Part 9 out of 10
MATHAVYA [_aside_].--Pooh! if I were he, I would fill up the vacant
spaces with a lot of grizzly-bearded old hermits.
KING.--My dear Mathavya, there is still a part of Sakoontala's dress
which I purposed to draw, but find I have omitted.
MATHAVYA.--What is that?
SANUMATI [_aside_].--Something suitable, I suppose, to the simple attire
of a young and beautiful girl dwelling in a forest.
KING.--A sweet Sirisha blossom should be twined
Behind her ear, its perfumed crest depending
Towards her cheek; and, resting on her bosom,
A lotus-fibre necklace, soft and bright
As an autumnal moon-beam, should be traced.
MATHAVYA.--Pray, why does the Queen cover her lips with the tips of her
fingers, bright as the blossom of a lily, as if she were afraid of
something? [_Looking more closely_.] Oh! I see; a vagabond bee, intent
on thieving the honey of flowers, has mistaken her mouth for a rose-bud,
and is trying to settle upon it.
KING.--A bee! drive off the impudent insect, will you?
MATHAVYA.--That's your business. Your royal prerogative gives you power
over all offenders.
KING.--Very true. Listen to me, thou favorite guest of flowering plants;
why give thyself the trouble of hovering here? See where thy partner
sits on yonder flower, And waits for thee ere she will sip its dew.
SANUMATI [_aside_].--A most polite way of warning him off!
MATHAVYA.--You'll find the obstinate creature is not to be sent about
his business so easily as you think.
KING.--Dost thou presume to disobey? Now hear me--
An thou but touch the lips of my beloved,
Sweet as the opening blossom, whence I quaffed
In happier days love's nectar, I will place thee
Within the hollow of yon lotus cup,
And there imprison thee for thy presumption.
MATHAVYA.--He must be bold indeed not to show any fear when you threaten
him with such an awful punishment. [_Smiling, aside_.] He is stark mad,
that's clear; and I believe, by keeping him company, I am beginning to
talk almost as wildly. [_Aloud_.] Look, it is only a painted bee.
SANUMATI [_aside_].--Even I did not perceive it; how much less should
KING.--Oh! my dear friend, why were you so ill-natured as to tell me the
While, all entranced, I gazed upon her picture,
My loved one seemed to live before my eyes,
Till every fibre of my being thrilled
With rapturous emotion. Oh! 'twas cruel
To dissipate the day-dream, and transform
The blissful vision to a lifeless image.
SANUMATI [_aside_].--Separated lovers are very difficult to please; but
he seems more difficult than usual.
KING.--Alas! my dear Mathavya, why am I doomed to be the victim of
Vain is the hope of meeting her in dreams,
For slumber night by night forsakes my couch:
And now that I would fain assuage my grief
By gazing on her portrait here before me,
Tears of despairing love obscure my sight.
SANUMATI [_aside_],--You have made ample amends for the wrong you did
Sakoontala in disowning her.
CHATURIKA [_entering_].--Victory to the King! I was coming along with
the box of colors in my hand------
CHATURIKA.--When I met the Queen Vasumati, attended by Taralika. She
insisted on taking it from me, and declared she would herself deliver it
into your Majesty's hands.
MATHAVYA.--By what luck did you contrive to escape her?
CHATURIKA.--While her maid was disengaging her mantle, which had caught
in the branch of a shrub, I ran away.
KING.--Here, my good friend, take the picture and conceal it. My
attentions to the Queen have made her presumptuous. She will be here in
MATHAVYA.--Conceal the picture! conceal myself, you mean. [_Getting up
and taking the picture_.] The Queen has a bitter draught in store for
you, which you will have to swallow as Siva did the poison at the
Deluge. When you are well quit of her, you may send and call me from the
Palace of Clouds, where I shall take refuge.
SANUMATI [_aside_].--Although the King's affections are transferred to
another object, yet he respects his previous attachments. I fear his
love must be somewhat fickle.
VETRAVATI [_entering with a despatch in her hand_].--Victory to the
KING.---Vetravati, did you observe the Queen Vasumati coming in this
VETRAVATI.--I did; but when she saw that I had a despatch in my hand for
your Majesty, she turned back.
KING.--The Queen has too much regard for propriety to interrupt me when
I am engaged with state-affairs.
VETRAVATI.--So please your Majesty, your Prime Minister begs
respectfully to inform you that he has devoted much time to the
settlement of financial calculations, and only one case of importance
has been submitted by the citizens for his consideration. He has made a
written report of the facts, and requests your Majesty to cast your eyes
KING.--Hand me the paper.
[_Vetravati delivers it_.
KING [_reading_].--What have we here? "A merchant named Dhanamitra,
trading by sea, was lost in a late shipwreck. Though a wealthy trader,
he was childless; and the whole of his immense property becomes by law
forfeited to the King." So writes the minister. Alas! alas! for his
childlessness. But surely, if he was wealthy, he must have had many
wives. Let an inquiry be made whether any one of them is expecting to
give birth to a child.
VETRAVATI.--They say that his wife, the daughter of the foreman of a
guild belonging to Ayodhya, has just completed the ceremonies usual upon
KING.--The unborn child has a title to his father's property. Such is my
decree. Go, bid my minister proclaim it so.
VETRAVATI.--I will, my liege. [_Going_.
KING.--Stay a moment.
VETRAVATI.--I am at your Majesty's service.
KING.--Let there be no question whether he may or may not have left
Rather be it proclaimed that whosoe'er
Of King Dushyanta's subjects be bereaved
Of any loved relation, an it be not
That his estates are forfeited for crimes,
Dushyanta will himself to them supply
That kinsman's place in tenderest affection.
VETRAVATI.--It shall be so proclaimed.
[_Exit Vetravati, and reenter after an interval_.
VETRAVATI.--Your Majesty's proclamation was received with acclamations
of joy, like grateful rain at the right season.
KING [_drawing a deep sigh_].--So then, the property of rich men, who
have no lineal descendants, passes over to a stranger at their decease.
And such, alas! must be the fate of the fortunes of the race of Puru at
my death; even as when fertile soil is sown with seed at the wrong
KING.--Fool that I was to reject such happiness when it offered itself
for my acceptance!
SANUMATI [_aside_].--He may well blame his own folly when he calls to
mind his treatment of my beloved Sakoontala.
KING.--Ah! woe is me? when I forsook my wife--
My lawful wife--concealed within her breast
There lay my second self, a child unborn,
Hope of my race, e'en as the choicest fruit
Lies hidden in the bosom of the earth.
SANUMATI [_aside_].--There is no fear of your race being cut off for
want of a son.
CHATURIKA [_aside to Vetravati_].--The affair of the merchant's death
has quite upset our royal master, and caused him sad distress. Had you
not better fetch the worthy Mathavya from the Palace of Clouds to
VETRAVATI.--A very good idea. [_Exit_.
KING.--Alas! the shades of my forefathers are even now beginning to be
alarmed, lest at my death they may be deprived of their funeral
No son remains in King Dushyanta's place
To offer sacred homage to the dead
Of Puru's noble line: my ancestors
Must drink these glistening tears, the last libation
A childless man can ever hope to make them.
[_Falls down in an agony of grief_.
CHATURIKA [_looking at him in consternation_].--Great King, compose
SANUMATI [_aside_].--Alas! alas! though a bright light is shining near
him, he is involved in the blackest darkness, by reason of the veil that
obscures his sight. I will now reveal all, and put an end to his misery.
But no; I heard the mother of the great Indra, when she was consoling
Sakoontala, say, that the gods will soon bring about a joyful union
between husband and wife, being eager for the sacrifice which will be
celebrated in their honor on the occasion. I must not anticipate the
happy moment, but will return at once to my dear friend and cheer her
with an account of what I have seen and heard.
[_Rises aloft and disappears_.
A VOICE [_behind the scenes_].--Help! help! to the rescue!
KING [_recovering himself. Listening_].--Ha! I heard a cry of distress,
and in Mathavya's voice. What ho there!
VETRAVATI [_entering_].--Your friend is in danger; save him, great King.
KING.--Who dares insult the worthy Mathavya?
VETRAVATI.--Some evil demon, invisible to human eyes, has seized him,
and carried him to one of the turrets of the Palace of Clouds.
KING [_rising_].--Impossible! Have evil spirits power over my subjects,
even in my private apartments? Well, well--
Daily I seem less able to avert
Misfortune from myself, and o'er my actions
Less competent to exercise control;
How can I then direct my subjects' ways,
Or shelter them from tyranny and wrong?
A VOICE [_behind the scenes_].--Halloo there! my dear friend; help!
KING [_advancing with rapid strides_].--Fear nothing--
THE SAME VOICE [_behind the scenes_].--Fear nothing, indeed! How can I
help fearing when some monster is twisting back my neck, and is about to
snap it as he would a sugarcane?
KING [_looking round_].--What ho there! my bow.
SLAVE [_entering with a bow_].--Behold your bow, Sire, and your
[_The king snatches up the bow and arrows_.
ANOTHER VOICE [_behind the scenes_].--Here, thirsting for thy
life-blood, will I slay thee, As a fierce tiger rends his struggling
prey. Call now thy friend Dushyanta to thy aid; His bow is mighty to
defend the weak; Yet all its vaunted power shall be as nought.
KING [_with fury_].--What! dares he defy me to my face? Hold there,
monster! Prepare to die, for your time is come. [_Stringing his bow_.]
Vetravati, lead the way to the terrace.
VETRAVATI.--This way, Sire. [_They advance in haste_.
KING [_looking on every side_].--How's this? there is nothing to be
A VOICE [_behind the scenes_].--Help! Save me! I can see you, though you
cannot see me. I am like a mouse in the claws of a cat; my life is not
worth a moment's purchase.
KING.--Avaunt, monster! You may pride yourself on the magic that renders
you invisible, but my arrow shall find you out. Thus do I fix a shaft
That shall discern between an impious demon
And a good Brahman; bearing death to thee,
To him deliverance--even as the swan
Distinguishes the milk from worthless water.
_Enter Matali, holding Mathavya, whom he releases_.
MATALI.--Turn thou thy deadly arrows on the demons;
Such is the will of Indra; let thy bow
Be drawn against the enemies of the gods;
But on thy friends cast only looks of favor.
KING [_putting back his arrow_].--What, Matali! Welcome, most noble
charioteer of the mighty Indra.
MATHAVYA.--So, here is a monster who thought as little about
slaughtering me as if I had been a bullock for sacrifice, and you must
e'en greet him with a welcome.
MATALI [_smiling_].--Great Prince, hear on what errand Indra sent me
into your presence.
KING.--I am all attention.
MATALI.--There is a race of giants, the descendants of Kalanemi, whom
the gods find difficult to subdue.
KING.--So I have already heard from Narada.
MATALI.--Heaven's mighty lord, who deigns to call thee "friend,"
Appoints thee to the post of highest honor,
As leader of his armies; and commits
The subjugation of this giant brood
To thy resistless arms, e'en as the sun
Leaves the pale moon to dissipate the darkness.
Let your Majesty, therefore, ascend at once the celestial car of Indra;
and, grasping your arms, advance to victory.
KING.--The mighty Indra honors me too highly by such a mark of
distinction. But tell me, what made you act thus towards my poor friend
MATALI.--I will tell you. Perceiving that your Majesty's spirit was
completely broken by some distress of mind under which you were
laboring, I determined to rouse your energies by moving you to anger.
To light a flame, we need but stir the embers;
The cobra, when incensed, extends his head
And springs upon his foe; the bravest men
Display their courage only when provoked.
KING [_aside to Mathavya_].--My dear Mathavya, the commands of the great
Indra must not be left unfulfilled. Go you and acquaint my minister,
Pisuna, with what has happened, and say to him from me, Dushyanta to thy
care confides his realm--
Protect with all the vigor of thy mind
The interests of my people; while my bow
Is braced against the enemies of heaven.
MATHAVYA.--I obey. [_Exit._
MATALI.--Ascend, illustrious Prince.
[_The King ascends the car. Exeunt_.
 The Koeil is the Indian cuckoo. It is sometimes called Parabhrita
(nourished by another) because the female is known to leave her eggs in
the nest of the crow to be hatched. The bird is a great favorite with
the Indian poets, as the nightingale with Europeans.
 Palace of King Dushyanta, so-called because it was as lofty as the
_Enter King Dushyanta and Matali in the car of Indra, moving in the
KING.--My good Matali, it appears to me incredible that I can merit such
a mark of distinction for having simply fulfilled the behests of the
MATALI [_smiling_].--Great Prince, it seems to me that neither of you is
satisfied with himself--
You underrate the service you have rendered,
And think too highly of the god's reward:
He deems it scarce sufficient recompense
For your heroic deeds on his behalf.
KING.--Nay, Matali, say not so. My most ambitious expectations were more
than realized by the honor conferred on me at the moment when I took my
Tinged with celestial sandal, from the breast
Of the great Indra, where before it hung,
A garland of the ever-blooming tree
Of Nandana was cast about my neck
By his own hand: while, in the very presence
Of the assembled gods, I was enthroned
Beside their mighty lord, who smiled to see
His son Jayanta envious of the honor.
MATALI.--There is no mark of distinction which your Majesty does not
deserve at the hands of the immortals. See,
Heaven's hosts acknowledge thee their second saviour;
For now thy bow's unerring shafts (as erst
The lion-man's terrific claws) have purged
The empyreal sphere from taint of demons foul.
KING.--The praise of my victory must be ascribed to the majesty of
When mighty gods make men their delegates
In martial enterprise, to them belongs
The palm of victory; and not to mortals.
Could the pale Dawn dispel the shades of night,
Did not the god of day, whose diadem
Is jewelled with a thousand beams of light,
Place him in front of his effulgent car?
MATALI.--A very just comparison. [_Driving on._] Great King, behold! the
glory of thy fame has reached even to the vault of heaven.
Hark! yonder inmates of the starry sphere
Sing anthems worthy of thy martial deeds,
While with celestial colors they depict
The story of thy victories on scrolls
Formed of the leaves of heaven's immortal trees.
KING.--My good Matali, yesterday, when I ascended the sky, I was so
eager to do battle with the demons, that the road by which we were
travelling towards Indra's heaven escaped my observation. Tell me, in
which path of the seven winds are we now moving?
MATALI.--We journey in the path of Parivaha;
The wind that bears along the triple Ganges,
And causes Ursa's seven stars to roll
In their appointed orbits, scattering
Their several rays with equal distribution.
'Tis the same path that once was sanctified
By the divine impression of the foot
Of Vishnu, when, to conquer haughty Bali,
He spanned the heavens in his second stride.
KING.--This is the reason, I suppose, that a sensation of calm repose
pervades all my senses. [_Looking down at the wheels._] Ah! Matali, we
are descending towards the earth's atmosphere.
MATALI.--What makes you think so?
KING.--The car itself instructs me; we are moving
O'er pregnant clouds, surcharged with rain; below us
I see the moisture-loving Chatakas
In sportive flight dart through the spokes; the steeds
Of Indra glisten with the lightning's flash;
And a thick mist bedews the circling wheels.
MATALI.--You are right; in a little while the chariot will touch the
ground, and you will be in your own dominions.
KING [_looking down_],--How wonderful is the appearance of the earth as
we rapidly descend!
Stupendous prospect! yonder lofty hills
Do suddenly uprear their towering heads
Amid the plain, while from beneath their crests
The ground receding sinks; the trees, whose stems
Seemed lately hid within their leafy tresses,
Rise into elevation, and display
Their branching shoulders; yonder streams, whose waters,
Like silver threads, but now were scarcely seen,
Grow into mighty rivers; lo! the earth
Seems upward hurled by some gigantic power.
MATALI.--Well described! [_Looking with awe._] Grand, indeed, and lovely
is the spectacle presented by the earth.
KING.--Tell me, Matali, what is that range of mountains which, like a
bank of clouds illumined by the setting sun, pours down a stream of
gold? On one side its base dips into the eastern ocean, and on the other
side into the western.
MATALI.--Great Prince, it is called "Golden-peak," and is the abode
of the attendants of the god of Wealth. In this spot the highest forms
of penance are wrought out.
There Kasyapa, the great progenitor
Of demons and of gods, himself the offspring
Of the divine Marichi, Brahma's son,
With Aditi, his wife, in calm seclusion,
Does holy penance for the good of mortals.
KING.--Then I must not neglect so good an opportunity of obtaining his
blessing. I should much like to visit this venerable personage and offer
him my homage.
MATALI.--By all means! An excellent idea. [_Guides the car to the
KING [_in a tone of wonder_].--How's this?
Our chariot wheels move noiselessly. Around
No clouds of dust arise; no shock betokened
Our contact with the earth; we seem to glide
Above the ground, so lightly do we touch it.
MATALI.--Such is the difference between the car of Indra and that of
KING.--In which direction, Matali, is Kasyapa's sacred retreat?
MATALI [_pointing_].--Where stands yon anchorite, towards the orb
Of the meridian sun, immovable
As a tree's stem, his body half-concealed
By a huge ant-hill. Round about his breast
No sacred cord is twined, but in its stead
A hideous serpent's skin. In place of necklace,
The tendrils of a withered creeper chafe
His wasted neck. His matted hair depends
In thick entanglement about his shoulders,
And birds construct their nests within its folds.
KING.--I salute thee, thou man of austere devotion.
MATALI [_holding in the reins of the car_].--Great Prince, we are now in
the sacred grove of the holy Kasyapa--the grove that boasts as its
ornament one of the five trees of Indra's heaven, reared by Aditi.
KING.--This sacred retreat is more delightful than heaven itself. I
could almost fancy myself bathing in a pool of nectar.
MATALI [_stopping the chariot_].--Descend, mighty Prince.
KING [_descending_].--And what will you do, Matali?
MATALI.--The chariot will remain where I have stopped it. We may both
descend. [_Doing so._] This way, great King, [_Walking on._] You see
around you the celebrated region where the holiest sages devote
themselves to penitential rites.
KING.--I am filled with awe and wonder as I gaze.
In such a place as this do saints of earth
Long to complete their acts of penance; here,
Beneath the shade of everlasting trees,
Transplanted from the groves of Paradise,
May they inhale the balmy air, and need
No other nourishment; here may they bathe
In fountains sparkling with the golden dust
Of lilies; here, on jewelled slabs of marble,
In meditation rapt, may they recline;
Here, in the presence of celestial nymphs,
E'en passion's voice is powerless to move them.
MATALI.--So true is it that the aspirations of the good and great are
ever soaring upwards. [_Turning round and speaking off the stage_.] Tell
me, Vriddha-sakalya, how is the divine son of Marichi now engaged? What
sayest thou? that he is conversing with Aditi and some of the wives of
the great sages, and that they are questioning him respecting the duties
of a faithful wife?
KING [_listening_].--Then we must await the holy father's leisure.
MATALI [_looking at the King_].--If your Majesty will rest under the
shade, at the foot of this Asoka-tree, I will seek an opportunity of
announcing your arrival to Indra's reputed father.
KING.--As you think proper. [_Remains under the tree_.
MATALI.--Great King, I go. [_Exit._
KING [_feeling his arm throb_].--Wherefore this causeless throbbing, O
All hope has fled forever; mock me not
With presages of good, when happiness
Is lost, and nought but misery remains.
A VOICE [_behind the scenes_].--Be not so naughty. Do you begin already
to show a refractory spirit?
KING [_listening_].--This is no place for petulance. Who can it be whose
behavior calls for such a rebuke? [_Looking in the direction of the
sound and smiling_.] A child, is it? closely attended by two holy women.
His disposition seems anything but childlike. See,
He braves the fury of yon lioness
Suckling its savage offspring, and compels
The angry whelp to leave the half-sucked dug,
Tearing its tender mane in boisterous sport.
_Enter a child, attended by two women of the hermitage, In the manner
CHILD.--Open your mouth, my young lion, I want to count your teeth.
FIRST ATTENDANT.--You naughty child, why do you tease the animals? Know
you not that we cherish them in this hermitage as if they were our own
children? In good sooth, you have a high spirit of your own, and are
beginning already to do justice to the name Sarva-damana (All-taming),
given you by the hermits.
KING.--Strange! My heart inclines towards the boy with almost as much
affection as if he were my own child. What can be the reason? I suppose
my own childlessness makes me yearn towards the sons of others.
SECOND ATTENDANT.--This lioness will certainly attack you if you do not
release her whelp.
CHILD [_laughing_].--Oh! indeed! let her come. Much I fear her, to be
sure. [_Pouts his under-lip in defiance_.
KING.--The germ of mighty courage lies concealed
Within this noble infant, like a spark
Beneath the fuel, waiting but a breath
To fan the flame and raise a conflagration.
FIRST ATTENDANT.--Let the young lion go, like a dear child, and I will
give you something else to play with.
CHILD.--Where is it? Give it me first.
[_Stretches out his hand._
KING [_looking at his hand_].--How's this? His hand exhibits one of
those mystic marks which are the sure prognostic of universal empire.
His fingers stretched in eager expectation
To grasp the wished-for toy, and knit together
By a close-woven web, in shape resemble
A lotus-blossom, whose expanding petals
The early dawn has only half unfolded.
SECOND ATTENDANT.--We shall never pacify him by mere words, dear
Suvrata. Be kind enough to go to my cottage, and you will find there a
plaything belonging to Markandeya, one of the hermit's children. It is a
peacock made of China-ware, painted in many colors. Bring it here for
FIRST ATTENDANT.--Very well. [_Exit._
CHILD.--No, no; I shall go on playing with the young lion.
[_Looks at the female attendant and laughs_.
KING.--I feel an unaccountable affection for this wayward child.
How blessed the virtuous parents whose attire
Is soiled with dust, by raising from the ground
The child that asks a refuge in their arms!
And happy are they while with lisping prattle,
In accents sweetly inarticulate,
He charms their ears; and with his artless smiles
Gladdens their hearts, revealing to their gaze
His tiny teeth, just budding into view.
ATTENDANT.--I see how it is. He pays me no manner of attention.
[_Looking off the stage._] I wonder whether any of the hermits are about
here. [_Seeing the King._] Kind Sir, could you come hither a moment and
help me to release the young lion from the clutch of this child, who is
teasing him in boyish play?
KING [_approaching and smiling_].--Listen to me, thou child of a mighty
Dost thou dare show a wayward spirit here?
Here, in this hallowed region? Take thou heed
Lest, as the serpent's young defiles the sandal,
Thou bring dishonor on the holy sage,
Thy tender-hearted parent, who delights
To shield from harm the tenants of the wood.
ATTENDANT.--Gentle Sir, I thank you; but he is not the saint's son.
KING.--His behavior and whole bearing would have led me to doubt it, had
not the place of his abode encouraged the idea.
[_Follows the child, and takes him by the hand, according to the request
of the attendant. Speaking aside._
I marvel that the touch of this strange child
Should thrill me with delight; if so it be,
How must the fond caresses of a son
Transport the father's soul who gave him being!
ATTENDANT [_looking at them both_].--Wonderful! Prodigious!
KING.--What excites your surprise, my good woman?
ATTENDANT.--I am astonished at the striking resemblance between the
child and yourself; and, what is still more extraordinary, he seems to
have taken to you kindly and submissively, though you are a stranger to
KING [_fondling the child_].--If he be not the son of the great sage, of
what family does he come, may I ask?
ATTENDANT.--Of the race of Puru.
KING [_aside_].--What! are we, then, descended from the same ancestry?
This, no doubt, accounts for the resemblance she traces between the
child and me. Certainly it has always been an established usage among
the princes of Puru's race,
To dedicate the morning of their days
To the world's weal, in palaces and halls,
'Mid luxury and regal pomp abiding;
Then, in the wane of life, to seek release
From kingly cares, and make the hallowed shade
Of sacred trees their last asylum, where
As hermits they may practise self-abasement,
And bind themselves by rigid vows of penance.
[_Aloud._] But how could mortals by their own power gain admission to
this sacred region?
ATTENDANT.--Your remark is just; but your wonder will cease when I tell
you that his mother is the offspring of a celestial nymph, and gave him
birth in the hallowed grove of Kasyapa.
KING [_aside_].--Strange that my hopes should be again excited!
[_Aloud._] But what, let me ask, was the name of the prince whom she
deigned to honor with her hand?
ATTENDANT.--How could I think of polluting my lips by the mention of a
wretch who had the cruelty to desert his lawful wife?
KING [_aside_].--Ha! the description suits me exactly. Would I could
bring myself to inquire the name of the child's mother! [_Reflecting._]
But it is against propriety to make too minute inquiries about the wife
of another man.
FIRST ATTENDANT [_entering with the china peacock in her
hand_].--Sarva-damana, Sarva-damana, see, see, what a beautiful Sakoonta
CHILD [_looking round_].--My mother! Where? Let me go to her.
BOTH ATTENDANTS.--He mistook the word Sakoonta for Sakoontala. The boy
dotes upon his mother, and she is ever uppermost in his thoughts.
SECOND ATTENDANT.--Nay, my dear child, I said, Look at the beauty of
KING [_aside_].--What! is his mother's name Sakoontala? But the name is
not uncommon among women. Alas! I fear the mere similarity of a name,
like the deceitful vapor of the desert, has once more raised my hopes
only to dash them to the ground.
CHILD [_takes the toy_].--Dear nurse, what a beautiful peacock!
FIRST ATTENDANT [_looking at the child. In great distress_].--Alas!
alas! I do not see the amulet on his wrist.
KING.--Don't distress yourself. Here it is. It fell off while he was
struggling with the young lion.
[_Stoops to pick it up_.
BOTH ATTENDANTS.--Hold! hold! Touch it not, for your life. How
marvellous! He has actually taken it up without the slightest
[_Both raise their hands to their breasts and look at each other in
KING.--Why did you try to prevent my touching it?
FIRST ATTENDANT.--Listen, great Monarch. This amulet, known as "The
Invincible," was given to the boy by the divine son of Marichi, soon
after his birth, when the natal ceremony was performed. Its peculiar
virtue is, that when it falls on the ground, no one excepting the father
or mother of the child can touch it unhurt.
KING.--And suppose another person touches it?
FIRST ATTENDANT.--Then it instantly becomes a serpent, and bites him.
KING.--Have you ever witnessed the transformation with your own eyes?
BOTH ATTENDANTS.--Over and over again.
KING [_with rapture. Aside_].--Joy! joy! Are then my dearest hopes to be
[_Embraces the child_.
SECOND ATTENDANT.--Come, my dear Suvrata, we must inform Sakoontala
immediately of this wonderful event, though we have to interrupt her in
the performance of her religious vows.
CHILD [_to the King_].--Do not hold me. I want to go to my mother.
KING.--We will go to her together, and give her joy, my son.
CHILD.--Dushyanta is my father, not you.
KING [_smiling_].--His contradiction convinces me only the more.
_Enter Sakoontala, in widow's apparel, with her long hair twisted into a
SAKOONTALA [_aside_].--I have just heard that Sarva-damana's amulet has
retained its form, though a stranger raised it from the ground. I can
hardly believe in my good fortune. Yet why should not Sanumati's
prediction be verified?
KING [_gazing at Sakoontala_].--Alas! can this indeed be my Sakoontala?
Clad in the weeds of widowhood, her face
Emaciate with fasting, her long hair
Twined in a single braid, her whole demeanor
Expressive of her purity of soul:
With patient constancy she thus prolongs
The vow to which my cruelty condemned her.
SAKOONTALA [_gazing at the King, who is pale with remorse_]. Surely this
is not like my husband; yet who can it be that dares pollute by the
pressure of his hand my child, whose amulet should protect him from a
CHILD [_going to his mother_].--Mother, who is this man that has been
kissing me and calling me his son?
KING.--My best beloved, I have indeed treated thee most cruelly, but am
now once more thy fond and affectionate lover. Refuse not to acknowledge
me as thy husband.
SAKOONTALA [_aside_].--Be of good cheer, my heart. The anger of Destiny
is at last appeased. Heaven regards thee with compassion. But is he in
very truth my husband?
KING.--Behold me, best and loveliest of women,
Delivered from the cloud of fatal darkness
That erst oppressed my memory. Again
Behold us brought together by the grace
Of the great lord of Heaven. So the moon
Shines forth from dim eclipse, to blend his rays
With the soft lustre of his Rohini.
SAKOONTALA.--May my husband be victorious------
[_She stops short, her voice choked with tears._
KING.--O fair one, though the utterance of thy prayer
Be lost amid the torrent of thy tears,
Yet does the sight of thy fair countenance,
And of thy pallid lips, all unadorned
And colorless in sorrow for my absence,
Make me already more than conqueror.
CHILD.--Mother, who is this man?
SAKOONTALA.--My child, ask the deity that presides over thy destiny.
KING [_falling at Sakoontala's feet_].--Fairest of women, banish from
The memory of my cruelty; reproach
The fell delusion that overpowered my soul,
And blame not me, thy husband; 'tis the curse
Of him in whom the power of darkness reigns,
That he mistakes the gifts of those he loves
For deadly evils. Even though a friend
Should wreathe a garland on a blind man's brow,
Will he not cast it from him as a serpent?
SAKOONTALA.--Rise, my own husband, rise. Thou wast not to blame. My own
evil deeds, committed in a former state of being, brought down this
judgment upon me. How else could my husband, who was ever of a
compassionate disposition, have acted so unfeelingly? [_The King
rises_.] But tell me, my husband, how did the remembrance of thine
unfortunate wife return to thy mind?
KING.--As soon as my heart's anguish is removed, and its wounds are
healed, I will tell thee all.
Oh! let me, fair one, chase away the drop
That still bedews the fringes of thine eye;
And let me thus efface the memory
Of every tear that stained thy velvet cheek,
Unnoticed and unheeded by thy lord,
When in his madness he rejected thee.
[_Wipes away the tear_.
SAKOONTALA [_seeing the signet-ring on his finger_].--Ah! my dear
husband, is that the Lost Ring?
KING.--Yes; the moment I recovered it, my memory was restored.
SAKOONTALA.--The ring was to blame in allowing itself to be lost at the
very time when I was anxious to convince my noble husband of the reality
of my marriage.
KING.--Receive it back, as the beautiful twining plant receives again
its blossom in token of its reunion with the spring.
SAKOONTALA.--Nay; I can never more place confidence in it. Let my
husband retain it.
MATALI.--I congratulate your Majesty. Happy are you in your reunion with
your wife: happy are you in beholding the face of your son.
KING.--Yes, indeed. My heart's dearest wish has borne sweet fruit. But
tell me, Matali, is this joyful event known to the great Indra?
MATALI [_smiling_].--What is unknown to the gods? But come with me,
noble Prince, the divine Kasyapa graciously permits thee to be presented
KING.--Sakoontala, take our child and lead the way. We will together go
into the presence of the holy Sage.
SAKOONTALA.--I shrink from entering the august presence of the great
Saint, even with my husband at my side.
KING.--Nay; on such a joyous occasion it is highly proper. Come, come; I
entreat thee. [_All advance_.
_Kasyapa is discovered seated on a throne with his wife Aditi_.
KASYAPA [_gazing at Dushyanta. To his wife_].--O Aditi, This is the
mighty hero, King Dushyanta, Protector of the earth; who, at the head Of
the celestial armies of thy son, Does battle with the enemies of heaven.
Thanks to his bow, the thunderbolt of Indra Rests from its work, no more
the minister Of death and desolation to the world, But a mere symbol of
ADITI.--He bears in his noble form all the marks of dignity.
MATALI [_to Dushyanta_].--Sire, the venerable progenitors of the
celestials are gazing at your Majesty with as much affection as if you
were their son. You may advance towards them.
KING.--Are these, O Matali, the holy pair,
Offspring of Daksha and divine Marichi,
Children of Brahma's sons, by sages deemed
Sole fountain of celestial light, diffused
Through twelve effulgent orbs? Are these the pair
From whom the ruler of the triple world,
Sovereign of gods and lord of sacrifice,
Sprang into being? That immortal pair
Whom Vishnu, greater than the self-existent,
Chose for his parents, when, to save mankind,
He took upon himself the shape of mortals?
KING [_prostrating himself_].--Most august of beings, Dushyanta, content
to have fulfilled the commands of your son Indra, offers you his
KASYAPA.--My son, long may'st thou live, and happily may'st thou reign
over the earth!
ADITI.--My son, may'st thou ever be invincible in the field of battle!
SAKOONTALA.--I also prostrate myself before you, most adorable beings,
and my child with me.
Thy lord resembles Indra, and thy child
Is noble as Jayanta, Indra's son;
I have no worthier blessing left for thee,
May'st thou be faithful as the god's own wife!
ADITI.--My daughter, may'st thou be always the object of thy husband's
fondest love; and may thy son live long to be the joy of both his
parents! Be seated.
[_All sit down in the presence of Kasyapa_.
KASYAPA [_regarding each of them by turns_].--Hail to the beautiful
Hail to her noble son! and hail to thee,
Illustrious Prince! Rare triple combination
Of virtue, wealth, and energy united!
KING.--Most venerable Kasyapa, by your favor all my desires were
accomplished even before I was admitted to your presence. Never was
mortal so honored that his boon should be granted ere it was solicited.
Bloom before fruit, the clouds before the rain--
Cause first and then effect, in endless sequence,
Is the unchanging law of constant nature:
But, ere the blessing issued from thy lips,
The wishes of my heart were all fulfilled.
MATALI.--It is thus that the great progenitors of the world confer
KING.--Most reverend Sage, this thy handmaid was married to me by the
Gandharva ceremony, and after a time was conducted to my palace by her
relations. Meanwhile a fatal delusion seized me; I lost my memory and
rejected her, thus committing a grievous offence against the venerable
Kanwa, who is of thy divine race. Afterwards the sight of this ring
restored my faculties, and brought back to my mind all the circumstances
of my union with his daughter. But my conduct still seems to me
As foolish as the fancies of a man
Who, when he sees an elephant, denies
That 'tis an elephant, yet afterwards,
When its huge bulk moves onward, hesitates,
Yet will not be convinced till it has passed
Forever from his sight, and left behind
No vestige of its presence save its footsteps.
KASYAPA.--My son, cease to think thyself in fault. Even the delusion
that possessed thy mind was not brought about by any act of thine.
Listen to me.
KING.--I am attentive.
KASYAPA.--Know that when the nymph Menaka, the mother of Sakoontala,
became aware of her daughter's anguish in consequence of the loss of the
ring at the nymphs' pool, and of thy subsequent rejection of her, she
brought her and confided her to the care of Aditi. And I no sooner saw
her than I ascertained by my divine power of meditation, that thy
repudiation of thy poor faithful wife had been caused entirely by the
curse of Durvasas--not by thine own fault--and that the spell would
terminate on the discovery of the ring.
KING [_drawing a deep breath_].--Oh! what a weight is taken off my mind,
now that my character is cleared of reproach.
SAKOONTALA [_aside_].--Joy! joy! My revered husband did not, then,
reject me without good reason, though I have no recollection of the
curse pronounced upon me. But, in all probability, I unconsciously
brought it upon myself, when I was so distracted on being separated from
my husband soon after our marriage. For I now remember that my two
friends advised me not to fail to show the ring in case he should have
KASYAPA.--At last, my daughter, thou art happy, and hast gained thy
heart's desire. Indulge, then, no feeling of resentment against thy
partner. See, now,
Though he repulsed thee, 'twas the sage's curse
That clouded his remembrance; 'twas the curse
That made thy tender husband harsh towards thee.
Soon as the spell was broken, and his soul
Delivered from its darkness, in a moment
Thou didst gain thine empire o'er his heart.
So on the tarnished surface of a mirror
No image is reflected, till the dust
That dimmed its wonted lustre is removed.
KING.--Holy father, see here the hope of my royal race.
[_Takes his child by the hand_.
KASYAPA.--Know that he, too, will become the monarch of the whole earth.
Soon, a resistless hero, shall he cross
The trackless ocean, borne above the waves
In an aerial car; and shall subdue
The earth's seven sea-girt isles. Now has he gained,
As the brave tamer of the forest-beasts,
The title Sarva-damana; but then
Mankind shall hail him as King Bharata,
And call him the supporter of the world.
KING.--We cannot but entertain the highest hopes of a child for whom
your highness performed the natal rites.
ADITI.--My revered husband, should not the intelligence be conveyed to
Kanwa, that his daughter's wishes are fulfilled, and her happiness
complete? He is Sakoontala's foster-father. Menaka, who is one of my
attendants, is her mother, and dearly does she love her daughter.
SAKOONTALA [_aside_].--The venerable matron has given utterance to the
very wish that was in my mind.
KASYAPA.--His penances have gained for him the faculty of omniscience,
and the whole scene is already present to his mind's eye.
KING.--Then most assuredly he cannot be very angry with me.
KASYAPA.--Nevertheless it becomes us to send him intelligence of this
happy event, and hear his reply. What, ho there!
PUPIL [_entering_].--Holy father, what are your commands?
KASYAPA.--My good Galava, delay not an instant, but hasten through the
air and convey to the venerable Kanwa, from me, the happy news that the
fatal spell has ceased, that Dushyanta's memory is restored, that his
daughter Sakoontala has a son, and that she is once more tenderly
acknowledged by her husband.
PUPIL.--Your highness's commands shall be obeyed. [_Exit._
KASYAPA.--And now, my dear son, take thy consort and thy child,
re-ascend the car of Indra, and return to thy imperial capital.
KING.--Most holy father, I obey.
KASYAPA.--And accept this blessing--
For countless ages may the god of gods,
Lord of the atmosphere, by copious showers
Secure abundant harvest to thy subjects;
And thou by frequent offerings preserve
The Thunderer's friendship! Thus, by interchange
Of kindly actions, may you both confer
Unnumbered benefits on earth and heaven!
KING.--Holy father, I will strive, as far as I am able, to attain this
KASYAPA.--What other favor can I bestow on thee, my son?
KING.--What other can I desire? If, however, you permit me to form
another wish, I would humbly beg that the saying of the sage Bharata be
May kings reign only for their subjects' weal!
May the divine Saraswati, the source
Of speech, and goddess of dramatic art,
Be ever honored by the great and wise!
And may the purple self-existent god,
Whose vital Energy pervades all space,
From future transmigrations save my soul!
 A sacred range of mountains lying along the Himalaya chain
immediately adjacent to Kailasa, the paradise of Kuvera, the god of
 According to the mythical geography of the Hindoos the earth
consisted of seven islands surrounded by seven seas.
BALLADS OF HINDOSTAN
If Toru Dutt were alive, she would still be younger than any recognized
European writer, and yet her fame, which is already considerable, has
been entirely posthumous. Within the brief space of four years which now
divides us from the date of her decease, her genius has been revealed to
the world under many phases, and has been recognized throughout France
and England. Her name, at least, is no longer unfamiliar in the ear of
any well-read man or woman. But at the hour of her death she had
published but one book, and that book had found but two reviewers in
Europe. One of these, M. Andre Theuriet, the well-known poet and
novelist, gave the "Sheaf gleaned in French Fields" adequate praise in
the "Revue des Deux Mondes"; but the other, the writer of the present
notice, has a melancholy satisfaction in having been a little earlier
still in sounding the only note of welcome which reached the dying
poetess from England. It was while Professor W. Minto was editor of the
"Examiner," that one day in August, 1876, in the very heart of the dead
season for books, I happened to be in the office of that newspaper, and
was upbraiding the whole body of publishers for issuing no books worth
reviewing. At that moment the postman brought in a thin and sallow
packet with a wonderful Indian postmark on it, and containing a most
unattractive orange pamphlet of verse, printed at Bhowanipore, and
entitled "A Sheaf gleaned in French Fields, by Toru Dutt." This shabby
little book of some two hundred pages, without preface or introduction,
seemed specially destined by its particular providence to find its way
hastily into the waste-paper basket. I remember that Mr. Minto thrust it
into my unwilling hands, and said "There! see whether you can't make
something of that." A hopeless volume it seemed, with its queer type,
published at Bhowanipore, printed at the Saptahiksambad Press! But when
at last I took it out of my pocket, what was my surprise and almost
rapture to open at such verse as this:--
"Still barred thy doors! The far East glows,
The morning wind blows fresh and free.
Should not the hour that wakes the rose
Awaken also thee?
"All look for thee, Love, Light, and Song,
Light in the sky deep red above,
Song, in the lark of pinions strong,
And in my heart, true Love.
"Apart we miss our nature's goal,
Why strive to cheat our destinies?
Was not my love made for thy soul?
Thy beauty for mine eyes?
No longer sleep,
Oh, listen now!
I wait and weep,
But where art thou?"
When poetry is as good as this it does not much matter whether Rouveyre
prints it upon Whatman paper, or whether it steals to light in blurred
type from some press in Bhowanipore.
Toru Dutt was the youngest of the three children of a high-caste Hindoo
couple in Bengal. Her father, who survives them all, the Baboo Govin
Chunder Dutt, is himself distinguished among his countrymen for the
width of his views and the vigor of his intelligence. His only son,
Abju, died in 1865, at the age of fourteen, and left his two younger
sisters to console their parents. Aru, the elder daughter, born in 1854,
was eighteen months senior to Toru, the subject of this memoir, who was
born in Calcutta on March 4, 1856. With the exception of one year's
visit to Bombay, the childhood of these girls was spent in Calcutta, at
their father's garden-house. In a poem now printed for the first time,
Toru refers to the scene of her earliest memories, the circling
wilderness of foliage, the shining tank with the round leaves of the
lilies, the murmuring dusk under the vast branches of the central
casuarina-tree. Here, in a mystical retirement more irksome to a
European in fancy than to an Oriental in reality, the brain of this
wonderful child was moulded. She was pure Hindoo, full of the typical
qualities of her race and blood, and, as the present volume shows us for
the first time, preserving to the last her appreciation of the poetic
side of her ancient religion, though faith itself in Vishnu and Siva had
been cast aside with childish things and been replaced by a purer faith.
Her mother fed her imagination with the old songs and legends of their
people, stories which it was the last labor of her life to weave into
English verse; but it would seem that the marvellous faculties of Toru's
mind still slumbered, when, in her thirteenth year, her father decided
to take his daughters to Europe to learn English and French. To the end
of her days Toru was a better French than English scholar. She loved
France best, she knew its literature best, she wrote its language with
more perfect elegance. The Dutts arrived in Europe at the close of 1869,
and the girls went to school, for the first and last time, at a French
pension. They did not remain there very many months; their father took
them to Italy and England with him, and finally they attended for a
short time, but with great zeal and application, the lectures for women
at Cambridge. In November, 1873, they went back to Bengal, and the four
remaining years of Toru's life were spent in the old garden-house at
Calcutta, in a feverish dream of intellectual effort and imaginative
production. When we consider what she achieved in these forty-five
months of seclusion, it is impossible to wonder that the frail and
hectic body succumbed under so excessive a strain.
She brought with her from Europe a store of knowledge that would have
sufficed to make an English or French girl seem learned, but which in
her case was simply miraculous. Immediately on her return she began to
study Sanscrit with the same intense application which she gave to all
her work, and mastering the language with extraordinary swiftness, she
plunged into its mysterious literature. But she was born to write, and
despairing of an audience in her own language, she began to adopt ours
as a medium for her thought. Her first essay, published when she was
eighteen, was a monograph, in the "Bengal Magazine," on Leconte de
Lisle, a writer with whom she had a sympathy which is very easy to
comprehend. The austere poet of "La Mort de Valmiki" was, obviously, a
figure to whom the poet of "Sindhu" must needs be attracted on
approaching European literature. This study, which was illustrated by
translations into English verse, was followed by another on Josephin
Soulary, in whom she saw more than her maturer judgment might have
justified. There is something very interesting and now, alas! still more
pathetic in these sturdy and workmanlike essays in unaided criticism.
Still more solitary her work became, in July, 1874, when her only
sister, Aru, died, at the age of twenty. She seems to have been no less
amiable than her sister, and if gifted with less originality and a less
forcible ambition, to have been finely accomplished. Both sisters were
well-trained musicians, with full contralto voices, and Aru had a
faculty for design which promised well. The romance of "Mlle. D'Arvers"
was originally projected for Aru to illustrate, but no page of this book
did Aru ever see.
In 1876, as we have said, appeared that obscure first volume at
Bhowanipore. The "Sheaf gleaned in French Fields" is certainly the most
imperfect of Toru's writings, but it is not the least interesting. It is
a wonderful mixture of strength and weakness, of genius overriding great
obstacles, and of talent succumbing to ignorance and inexperience. That
it should have been performed at all is so extraordinary that we forget
to be surprised at its inequality. The English verse is sometimes
exquisite; at other times the rules of our prosody are absolutely
ignored, and it is obvious that the Hindoo poetess was chanting to
herself a music that is discord in an English ear. The notes are no less
curious, and to a stranger no less bewildering. Nothing could be more
naive than the writer's ignorance at some points, or more startling than
her learning at others. On the whole, the attainment of the book was
simply astounding. It consisted of a selection of translations from
nearly one hundred French poets, chosen by the poetess herself on a
principle of her own which gradually dawned upon the careful reader. She
eschewed the Classicist writers as though they had never existed. For
her Andre Chenier was the next name in chronological order after Du
Bartas. Occasionally she showed a profundity of research that would have
done no discredit to Mr. Saintsbury or "le doux Assellineau." She was
ready to pronounce an opinion on Napol le Pyrenean or detect a
plagiarism in Baudelaire. But she thought that Alexander Smith was still
alive, and she was curiously vague about the career of Sainte-Beuve.
This inequality of equipment was a thing inevitable to her isolation,
and hardly worthy recording, except to show how laborious her mind was,
and how quick to make the best of small resources.
We have already seen that the "Sheaf gleaned in French Fields" attracted
the very minimum of attention in England. In France it was talked about
a little more. M. Garcin de Tassy, the famous Orientalist, who scarcely
survived Toru by twelve months, spoke of it to Mlle. Clarisse Bader,
author of a somewhat remarkable book on the position of women in ancient
Indian society. Almost simultaneously this volume fell into the hands of
Toru, and she was moved to translate it into English, for the use of
Hindoos less instructed than herself. In January, 1877, she accordingly
wrote to Mlle. Bader requesting her authorization, and received a prompt
and kind reply. On the 18th of March Toru wrote again to this, her
solitary correspondent in the world of European literature, and her
letter, which has been preserved, shows that she had already descended
into the valley of the shadow of death:--
"Ma constitution n'est pas forte; j'ai contracte une toux
opiniatre, il y a plus de deux ans, qui ne me quitte point.
Cependant j'espere mettre la main a l'oeuvre bientot. Je ne peux
dire, mademoiselle, combien votre affection--car vous les aimez,
votre livre et votre lettre en temoignent assez--pour mes
compatriotes et mon pays me touche; et je suis fiere de pouvoir le
dire que les heroines de nos grandes epopees sont dignes de tout
honneur et de tout amour. Y a-t-il d'heroine plus touchante, plus
aimable que Sita? Je ne le crois pas. _Quand j'entends ma mere
chanter, le soir, les vieux chants de notre pays, je pleure presque
toujours_. La plainte de Sita, quand, bannie pour la seconde fois,
elle erre dans la vaste foret, seule, le desespoir et l'effroi dans
l'ame, est si pathetique qu'il n'y a personne, je crois, qui puisse
l'entendre sans verser des larmes. Je vous envois sous ce pli deux
petites traductions du Sanscrit, cette belle langue antique.
Malheureusement j'ai ete obligee de faire cesser mes traductions de
Sanscrit, il y a six mois. Ma sante ne me permet pas de les
These simple and pathetic words, in which the dying poetess pours out
her heart to the one friend she had, and that one gained too late, seem
as touching and as beautiful as any strain of Marceline Valmore's
immortal verse. In English poetry I do not remember anything that
exactly parallels their resigned melancholy. Before the month of March
was over, Toru had taken to her bed. Unable to write, she continued to
read, strewing her sick-room with the latest European books, and
entering with interest into the questions raised by the Societe
Asiatique of Paris, in its printed Transactions. On the 30th of July she
wrote her last letter to Mlle. Clarisse Bader, and a month later, on
August 30, 1877, at the age of twenty-one years six months and
twenty-six days, she breathed her last in her father's house in
Maniktollah street, Calcutta.
In the first distraction of grief it seemed as though her unequalled
promise had been entirely blighted, and as though she would be
remembered only by her single book. But as her father examined her
papers, one completed work after another revealed itself. First a
selection from the sonnets of the Comte de Grammont, translated into
English, turned up, and was printed in a Calcutta magazine; then some
fragments of an English story, which were printed in another Calcutta
magazine. Much more important, however, than any of these was a complete
romance, written in French, being the identical story for which her
sister Aru had proposed to make the illustrations. In the meantime Toru
was no sooner dead than she began to be famous. In May, 1878, there
appeared a second edition of the "Sheaf gleaned in French Fields," with
a touching sketch of her death, by her father; and in 1879 was
published, under the editorial care of Mlle. Clarisse Bader, the romance
of "Le Journal de Mlle. D'Arvers," forming a handsome volume of 259
pages. This book, begun, as it appears, before the family returned from
Europe, and finished nobody knows when, is an attempt to describe scenes
from modern French society, but it is less interesting as an experiment
of the fancy, than as a revelation of the mind of a young Hindoo woman
of genius. The story is simple, clearly told, and interesting; the
studies of character have nothing French about them, but they are full
of vigor and originality. The description of the hero is most
"Il est beau en effet. Sa taille est haute, mais quelques-uns la
trouveraient mince; sa chevelure noire est bouclee et tombe jusqu'a
la nuque; ses yeux noirs sont profonds et bien fendus; le front est
noble; la levre superieure, couverte par une moustache naissante et
noire, est parfaitement modelee; son menton a quelque chose de
severe; son teint est d'un blanc presque feminin, ce qui denote sa
In this description we seem to recognize some Surya or Soma of Hindoo
mythology, and the final touch, meaningless as applied to a European,
reminds us that in India whiteness of skin has always been a sign of
aristocratic birth, from the days when it originally distinguished the
conquering Aryas from the indigenous race of the Dasyous.
As a literary composition "Mlle. D'Arvers" deserves high commendation.
It deals with the ungovernable passion of two brothers for one placid
and beautiful girl, a passion which leads to fratricide and madness.
That it is a very melancholy and tragical story is obvious from this
brief sketch of its contents, but it is remarkable for coherence and
self-restraint no less than for vigor of treatment. Toru Dutt never
sinks to melodrama in the course of her extraordinary tale, and the
wonder is that she is not more often fantastic and unreal.
But we believe that the original English poems will be ultimately found
to constitute Toru's chief legacy to posterity. These ballads form the
last and most matured of her writings, and were left so far fragmentary
at her death that the fourth and fifth in her projected series of nine
were not to be discovered in any form among her papers. It is probable
that she had not even commenced them. Her father, therefore, to give a
certain continuity to the series, has filled up these blanks with two
stories from the "Vishnupurana," which originally appeared respectively
in the "Calcutta Review" and in the "Bengal Magazine." These are
interesting, but a little rude in form, and they have not the same
peculiar value as the rhymed octo-syllabic ballads. In these last we see
Toru no longer attempting vainly, though heroically, to compete with
European literature on its own ground, but turning to the legends of her
own race and country for inspiration. No modern Oriental has given us so
strange an insight into the conscience of the Asiatic as is presented in
the story of "Prehiad," or so quaint a piece of religious fancy as the
ballad of "Jogadhya Uma." The poetess seems in these verses to be
chanting to herself those songs of her mother's race to which she always
turned with tears of pleasure. They breathe a Vedic solemnity and
simplicity of temper, and are singularly devoid of that littleness and
frivolity which seem, if we may judge by a slight experience, to be the
bane of modern India.
As to the merely technical character of these poems, it may be suggested
that in spite of much in them that is rough and inchoate, they show that
Toru was advancing in her mastery of English verse. Such a stanza as
this, selected out of many no less skilful, could hardly be recognized
as the work of one by whom the language was a late acquirement:--
"What glorious trees! The sombre saul,
On which the eye delights to rest--
The betel-nut, a pillar tall,
With feathery branches for a crest--
The light-leaved tamarind spreading wide--
The pale faint-scented bitter neem,
The seemul, gorgeous as a bride,
With flowers that have the ruby's gleam."
In other passages, of course, the text reads like a translation from
some stirring ballad, and we feel that it gives but a faint and
discordant echo of the music welling in Toru's brain. For it must
frankly be confessed that in the brief May-day of her existence she had
not time to master our language as Blanco White did, or as Chamisso
mastered German. To the end of her days, fluent and graceful as she was,
she was not entirely conversant with English, especially with the
colloquial turns of modern speech. Often a very fine thought is spoiled
for hypercritical ears by the queer turn of expression which she has
innocently given to it. These faults are found to a much smaller degree
in her miscellaneous poems. Her sonnets seem to me to be of great
beauty, and her longer piece, entitled "Our Casuarina Tree," needs no
apology for its rich and mellifluous numbers.
It is difficult to exaggerate when we try to estimate what we have lost
in the premature death of Toru Dutt. Literature has no honors which need
have been beyond the grasp of a girl who at the age of twenty-one, and
in languages separated from her own by so deep a chasm, had produced so
much of lasting worth. And her courage and fortitude were worthy of her
intelligence. Among "last words" of celebrated people, that which her
father has recorded, "It is only the physical pain that makes me cry,"
is not the least remarkable, or the least significant of strong
character. It was to a native of our island, and to one ten years senior
to Toru, to whom it was said, in words more appropriate, surely, to her
than to Oldham,
"Thy generous fruits, though gathered ere their prime,
Still showed a quickness, and maturing time
But mellows what we write to the dull sweets of Rime."
That mellow sweetness was all that Toru lacked to perfect her as an
English poet, and of no other Oriental who has ever lived can the same
be said. When the history of the literature of our country comes to be
written, there is sure to be a page in it dedicated to this fragile
exotic blossom of song.
EDMUND W. GOSSE.
BALLADS OF HINDOSTAN
"Shell-bracelets ho! Shell-bracelets ho!
Fair maids and matrons come and buy!"
Along the road, in morning's glow,
The pedler raised his wonted cry.
The road ran straight, a red, red line,
To Khirogram, for cream renowned,
Through pasture-meadows where the kine,
In knee-deep grass, stood magic bound
And half awake, involved in mist,
That floated in dun coils profound,
Till by the sudden sunbeams kissed
Rich rainbow hues broke all around.
"Shell-bracelets ho! Shell-bracelets ho!"
The roadside trees still dripped with dew,
And hung their blossoms like a show.
Who heard the cry? 'Twas but a few,
A ragged herd-boy, here and there,
With his long stick and naked feet;
A ploughman wending to his care,
The field from which he hopes the wheat;
An early traveller, hurrying fast
To the next town; an urchin slow
Bound for the school; these heard and passed,
Unheeding all--"Shell-bracelets ho!"
Pellucid spread a lake-like tank
Beside the road now lonelier still,
High on three sides arose the bank
Which fruit-trees shadowed at their will;
Upon the fourth side was the Ghat,
With its broad stairs of marble white,
And at the entrance-arch there sat,
Full face against the morning light,
A fair young woman with large eyes,
And dark hair falling to her zone,
She heard the pedler's cry arise,
And eager seemed his ware to own.
"Shell-bracelets ho! See, maiden see!
The rich enamel sunbeam kissed!
Happy, oh happy, shalt thou be,
Let them but clasp that slender wrist;
These bracelets are a mighty charm,
They keep a lover ever true,
And widowhood avert, and harm,
Buy them, and thou shalt never rue.
Just try them on!"--She stretched her hand,
"Oh what a nice and lovely fit!
No fairer hand, in all the land,
And lo! the bracelet matches it."
Dazzled the pedler on her gazed
Till came the shadow of a fear,
While she the bracelet arm upraised
Against the sun to view more clear.
Oh she was lovely, but her look
Had something of a high command
That filled with awe. Aside she shook
Intruding curls by breezes fanned
And blown across her brows and face,
And asked the price, which when she heard
She nodded, and with quiet grace
For payment to her home referred.
"And where, O maiden, is thy house?
But no, that wrist-ring has a tongue,
No maiden art thou, but a spouse,
Happy, and rich, and fair, and young."
"Far otherwise, my lord is poor,
And him at home thou shalt not find;
Ask for my father; at the door
Knock loudly; he is deaf, but kind.
Seest thou that lofty gilded spire
Above these tufts of foliage green?
That is our place; its point of fire
Will guide thee o'er the tract between."
"That is the temple spire."--"Yes, there
We live; my father is the priest,
The manse is near, a building fair
But lowly, to the temple's east.
When thou hast knocked, and seen him, say,
His daughter, at Dhamaser Ghat,
Shell-bracelets bought from thee to-day,
And he must pay so much for that.
Be sure, he will not let thee pass
Without the value, and a meal.
If he demur, or cry alas!
No money hath he--then reveal,
Within the small box, marked with streaks
Of bright vermilion, by the shrine,
The key whereof has lain for weeks
Untouched, he'll find some coin--'tis mine.
That will enable him to pay
The bracelet's price, now fare thee well!"
She spoke, the pedler went away,
Charmed with her voice, as by some spell;
While she left lonely there, prepared
To plunge into the water pure,
And like a rose her beauty bared,
From all observance quite secure.
Not weak she seemed, nor delicate,
Strong was each limb of flexile grace,
And full the bust; the mien elate,
Like hers, the goddess of the chase
On Latmos hill--and oh, the face
Framed in its cloud of floating hair,
No painter's hand might hope to trace
The beauty and the glory there!
Well might the pedler look with awe,
For though her eyes were soft, a ray
Lit them at times, which kings who saw
Would never dare to disobey.
Onwards through groves the pedler sped
Till full in front the sunlit spire
Arose before him. Paths which led
To gardens trim in gay attire
Lay all around. And lo! the manse,
Humble but neat with open door!
He paused, and blest the lucky chance
That brought his bark to such a shore.
Huge straw ricks, log huts full of grain,
Sleek cattle, flowers, a tinkling bell,
Spoke in a language sweet and plain,
"Here smiling Peace and Plenty dwell."
Unconsciously he raised his cry,
"Shell-bracelets ho!" And at his voice
Looked out the priest, with eager eye,
And made his heart at once rejoice.
"Ho, _Sankha_ pedler! Pass not by,
But step thou in, and share the food
Just offered on our altar high,
If thou art in a hungry mood.
Welcome are all to this repast!
The rich and poor, the high and low!
Come, wash thy feet, and break thy fast,
Then on thy journey strengthened go."
"Oh thanks, good priest! Observance due
And greetings! May thy name be blest!
I came on business, but I knew,
Here might be had both food and rest
Without a charge; for all the poor
Ten miles around thy sacred shrine
Know that thou keepest open door,
And praise that generous hand of thine:
But let my errand first be told,
For bracelets sold to thine this day,
So much thou owest me in gold,
Hast thou the ready cash to pay?
The bracelets were enamelled--so
The price is high."--"How! Sold to mine?
Who bought them, I should like to know."
"Thy daughter, with the large black eyne,
Now bathing at the marble ghat."
Loud laughed the priest at this reply,
"I shall not put up, friend, with that;
No daughter in the world have I,
An only son is all my stay;
Some minx has played a trick, no doubt,
But cheer up, let thy heart be gay.
Be sure that I shall find her out."
"Nay, nay, good father, such a face
Could not deceive, I must aver;
At all events, she knows thy place,
'And if my father should demur
To pay thee'--thus she said--'or cry
He has no money, tell him straight
The box vermilion-streaked to try,
That's near the shrine,'" "Well, wait, friend, wait!"
The priest said thoughtful, and he ran
And with the open box came back,
"Here is the price exact, my man,
No surplus over, and no lack.
How strange! how strange! Oh blest art thou
To have beheld her, touched her hand,
Before whom Vishnu's self must bow,
And Brahma and his heavenly band!
Here have I worshipped her for years
And never seen the vision bright;
Vigils and fasts and secret tears
Have almost quenched my outward sight;
And yet that dazzling form and face
I have not seen, and thou, dear friend,
To thee, unsought for, comes the grace,
What may its purport be, and end?
How strange! How strange! Oh happy thou!
And couldst thou ask no other boon
Than thy poor bracelet's price? That brow
Resplendent as the autumn moon
Must have bewildered thee, I trow,
And made thee lose thy senses all."
A dim light on the pedler now
Began to dawn; and he let fall
His bracelet basket in his haste,
And backward ran the way he came;
What meant the vision fair and chaste,
Whose eyes were they--those eyes of flame?
Swift ran the pedler as a hind,
The old priest followed on his trace,
They reached the Ghat but could not find
The lady of the noble face.
The birds were silent in the wood,
The lotus flowers exhaled a smell
Faint, over all the solitude,
A heron as a sentinel
Stood by the bank. They called--in vain,
No answer came from hill or fell,
The landscape lay in slumber's chain,
E'en Echo slept within her cell.
Broad sunshine, yet a hush profound!
They turned with saddened hearts to go;
Then from afar there came a sound
Of silver bells;--the priest said low,
"O Mother, Mother, deign to hear,
The worship-hour has rung; we wait
In meek humility and fear.
Must we return home desolate?
Oh come, as late thou cam'st unsought,
Or was it but an idle dream?
Give us some sign if it was not,
A word, a breath, or passing gleam."
Sudden from out the water sprung
A rounded arm, on which they saw
As high the lotus buds among
It rose, the bracelet white, with awe.
Then a wide ripple tost and swung
The blossoms on that liquid plain,
And lo! the arm so fair and young
Sank in the waters down again.
They bowed before the mystic Power,
And as they home returned in thought,
Each took from thence a lotus flower
In memory of the day and spot.
Years, centuries, have passed away,
And still before the temple shrine
Descendants of the pedler pay
Shell-bracelets of the old design
As annual tribute. Much they own
In lands and gold--but they confess
From that eventful day alone
Dawned on their industry--success.
Absurd may be the tale I tell,
Ill-suited to the marching times,
I loved the lips from which it fell,
So let it stand among my rhymes.
"Ho! Master of the wondrous art!
Instruct me in fair archery,
And buy for aye--a grateful heart
That will not grudge to give thy fee."
Thus spoke a lad with kindling eyes,
A hunter's lowborn son was he--
To Dronacharjya, great and wise,
Who sat with princes round his knee.
Up Time's fair stream far back--oh far,
The great wise teacher must be sought!
The Kurus had not yet in war
With the Pandava brethren fought.
In peace, at Dronacharjya's feet,
Magic and archery they learned,
A complex science, which we meet
No more, with ages past inurned.
"And who art thou," the teacher said,
"My science brave to learn so fain?
Which many kings who wear the thread
Have asked to learn of me in vain."
"My name is Buttoo," said the youth,
"A hunter's son, I know not Fear;"
The teacher answered, smiling smooth,
"Then know him from this time, my dear."
Unseen the magic arrow came,
Amidst the laughter and the scorn
Of royal youths--like lightning flame
Sudden and sharp. They blew the horn,
As down upon the ground he fell,
Not hurt, but made a jest and game;--
He rose--and waved a proud farewell,
But cheek and brow grew red with shame.
And lo--a single, single tear
Dropped from his eyelash as he past,
"My place I gather is not here;
No matter--what is rank or caste?
In us is honor, or disgrace,
Not out of us," 'twas thus he mused,
"The question is--not wealth or place,
But gifts well used, or gifts abused."
"And I shall do my best to gain
The science that man will not teach,
For life is as a shadow vain,
Until the utmost goal we reach
To which the soul points. I shall try
To realize my waking dream,
And what if I should chance to die?
None miss one bubble from a stream."
So thinking, on and on he went,
Till he attained the forest's verge,
The garish day was well-nigh spent,
Birds had already raised its dirge.
Oh what a scene! How sweet and calm!
It soothed at once his wounded pride,
And on his spirit shed a balm
That all its yearnings purified.
What glorious trees! The sombre saul
On which the eye delights to rest,
The betel-nut--a pillar tall,
With feathery branches for a crest,
The light-leaved tamarind spreading wide,
The pale faint-scented bitter neem,
The seemul, gorgeous as a bride,
With flowers that have the ruby's gleam,
The Indian fig's pavilion tent
In which whole armies might repose,
With here and there a little rent,
The sunset's beauty to disclose,
The bamboo boughs that sway and swing
'Neath bulbuls as the south wind blows,
The mango-tope, a close dark ring,
Home of the rooks and clamorous crows,
The champac, bok, and South-sea pine,
The nagessur with pendant flowers
Like ear-rings--and the forest vine
That clinging over all, embowers,
The sirish famed in Sanscrit song
Which rural maidens love to wear,
The peepul giant-like and strong,
The bramble with its matted hair,
All these, and thousands, thousands more,
With helmet red, or golden crown,
Or green tiara, rose before
The youth in evening's shadows brown.
He passed into the forest--there
New sights of wonder met his view,
A waving Pampas green and fair
All glistening with the evening dew.
How vivid was the breast-high grass!
Here waved in patches, forest corn--
Here intervened a deep morass--
Here arid spots of verdure shorn
Lay open--rock or barren sand--
And here again the trees arose
Thick clustering--a glorious band
Their tops still bright with sunset glows.--
Stirred in the breeze the crowding boughs,
And seemed to welcome him with signs,
Onwards and on--till Buttoo's brows
Are gemmed with pearls, and day declines.
Then in a grassy open space
He sits and leans against a tree,
To let the wind blow on his face
And look around him leisurely.
Herds, and still herds, of timid deer
Were feeding in the solitude,
They knew not man, and felt no fear,
And heeded not his neighborhood,
Some young ones with large eyes and sweet
Came close, and rubbed their foreheads smooth
Against his arms, and licked his feet,
As if they wished his cares to soothe.
"They touch me," he exclaimed with joy,
"They have no pride of caste like men,
They shrink not from the hunter-boy,
Should not my home be with them then?
Here in this forest let me dwell,
With these companions innocent,
And learn each science and each spell
All by myself in banishment.
A calm, calm life, and it shall be
Its own exceeding great reward!
No thoughts to vex in all I see,
No jeers to bear or disregard;--
All creatures and inanimate things
Shall be my tutors; I shall learn
From beast, and fish, and bird with wings,
And rock, and stream, and tree, and fern.
With this resolve, he soon began
To build a hut, of reeds and leaves,
And when that needful work was done
He gathered in his store, the sheaves
Of forest corn, and all the fruit,
Date, plum, guava, he could find,
And every pleasant nut and root
By Providence for man designed,
A statue next of earth he made,
An image of the teacher wise,
So deft he laid, the light and shade,
On figure, forehead, face and eyes,
That any one who chanced to view
That image tall might soothly swear,
If he great Dronacharjya knew,
The teacher in his flesh was there.
Then at the statue's feet he placed
A bow, and arrows tipped with steel,
With wild-flower garlands interlaced,
And hailed the figure in his zeal
As Master, and his head he bowed,
A pupil reverent from that hour
Of one who late had disallowed
The claim, in pride of place and power.
By strained sense, by constant prayer,
By steadfastness of heart and will,
By courage to confront and dare,
All obstacles he conquered still;
A conscience clear--a ready hand,
Joined to a meek humility,
Success must everywhere command,
How could he fail who had all three!
And now, by tests assured, he knows
His own God-gifted wondrous might,
Nothing to any man he owes,
Unaided he has won the fight;
Equal to gods themselves--above
Wishmo and Drona--for his worth
His name, he feels, shall be with love
Reckoned with great names of the earth.
Yet lacks he not, in reverence
To Dronacharjya, who declined
To teach him--nay, with e'en offence
That well might wound a noble mind,
Drove him away;--for in his heart
Meek, placable, and ever kind,
Resentment had not any part,
And Malice never was enshrined.
One evening, on his work intent,
Alone he practised Archery,
When lo! the bow proved false and sent
The arrow from its mark awry;
Again he tried--and failed again;
Why was it? Hark!--A wild dog's bark!
An evil omen:--it was plain
Some evil on his path hung dark!
Thus many times he tried and failed,
And still that lean, persistent dog
At distance, like some spirit wailed,
Safe in the cover of a fog.
His nerves unstrung, with many a shout
He strove to frighten it away,
It would not go--but roamed about,
Howling, as wolves howl for their prey.
Worried and almost in a rage,
One magic shaft at last he sent,
A sample of his science sage,
To quiet but the noises meant.
Unerring to its goal it flew,
No death ensued, no blood was dropped;
But by the hush the young man knew
At last that howling noise had stopped.
It happened on this very day
That the Pandava princes came
With all the Kuru princes gay
To beat the woods and hunt the game.
Parted from others in the chase,
Arjuna brave the wild dog found--
Stuck still the shaft--but not a trace
Of hurt, though tongue and lip were bound.
"Wonder of wonders! Didst not thou
O Dronacharjya, promise me
Thy crown in time should deck my brow
And I be first in archery?
Lo! here, some other thou hast taught
A magic spell--to all unknown;
Who has in secret from thee bought
The knowledge, in this arrow shown!"
Indignant thus Arjuna spake
To his great Master when they met--
"My word, my honor, is at stake,
Judge not, Arjuna, judge not yet.
Come, let us see the dog "--and straight
They followed up the creature's trace.
They found it, in the self-same state,
Dumb, yet unhurt--near Buttoo's place.
A hut--_a_ statue--and a youth
In the dim forest--what mean these?
They gazed in wonder, for in sooth
The thing seemed full of mysteries.
"Now who art thou that dar'st to raise
Mine image in the wilderness?
Is it for worship and for praise?
What is thine object? speak, confess,"
"Oh Master, unto thee I came
To learn thy science. Name or pelf
I had not, so was driven with shame,
And here I learn all by myself.
But still as Master thee revere,
For who so great in archery!
Lo, all my inspiration here,
And all my knowledge is from thee."
"If I am Master, now thou hast
Finished thy course, give me my due.
Let all the past, be dead and past,
Henceforth be ties between us new."
"All that I have, O Master mine,
All I shall conquer by my skill,
Gladly shall I to thee resign,
Let me but know thy gracious will,"
"Is it a promise?" "Yea, I swear
So long as I have breath and life
To give thee all thou wilt," "Beware!
Rash promise ever ends in strife."
"Thou art my Master--ask! oh ask!
From thee my inspiration came,
Thou canst not set too hard a task,
Nor aught refuse I, free from blame."
"If it be so--Arjuna hear!"
Arjuna and the youth were dumb,
"For thy sake, loud I ask and clear,
Give me, O youth, thy right-hand thumb.
I promised in my faithfulness
No equal ever shall there be
To thee, Arjuna--and I press
For this sad recompense--for thee."