends_].
Vetravati, what can possibly be the message that the venerable Kanwa has
sent me by these hermits?--
Perchance their sacred rites have been disturbed
By demons, or some evil has befallen
The innocent herds, their favorites, that graze
Within the precincts of the hermitage;
Or haply, through my sins, some withering blight
Has nipped the creeping plants that spread their arms
Around the hallowed grove. Such troubled thoughts
Crowd through my mind, and fill me with misgiving.

WARDER.--If you ask my opinion, Sire, I think the hermits merely wish to
take an opportunity of testifying their loyalty, and are therefore come
to offer homage to your Majesty.

_Enter the Hermits, leading Sakoontala, attended by Gautami; and, in
advance of them, the Chamberlain and the domestic Priest._

CHAMBERLAIN.--This way, reverend sirs, this way.

SARNGARAVA.--O Saradwata,
'Tis true the monarch lacks no royal grace,
Nor ever swerves from justice; true, his people,
Yea such as in life's humblest walks are found,
Refrain from evil courses; still to me,
A lonely hermit reared in solitude,
This throng appears bewildering, and methinks
I look upon a burning house, whose inmates
Are running to and fro in wild dismay.

SARADWATA.--It is natural that the first sight of the King's capital
should affect you in this manner; my own sensations are very similar.
As one just bathed beholds the man polluted;
As one late purified, the yet impure:--
As one awake looks on the yet unwakened;
Or as the freeman gazes on the thrall,
So I regard this crowd of pleasure-seekers.

SAKOONTALA [_feeling a quivering sensation in her right eyelid, and
suspecting a bad omen_],--Alas! what means this throbbing of my right

GAUTAMI.--Heaven avert the evil omen, my child! May the guardian deities
of thy husband's family convert it into a sign of good fortune! [_Walks

PRIEST [_pointing to the King_].--Most reverend sirs, there stands the
protector of the four classes of the people; the guardian of the four
orders of the priesthood. He has just left the judgment-seat, and is
waiting for you. Behold him!

SARNGARAVA.--Great Brahman, we are happy in thinking that the King's
power is exerted for the protection of all classes of his subjects. We
have not come as petitioners--we have the fullest confidence in the
generosity of his nature.
The loftiest trees bend humbly to the ground
Beneath the teeming burden of their fruit;
High in the vernal sky the pregnant clouds
Suspend their stately course, and hanging low,
Scatter their sparkling treasures o'er the earth:--
And such is true benevolence; the good
Are never rendered arrogant by riches.

WARDER.--So please your Majesty, I judge from the placid countenance of
the hermits that they have no alarming message to deliver.

KING [_looking at Sakoontala_].--But the lady there--
Who can she be, whose form of matchless grace
Is half concealed beneath her flowing veil?
Among the sombre hermits she appears
Like a fresh bud 'mid sear and yellow leaves.

WARDER.--So please your Majesty, my curiosity is also roused, but no
conjecture occurs to my mind. This at least is certain, that she
deserves to be looked at more closely.

KING.--True; but it is not right to gaze at another man's wife.

SAKOONTALA [_placing her hand on her bosom. Aside_].--O my heart, why
this throbbing? Remember thy lord's affection, and take courage.

PRIEST [_advancing_].--These holy men have been received with all due
honor. One of them has now a message to deliver from his spiritual
superior. Will your Majesty deign to hear it?

KING.--I am all attention.

HERMITS [_extending their hands_].--Victory to the King!

KING.--Accept my respectful greeting.

HERMITS.--May the desires of your soul be accomplished!

KING.--I trust no one is molesting you in the prosecution of your
religious rites.

HERMITS.--Who dares disturb our penitential rites
When thou art our protector? Can the night
Prevail to cast her shadows o'er the earth
While the sun's beams irradiate the sky?

KING.--Such, indeed, is the very meaning of my title--"Defender of the
Just." I trust the venerable Kanwa is in good health. The world is
interested in his well-being.

HERMITS.--Holy men have health and prosperity in their own power. He
bade us greet your Majesty, and, after kind inquiries, deliver this

KING.--Let me hear his commands.

SARNGARAVA.--He bade us say that he feels happy in giving his sanction
to the marriage which your Majesty contracted with this lady, his
daughter, privately and by mutual agreement. Because
By us thou art esteemed the most illustrious
Of noble husbands; and Sakoontala
Virtue herself in human form revealed.
Great Brahma hath in equal yoke united
A bride unto a husband worthy of her:--
Henceforth let none make blasphemous complaint
That he is pleased with ill-assorted unions.

Since, therefore, she expects soon to be the mother of thy child,
receive her into thy palace, that she may perform, in conjunction with
thee, the ceremonies prescribed by religion on such an occasion.

GAUTAMI.--So please your Majesty, I would add a few words: but why
should I intrude my sentiments when an opportunity of speaking my mind
has never been allowed me?
She took no counsel with her kindred; thou
Didst not confer with thine, but all alone
Didst solemnize thy nuptials with thy wife.
Together, then, hold converse; let us leave you.

SAKOONTALA [_aside_].--Ah! how I tremble for my lord's reply.

KING.--What strange proposal is this?

SAKOONTALA [_aside_].--His words are fire to me.

SARNGARAVA.--What do I hear? Dost thou, then, hesitate? Monarch, thou
art well acquainted with the ways of the world, and knowest that
A wife, however virtuous and discreet,
If she live separate from her wedded lord,
Though under shelter of her parent's roof,
Is mark for vile suspicion. Let her dwell
Beside her husband, though he hold her not
In his affection. So her kinsmen will it.

KING.--Do you really mean to assert that I ever married this lady?

SAKOONTALA [_despondingly. Aside_].--O my heart, thy worst misgivings
are confirmed.

SARNGARAVA.--Is it becoming in a monarch to depart from the rules of
justice, because he repents of his engagements?

KING.--I cannot answer a question which is based on a mere fabrication.

SARNGARAVA.--Such inconstancy is fortunately not common, excepting in
men intoxicated by power.

KING.--Is that remark aimed at me?

GAUTAMI.--Be not ashamed, my daughter. Let me remove thy veil for a
little space. Thy husband will then recognize thee. [_Removes her veil_.

KING [_gazing at Sakoontala. Aside_].--What charms are here revealed
before mine eyes!
Truly no blemish mars the symmetry
Of that fair form; yet can I ne'er believe
She is my wedded wife; and like a bee
That circles round the flower whose nectared cup
Teems with the dew of morning, I must pause
Ere eagerly I taste the proffered sweetness.
[_Remains wrapped in-thought._

WARDER.--How admirably does our royal master's behavior prove his regard
for justice! Who else would hesitate for a moment when good fortune
offered for his acceptance a form of such rare beauty?

SARNGARAVA.--Great King, why art thou silent?

KING.--Holy men, I have revolved the matter in my mind; but the more I
think of it, the less able am I to recollect that I ever contracted an
alliance with this lady. What answer, then, can I possibly give you when
I do not believe myself to be her husband, and I plainly see that she is
soon to become a mother?

SAKOONTALA [_aside_].--Woe! woe! Is our very marriage to be called in
question by my own husband? Ah me! is this to be the end of all my
bright visions of wedded happiness?

Beware how thou insult the holy Sage!
Remember how he generously allowed
Thy secret union with his foster-child;
And how, when thou didst rob him of his treasure,
He sought to furnish thee excuse, when rather
He should have cursed thee for a ravisher.

SARADWATA.--Sarngarava, speak to him no more. Sakoontala, our part is
performed; we have said all we had to say, and the King has replied in
the manner thou hast heard. It is now thy turn to give him convincing
evidence of thy marriage.

SAKOONTALA [_aside_].--Since his feeling towards me has undergone a
complete revolution, what will it avail to revive old recollections? One
thing is clear--I shall soon have to mourn my own widowhood. [_Aloud_.]
My revered husband--[_Stops short_.] But no--I dare not address thee by
this title, since thou hast refused to acknowledge our union. Noble
descendant of Puru! It is not worthy of thee to betray an
innocent-minded girl, and disown her in such terms, after having so
lately and so solemnly plighted thy vows to her in the hermitage.

KING [_stopping his ears_].--I will hear no more. Be such a crime far
from my thoughts!
What evil spirit can possess thee, lady,
That thou dost seek to sully my good name
By base aspersions? like a swollen torrent,
That, leaping from its narrow bed, overthrows
The tree upon its bank, and strives to blend
Its turbid waters with the crystal stream?

SAKOONTALA.--If, then, thou really believest me to be the wife of
another, and thy present conduct proceeds from some cloud that obscures
thy recollection, I will easily convince thee by this token.

KING.--An excellent idea!

SAKOONTALA [_feeling for the ring_].--Alas! alas! woe is me! There is no
ring on my finger!
[_Looks with anguish at Gautami_.

GAUTAMI.--The ring must have slipped off when thou wast in the act of
offering homage to the holy water of Sachi's sacred pool, near

KING [_smiling_].--People may well talk of the readiness of woman's
invention! Here is an instance of it.

SAKOONTALA.--Say, rather, of the omnipotence of fate. I will mention
another circumstance, which may yet convince thee.

KING.--By all means let me hear it at once.

SAKOONTALA.--One day, while we were seated in a jasmine bower, thou
didst pour into the hollow of thine hand some water, sprinkled by a
recent shower in the cup of a lotus blossom--

KING.--I am listening; proceed.

SAKOONTALA.--At that instant, my adopted child, the little fawn, with
soft, long eyes, came running towards us. Upon which, before tasting the
water thyself, thou didst kindly offer some to the little creature,
saying fondly--"Drink first, gentle fawn." But she could not be induced
to drink from the hand of a stranger; though immediately afterwards,
when I took the water in my own hand, she drank with perfect confidence.
Then, with a smile, thou didst say--"Every creature confides naturally
in its own kind. You are both inhabitants of the same forest, and have
learnt to trust each other."

KING.--Voluptuaries may allow themselves to be seduced from the path of
duty by falsehoods such as these, expressed in honeyed words.

GAUTAMI.--Speak not thus, illustrious Prince. This lady was brought up
in a hermitage, and has never learnt deceit.

KING.--Holy matron,
E'en in untutored brutes, the female sex
Is marked by inborn subtlety--much more
In beings gifted with intelligence.
The wily Koeil, ere towards the sky
She wings her sportive flight, commits her eggs
To other nests, and artfully consigns
The rearing of her little ones to strangers.

SAKOONTALA [_angrily_].--Dishonorable man, thou judgest of others by
thine own evil heart. Thou, at least, art unrivalled in perfidy, and
standest alone--a base deceiver in the garb of virtue and religion--like
a deep pit whose yawning mouth is concealed by smiling flowers.

KING [_aside_].--Her anger, at any rate, appears genuine, and makes me
almost doubt whether I am in the right. For, indeed,
When I had vainly searched my memory,
And so with stern severity denied
The fabled story of our secret loves,
Her brows, that met before in graceful curves,
Like the arched weapon of the god of love,
Seemed by her frown dissevered; while the fire
Of sudden anger kindled in her eyes.

[_Aloud_.] My good lady, Dushyanta's character is well-known to all. I
comprehend not your meaning.

SAKOONTALA.--Well do I deserve to be thought a harlot for having, in the
innocence of my heart, and out of the confidence I reposed in a Prince
of Puru's race, intrusted my honor to a man whose mouth distils honey,
while his heart is full of poison.
[_Covers her face with her mantle, and bursts into tears_.

SARNGARAVA.--Thus is it that burning remorse must ever follow rash
actions which might have been avoided, and for which one has only one's
self to blame.
Not hastily should marriage be contracted,
And specially in secret. Many a time,
In hearts that know not each the other's fancies,
Fond love is changed into most bitter hate.

KING.--How now! Do you give credence to this woman rather than to me,
that you heap such accusations on me?

SARNGARAVA [_sarcastically_].--That would be too absurd, certainly. You
have heard the proverb--
Hold in contempt the innocent words of those
Who from their infancy have known no guile:--
But trust the treacherous counsels of the man
Who makes a very science of deceit.

KING.--Most veracious Brahman, grant that you are in the right, what end
would be gained by betraying this lady?


KING.--No one will believe that a Prince of Puru's race would seek to
ruin others or himself.

SARADWATA.--This altercation is idle, Sarngarava. We have executed the
commission of our preceptor; come, let us return. [_To the King_.
Sakoontala is certainly thy bride;
Receive her or reject her, she is thine.
Do with her, King, according to thy pleasure--
The husband o'er the wife is absolute.
Go on before us, Gautami. [_They move away_.

SAKOONTALA.--What! is it not enough to have been betrayed by this
perfidious man? Must you also forsake me, regardless of my tears and
[_Attempts to follow them_.

GAUTAMI [_stopping_].--My son Sarngarava, see, Sakoontala is following
us, and with tears implores us not to leave her. Alas! poor child, what
will she do here with a cruel husband who casts her from him?

SARNGARAVA [_turning angrily towards her_].--Wilful woman, dost thou
seek to be independent of thy lord?
[_Sakoontala trembles with fear_.

If thou art really what the King proclaims thee,
How can thy father e'er receive thee back
Into his house and home? but, if thy conscience
Be witness to thy purity of soul,
E'en should thy husband to a handmaid's lot
Condemn thee, thou may'st cheerfully endure it,
When ranked among the number of his household.

Thy duty, therefore, is to stay. As for us, we must return immediately.

KING.--Deceive not the lady, my good hermit, by any such expectations.
The moon expands the lotus of the night,
The rising sun awakes the lily; each
Is with his own contented. Even so
The virtuous man is master of his passions,
And from another's wife averts his gaze.

SARNGARAVA.--Since thy union with another woman has rendered thee
oblivious of thy marriage with Sakoontala, whence this fear of losing
thy character for constancy and virtue?

KING [_to the Priest_],--You must counsel me, revered sir, as to my
course of action. Which of the two evils involves the greater or less
Whether by some dark veil my mind be clouded,
Or this designing woman speak untruly,
I know not. Tell me, must I rather be
The base disowner of my wedded wife,
Or the defiling and defiled adulterer?

PRIEST [_after deliberation_].--You must take an intermediate course.

KING.--What course, revered sir? Tell me at once.

PRIEST.--I will provide an asylum for the lady in my own house until the
birth of her child; and my reason, if you ask me, is this. Soothsayers
have predicted that your first-born will have universal dominion. Now,
if the hermit's daughter bring forth a son with the discus or mark of
empire in the lines of his hand, you must admit her immediately into
your royal apartments with great rejoicings; if not, then determine to
send her back as soon as possible to her father.

KING.--I bow to the decision of my spiritual adviser.

PRIEST.--Daughter, follow me.

SAKOONTALA.--O divine earth, open and receive me into thy bosom!

[_Exit Sakoontala weeping, with the Priest and the Hermits. The King
remains absorbed in thinking of her, though the curse still clouds his

A VOICE [_behind the scenes_].--A miracle! a miracle!

KING [_listening_].--What has happened now?

PRIEST [_entering with an air of astonishment_].--Great Prince, a
stupendous prodigy has just occurred!

KING.--What is it?

PRIEST.--May it please your Majesty, so soon as Kanwa's pupils had
Sakoontala, her eyes all bathed in tears,
With outstretched arms bewailed her cruel fate--

KING.--Well, well, what happened then?

PRIEST.--When suddenly a shining apparition, In female shape, descended
from the skies, Near the nymphs' pool, and bore her up to heaven.

[_All remain motionless with astonishment_.

KING.--My good priest, from the very first I declined having anything to
do with this matter. It is now all over, and we can never, by our
conjectures, unravel the mystery; let it rest; go, seek repose.

PRIEST [_looking at the King_].--Be it so. Victory to the King! [_Exit._

KING.--Vetravati, I am tired out; lead the way to the bed-chamber.

WARDER.--This way, Sire. [_They move away_.

KING.--Do what I will, I cannot call to mind
That I did e'er espouse the sage's daughter--
Therefore I have disowned her; yet 'tis strange
How painfully my agitated heart
Bears witness to the truth of her assertion,
And makes me credit her against my judgment.


Scene.--A Street

_Enter the King's brother-in-law as Superintendent of the city police;
and with him two Constables, dragging a poor fisherman, who has his
hands tied behind his back_.

BOTH THE CONSTABLES [_striking the prisoner_].--Take that for a rascally
thief that you are; and now tell us, sirrah, where you found this
ring--aye, the King's own signet-ring. See, here is the royal name
engraved on the setting of the jewel.

FISHERMAN [_with a gesture of alarm_].--Mercy! kind sirs, mercy! I did
not steal it; indeed I did not.

FIRST CONSTABLE.--Oh! then I suppose the King took you for some fine
Brahman, and made you a present of it?

FISHERMAN.--Only hear me. I am but a poor fisherman, living at

SECOND CONSTABLE.--Scoundrel, who ever asked you, pray, for a history of
your birth and parentage?

SUPERINTENDENT [_to one of the Constables_].--Suchaka, let the fellow
tell his own story from the beginning. Don't interrupt him.

BOTH CONSTABLES.--As you please, master. Go on, then, sirrah, and say
what you've got to say.

FISHERMAN.--You see in me a poor man, who supports his family by
catching fish with nets, hooks, and the like.

SUPERINTENDENT [_laughing_].--A most refined occupation, certainly!

FISHERMAN.--Blame me not for it, master.
The father's occupation, though despised
By others, casts no shame upon the son,
And he should not forsake it. Is the priest
Who kills the animal for sacrifice
Therefore deemed cruel? Sure a lowborn man
May, though a fisherman, be tender-hearted.

SUPERINTENDENT.--Well, well; go on with your story.

FISHERMAN.--One day I was cutting open a large carp I had just hooked,
when the sparkle of a jewel caught my eye, and what should I find in the
fish's maw but that ring! Soon afterwards, when I was offering it for
sale, I was seized by your honors. Now you know everything. Whether you
kill me, or whether you let me go, this is the true account of how the
ring came into my possession.

SUPERINTENDENT [_to one of the Constables_].--Well, Januka, the rascal
emits such a fishy odor that I have no doubt of his being a fisherman;
but we must inquire a little more closely into this queer story about
the finding of the ring. Come, we'll take him before the King's

BOTH CONSTABLES.--Very good, master. Get on with you, you cutpurse.
[_All move on_.

SUPERINTENDENT.--Now attend, Suchaka; keep you guard here at the gate;
and hark ye, sirrahs, take good care your prisoner does not escape,
while I go in and lay the whole story of the discovery of this ring
before the King in person. I will soon return and let you know his

CONSTABLE.--Go in, master, by all means; and may you find favor in the
King's sight!
[_Exit Superintendent_.

FIRST CONSTABLE [_after an interval_].--I say, Januka, the
Superintendent is a long time away.

SECOND CONSTABLE.--Aye, aye; kings are not to be got at so easily. Folks
must bide the proper opportunity.

FIRST CONSTABLE.--Januka, my fingers itch to strike the first blow at
this royal victim here. We must kill him with all the honors, you know.
I long to begin binding the flowers round his head.
[_Pretends to strike a blow at the fisherman_.

FISHERMAN.--Your honor surely will not put an innocent man to a cruel

SECOND CONSTABLE [_looking_].--There's our Superintendent at last, I
declare. See, he is coming towards us with a paper in his hand. We shall
soon know the King's command; so prepare, my fine fellow, either to
become food for the vultures, or to make acquaintance with some hungry

SUPERINTENDENT [_entering_].--Ho, there, Suchaka! set the fisherman at
liberty, I tell you. His story about the ring is all correct.

SUCHAKA.--Oh! very good, sir; as you please.

SECOND CONSTABLE.--The fellow had one foot in hell, and now here he is
in the land of the living. [_Releases him_.

FISHERMAN [_bowing to the Superintendent_].--Now, master, what think you
of my way of getting a livelihood?

SUPERINTENDENT.--Here, my good man, the King desired me to present you
with this purse. It contains a sum of money equal to the full value of
the ring.
[_Gives him the money_.

FISHERMAN [_taking it and bowing_].--His Majesty does me too great

SUCHAKA.--You may well say so. He might as well have taken you from the
gallows to seat you on his state elephant.

JANUKA.--Master, the King must value the ring very highly, or he would
never have sent such a sum of money to this ragamuffin.

SUPERINTENDENT.--I don't think he prizes it as a costly jewel so much as
a memorial of some person he tenderly loves. The moment it was shown to
him he became much agitated, though in general he conceals his feelings.

SUCHAKA.--Then you must have done a great service------

JANUKA.--Yes, to this husband of a fish-wife.
[_Looks enviously at the fisherman_.

FISHERMAN.--Here's half the money for you, my masters. It will serve to
purchase the flowers you spoke of, if not to buy me your good-will.

JANUKA.--Well, now, that's just as it should be.

SUPERINTENDENT.--My good fisherman, you are an excellent fellow, and I
begin to feel quite a regard for you. Let us seal our first friendship
over a glass of good liquor. Come along to the next wine-shop and we'll
drink your health.

ALL.--By all means.


Scene.--The Garden of the Palace

_The nymph Sanumati is seen descending in a celestial car_.

SANUMATI.--Behold me just arrived from attending in my proper turn at
the nymphs' pool, where I have left the other nymphs to perform their
ablutions, whilst I seek to ascertain, with my own eyes, how it fares
with King Dushyanta. My connection with the nymph Menaka has made her
daughter Sakoontala dearer to me than my own flesh and blood; and Menaka
it was who charged me with this errand on her daughter's behalf.
[_Looking round in all directions_.] How is it that I see no
preparations in the King's household for celebrating the great vernal
festival? I could easily discover the reason by my divine faculty of
meditation; but respect must be shown to the wishes of my friend. How
then shall I arrive at the truth? I know what I will do. I will become
invisible, and place myself near those two maidens who are tending the
plants in the garden. [_Descends and takes her station_.

_Enter a Maiden, who stops in front of a mango-tree and gazes at the
blossom. Another Maiden is seen behind her_.

FIRST MAIDEN.--Hail to thee, lovely harbinger of spring! The varied
radiance of thy opening flowers Is welcome to my sight. I bid thee hail,
Sweet mango, soul of this enchanting season.

SECOND MAIDEN.--Parabaitika, what are you saying there to yourself?

FIRST MAIDEN.--Dear Madhukarika, am I not named after the Koeil?[41] and
does not the Koeil sing for joy at the first appearance of the

SECOND MAIDEN [_approaching hastily, with transport_].--What! is spring
really come?

FIRST MAIDEN.--Yes, indeed, Madhukarika, and with it the season of joy,
love, and song.

SECOND MAIDEN.--Let me lean upon you, dear, while I stand on tip-toe and
pluck a blossom of the mango, that I may present it as an offering to
the god of love.

FIRST MAIDEN.--Provided you let me have half the reward which the god
will bestow in return.

SECOND MAIDEN.--To be sure you shall, and that without asking. Are we
not one in heart and soul, though divided in body? [_Leans on her friend
and plucks a mango-blossom._] Ah! here is a bud just bursting into
flower. It diffuses a delicious perfume, though not yet quite expanded.
[_Joining her hands reverentially_.

God of the bow, who with spring's choicest flowers
Dost point thy five unerring shafts; to thee
I dedicate this blossom; let it serve
To barb thy truest arrow; be its mark
Some youthful heart that pines to be beloved.

[_Throws down a mango-blossom._

CHAMBERLAIN [_entering in a hurried manner, angrily_].--Hold there,
thoughtless woman. What are you about breaking off those mango-blossoms,
when the King has forbidden the celebration of the spring festival?

BOTH MAIDENS [_alarmed_].--Pardon us, kind sir, we have heard nothing of

CHAMBERLAIN.--You have heard nothing of it? Why, all the vernal plants
and shrubs, and the very birds that lodge in their branches, show more
respect to the King's order than you do.
Yon mango-blossoms, though long since expanded,
Gather no down upon their tender crests;
The flower still lingers in the amaranth,
Imprisoned in its bud; the tuneful Koeil,
Though winter's chilly dews be overpast,
Suspends the liquid volume of his song
Scarce uttered in his throat; e'en Love, dismayed,
Restores the half-drawn arrow to his quiver.

BOTH MAIDENS.--The mighty power of King Dushyanta is not to be disputed.

FIRST MAIDEN.--It is but a few days since Mitravasu, the king's
brother-in-law, sent us to wait upon his Majesty; and, during the whole
of our sojourn here, we have been intrusted with the charge of the royal
pleasure-grounds. We are therefore strangers in this place, and heard
nothing of the order until you informed us of it.

CHAMBERLAIN.--Well then, now you know it, take care you don't continue
your preparations.

BOTH MAIDENS.--But tell us, kind sir, why has the King prohibited the
usual festivities? We are curious to hear, if we may.

SANUMATI [_aside_].--Men are naturally fond of festive entertainments.
There must be some good reason for the prohibition.

CHAMBERLAIN.--The whole affair is now public; why should I not speak of
it! Has not the gossip about the King's rejection of Sakoontala reached
your ears yet?

BOTH MAIDENS.--Oh yes, we heard the story from the King's
brother-in-law, as far, at least, as the discovery of the ring.

CHAMBERLAIN.--Then there is little more to tell you. As soon as the
King's memory was restored by the sight of his own ring, he exclaimed,
"Yes, it is all true. I remember now my secret marriage with Sakoontala.
When I repudiated her, I had lost my recollection." Ever since that
moment, he has yielded himself a prey to the bitterest remorse.
He loathes his former pleasures; he rejects
The daily homage of his ministers.
On his lone couch he tosses to and fro,
Courting repose in vain. Whene'er he meets
The ladies of his palace, and would fain
Address them with politeness, he confounds
Their names; or, calling them "Sakoontala,"
Is straightway silent and abashed with shame.

SANUMATI [_aside_].--To me this account is delightful.

CHAMBERLAIN.--In short, the King is so completely out of his mind that
the festival has been prohibited.

BOTH MAIDENS.--Perfectly right.

A VOICE [_behind the scenes_].--The King! the King! This way, Sire, this

CHAMBERLAIN [_listening_].--Oh! here comes his majesty in this
direction. Pass on, maidens; attend to your duties.

BOTH MAIDENS.--We will, sir. [_Exeunt._

_Enter King Dushyanta, dressed in deep mourning, attended by his Jester,
Mathavya, and preceded by Vetravati._

CHAMBERLAIN [_gazing at the King_].--Well, noble forms are certainly
pleasing, under all varieties of outward circumstances. The King's
person is as charming as ever, notwithstanding his sorrow of mind.
Though but a single golden bracelet spans
His wasted arm; though costly ornaments
Have given place to penitential weeds;
Though oft-repeated sighs have blanched his lips,
And robbed them of their bloom; though sleepless care
And carking thought have dimmed his beaming eye;
Yet does his form, by its inherent lustre,
Dazzle the gaze; and, like a priceless gem
Committed to some cunning polisher,
Grow more effulgent by the loss of substance.

SANUMATI [_aside. Looking at the King_].--Now that I have seen him, I
can well understand why Sakoontala should pine after such a man, in
spite of his disdainful rejection of her.

KING [_walking slowly up and down, in deep thought_].--
When fatal lethargy overwhelmed my soul,
My loved one strove to rouse me, but in vain:--
And now when I would fain in slumber deep
Forget myself, full soon remorse doth wake me.

SANUMATI [_aside_].--My poor Sakoontala's sufferings are very similar.

MATHAVYA [_aside_].--He is taken with another attack of this odious
Sakoontala fever. How shall we ever cure him?

CHAMBERLAIN [_approaching_].--Victory to the King! Great Prince, the
royal pleasure-grounds have been put in order. Your Majesty can resort
to them for exercise and amusement whenever you think proper.

KING.--Vetravati, tell the worthy Pisuna, my prime minister, from me,
that I am so exhausted by want of sleep that I cannot sit on the
judgment-seat to-day. If any case of importance be brought before the
tribunal he must give it his best attention, and inform me of the
circumstances by letter.

VETRAVATI.--Your Majesty's commands shall be obeyed. [_Exit._

KING [_to the Chamberlain_].--And you, Vatayana, may go about your own

CHAMBERLAIN.--I will, Sire. [_Exit._

MATHAVYA.--Now that you have rid yourself of these troublesome fellows,
you can enjoy the delightful coolness of your pleasure-grounds without

KING.--Ah! my dear friend, there is an old adage--"When affliction has a
mind to enter, she will find a crevice somewhere"--and it is verified in
Scarce is my soul delivered from the cloud
That darkened its remembrance of the past,
When lo! the heart-born deity of love
With yonder blossom of the mango barbs
His keenest shaft, and aims it at my breast.

MATHAVYA.--Well, then, wait a moment; I will soon demolish Master Kama's
arrow with a cut of my cane.

[_Raises his stick and strikes off the mango-blossom._

KING [_smiling_].--That will do. I see very well the god of Love is not
a match for a Brahman. And now, my dear friend, where shall I sit down,
that I may enchant my sight by gazing on the twining plants, which seem
to remind me of the graceful shape of my beloved?

MATHAVYA.--Do you not remember? you told Chaturika you should pass the
heat of the day in the jasmine bower; and commanded her to bring the
likeness of your queen Sakoontala, sketched with your own hand.

KING.--True. The sight of her picture will refresh my soul. Lead the way
to the arbor.

MATHAVYA.--This way, Sire.

[_Both move on, followed by Sanumati._

MATHAVYA.--Here we are at the jasmine bower. Look, it has a marble seat,
and seems to bid us welcome with its offerings of delicious flowers. You
have only to enter and sit down. [_Both enter and seat themselves._

SANUMATI [_aside_].--I will lean against these young jasmines. I can
easily, from behind them, glance at my friend's picture, and will then
hasten to inform her of her husband's ardent affection. [_Stands leaning
against the creepers_.

KING.--Oh! my dear friend, how vividly all the circumstances of my union
with Sakoontala present themselves to my recollection at this moment!
But tell me now how it was that, between the time of my leaving her in
the hermitage and my subsequent rejection of her, you never breathed her
name to me! True, you were not by my side when I disowned her; but I had
confided to you the story of my love and you were acquainted with every
particular. Did it pass out of your mind as it did out of mine?

MATHAVYA.--No, no; trust me for that. But, if you remember, when you had
finished telling me about it, you added that I was not to take the story
in earnest, for that you were not really in love with a country girl,
but were only jesting; and I was dull and thick-headed enough to believe
you. But so fate decreed, and there is no help for it.

SANUMATI [_aside_].--Exactly.

KING [_after deep thought_].--My dear friend, suggest some relief for my

MATHAVYA.--Come, come, cheer up; why do you give way? Such weakness is
unworthy of you. Great men never surrender themselves to uncontrolled
grief. Do not mountains remain unshaken even in a gale of wind?

KING.--How can I be otherwise than inconsolable, when I call to mind the
agonized demeanor of the dear one on the occasion of my disowning her?
When cruelly I spurned her from my presence,
She fain had left me; but the young recluse,
Stern as the Sage, and with authority
As from his saintly master, in a voice
That brooked not contradiction, bade her stay.
Then through her pleading eyes, bedimmed with tears,
She cast on me one long reproachful look,
Which like a poisoned shaft torments me still.

SANUMATI [_aside_].--Alas! such is the force of self-reproach following
a rash action. But his anguish only rejoices me.

MATHAVYA.--An idea has just struck me. I should not wonder if some
celestial being had carried her off to heaven.

KING.--Very likely. Who else would have dared to lay a
finger on a wife, the idol of her husband? It is said that Menaka, the
nymph of heaven, gave her birth. The suspicion has certainly crossed my
mind that some of her celestial companions may have taken her to their
own abode.

SANUMATI [_aside_].--His present recollection of every circumstance of
her history does not surprise me so much as his former forgetfulness.

MATHAVYA.--If that's the case, you will be certain to meet her before


MATHAVYA.--No father and mother can endure to see a daughter suffering
the pain of separation from her husband.

KING.--Oh! my dear Mathavya,
Was it a dream? or did some magic dire,
Dulling my senses with a strange delusion,
Overcome my spirit? or did destiny,
Jealous of my good actions, mar their fruit,
And rob me of their guerdon? It is past,
Whatever the spell that bound me. Once again
Am I awake, but only to behold
The precipice o'er which my hopes have fallen.

MATHAVYA.--Do not despair in this manner. Is not this very ring a proof
that what has been lost may be unexpectedly found?

KING [_gazing at the ring_].--Ah! this ring, too, has fallen from a
station which it will not easily regain, and deserves all my sympathy.
O gem, deserved the punishment we suffer,
And equal is the merit of our works,
When such our common doom. Thou didst enjoy
The thrilling contact of those slender fingers,
Bright as the dawn; and now how changed thy lot!

SANUMATI [_aside_].--Had it found its way to the hand of any other
person, then indeed its fate would have been deplorable.

MATHAVYA.--Pray, how did the ring ever come upon her hand at all?

SANUMATI.--I myself am curious to know.

KING.--You shall hear. When I was leaving my beloved Sakoontala that I
might return to my own capital, she said to me, with tears in her eyes,
"How long will it be ere my lord send for me to his palace and make me
his queen?"

MATHAVYA.--Well, what was your reply?

KING.--Then I placed the ring on her finger, and thus addressed her--
Repeat each day one letter of the name
Engraven on this gem; ere thou hast reckoned
The tale of syllables, my minister
Shall come to lead thee to thy husband's palace.
But, hard-hearted man that I was, I forgot to fulfil my promise, owing
to the infatuation that took possession of me.

SANUMATI [_aside_].--A pleasant arrangement! Fate, however, ordained
that the appointment should not be kept.

MATHAVYA.--But how did the ring contrive to pass into the stomach of
that carp which the fisherman caught and was cutting up?

KING.--It must have slipped from my Sakoontala's hand, and fallen into
the stream of the Ganges, while she was offering homage to the water of
Sachi's holy pool.

MATHAVYA.--Very likely.

SANUMATI [_aside_].--Hence it happened, I suppose, that the King, always
fearful of committing the least injustice, came to doubt his marriage
with my poor Sakoontala. But why should affection so strong as his stand
in need of any token of recognition?

KING.--Let me now address a few words of reproof to this ring.

MATHAVYA [_aside_].--He is going stark mad, I verily believe.

KING.--Hear me, thou dull and undiscerning bauble!
For so it argues thee, that thou couldst leave
The slender fingers of her hand, to sink
Beneath the waters. Yet what marvel is it
That thou shouldst lack discernment? let me rather
Heap curses on myself, who, though endowed
With reason, yet rejected her I loved.

MATHAVYA [_aside_].--And so, I suppose, I must stand here to be devoured
by hunger, whilst he goes on in this sentimental strain.

KING.--O forsaken one, unjustly banished from my presence, take pity on
thy slave, whose heart is consumed by the fire of remorse, and return to
my sight.

_Enter Chaturika hurriedly, with a picture in her hand_.

CHATURIKA.--Here is the Queen's portrait. [_Shows the picture_.

MATHAVYA.--Excellent, my dear friend, excellent! The imitation of nature
is perfect, and the attitude of the figures is really charming. They
stand out in such bold relief that the eye is quite deceived.

SANUMATI [_aside_].--A most artistic performance! I admire the King's
skill, and could almost believe that Sakoontala herself was before me.

KING.--I own 'tis not amiss, though it portrays
But feebly her angelic loveliness.
Aught less than perfect is depicted falsely,
And fancy must supply the imperfection.

SANUMATI [_aside_].--A very just remark from a modest man, whose
affection is exaggerated by the keenness of his remorse.

MATHAVYA.--Tell me--I see three female figures drawn on the canvas, and
all of them beautiful; which of the three is her Majesty, Sakoontala?

SANUMATI [_aside_].--If he cannot distinguish her from the others, the
simpleton might as well have no eyes in his head.

KING.--Which should you imagine to be intended for her?

MATHAVYA.--She who is leaning, apparently a little tired, against the
stem of that mango-tree, the tender leaves of which glitter with the
water she has poured upon them. Her arms are gracefully extended; her
face is somewhat flushed with the heat; and a few flowers have escaped
from her hair, which has become unfastened, and hangs in loose tresses
about her neck. That must be the queen Sakoontala, and the others, I
presume, are her two attendants.

KING.--I congratulate you on your discernment. Behold the proof of my
My finger, burning with the glow of love,
Has left its impress on the painted tablet;
While here and there, alas! a scalding tear
Has fallen on the cheek and dimmed its brightness.
Chaturika, the garden in the background of the picture is
only half-painted. Go, fetch the brush that I may finish it.

CHATURIKA.--Worthy Mathavya, have the kindness to hold the picture until
I return.

KING.--Nay, I will hold it myself.
[_Takes the picture. Exit Chaturika_.

KING.--My loved one came but lately to my presence
And offered me herself, but in my folly
I spurned the gift, and now I fondly cling
To her mere image; even as a madman
Would pass the waters of the gushing stream,
And thirst for airy vapors of the desert.

MATHAVYA [_aside_].--He has been fool enough to forego the reality for
the semblance, the substance for the shadow. [_Aloud._] Tell us, I pray,
what else remains to be painted.

SANUMATI [_aside_].--He longs, no doubt, to delineate some favorite spot
where my dear Sakoontala delighted to ramble.

KING.--You shall hear------
I wish to see the Malini portrayed,
Its tranquil course by banks of sand impeded--
Upon the brink a pair of swans: beyond,
The hills adjacent to Himalaya,
Studded with deer; and, near the spreading shade
Of some large tree, where 'mid the branches hang
The hermits' vests of bark, a tender doe,
Rubbing its downy forehead on the horn
Of a black antelope, should be depicted.

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