Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

Sakoontala or The Lost Ring by Kalidasa

Part 1 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.5 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Produced by Charles Aldarondo, Keren Vergon, jayam and PG Distributed






M.A., D.C.L., LL.D., PH.D.


The fact that the following translation (first published in 1855) of
India's most celebrated drama has gone through seven editions, might
reasonably have absolved me from the duty of revising it.

Three years ago, however, I heard that Sir John Lubbock had thought
'[S']akoontala' worthy of a place among the hundred best books of the
world, and had adopted my version of the original. I therefore
undertook to go through every line and once again compare the
translation with the Sanskrit, in the hope that I might be able to
give a few finishing touches to a performance which, although it had
been before the public for about forty years, was certainly not
perfect. The act of revision was a labour of love, and I can honestly
say that I did my best to make my representation of Kalidasa's
immortal work as true and trustworthy as possible.

Another edition is now called for, but after a severely critical
examination of every word, I have only detected a few minor
unimportant points--and those only in the Introduction and Notes--in
which any alteration appeared to be desirable. Indeed it is probable
that the possessors of previous editions will scarcely perceive that
any alterations have been made anywhere.

Occasionally in the process of comparison a misgiving has troubled me,
and I have felt inclined to accuse myself of having taken, in some
cases, too great liberties with the Sanskrit original. But in the end
I have acquiesced in my first and still abiding conviction that a
literal translation (such as that which I have given in the notes of
my edition of the Sanskrit text) might have commended itself to
Oriental students, but would not have given a true idea of the beauty
of India's most cherished drama to general readers, whose minds are
cast in a European mould, and who require a translator to clothe
Oriental ideas, as far as practicable, in a dress conformable to
European canons of taste.

And most assuredly such a translation would never have adapted itself
to actual representation on a modern stage as readily as it now
appears that my free version has done. It has gratified me exceedingly
to find that youthful English-speaking Indians--cultured young men
educated at the Universities of Calcutta, Madras and Bombay--have acted
the [S']akoontala, in the very words of my translation with the greatest
success before appreciative audiences in various parts of India.

And lest any one in this country should be sceptical as to the
possibility of interesting a modern audience in a play written
possibly as early as the third or fourth century of our era (see p.
xvi), I here append an extract from a letter received by me in 1893
from Mr. V. Padmanabha Aiyar, B.A., resident at Karamanai, Trivandrum,


_'May 1, 1893_.

'The members of the "Karamanai Young Men's Mutual Improvement Society"
acted your translation of "[S']akoontala" on the 3rd and 5th of
September last year, in the Government Museum Theatre, Trivandrum.

'It was acted in two parts. On the first day Acts I to IV were acted,
and on the second the remaining three Acts.

'All our chief native officials and many Europeans and their ladies
honoured the occasion with their presence. We acted it a second time
at the special request of H.H. the Second Prince of Travancore, in the
Palace of His Highness' mother, the Junior Ranee.

'The public were kind enough to pronounce it a success. In many cases
the applause given was not so much for the acting as for the beauty of
your translation. The Hindus have a great liking for this play, and
not one of the enlightened Hindu community will fail to acknowledge
your translation to be a very perfect one. Our object in acting Hindu
plays is to bring home to the Hindus the good lessons that our ancient
authors are able to teach us. If there is one lesson in these days
more than another which familiarity with the fountains of Western
literature constantly forces upon the mind, it is that our age is
turning its back on time-honoured creeds and dogmas. We are hurrying
forward to a chaos in which all our existing beliefs, nay even the
fundamental axioms of morality, may in the end be submerged; and as
the general tenor of Indian thought among the educated community is to
reject everything that is old, and equally blindly to absorb
everything new, it becomes more and more an urgent question whether
any great intellectual or moral revolution, which has no foundations
in the past, can produce lasting benefits to the people.

'"I desire no future that will break the ties of the past" is what
George Eliot has said, and so it is highly necessary that the Hindus
should know something of their former greatness.

'The songs in [S']akoontala, one in the Prologue and another in the
beginning of the fifth Act, very easily adapted themselves to Hindu

Towards the end of his letter Mr. Aiyar intimated that he himself took
the part of Ma[T.]Havya. He also mentioned that a few modifications and
additions were introduced into some of the scenes.

In a subsequent letter received from Mr. Keshava Aiyar, the Secretary
of the Society, I was informed that my version of the Play was acted
again at Trivandrum in 1894.

These descriptions of the successful representation of the [S']akoontala
in Travancore justified me in expressing a hope that, as Kalidasa has
been called the Shakespeare of India, so the most renowned of his
three dramatic works might, with a few manifestly necessary
modifications, be some day represented, with equal success, before
English-speaking audiences in other parts of the world and especially
here in England. This hope has been realized, and quite recently my
translation has been successfully acted by amateur actors before a
London audience.

I venture, therefore, to add the expression of a further hope that
with the daily growth of interest in Oriental literature, and now that
the [S']akoontala forms one of Sir John Lubbock's literary series, it
may be more extensively read by the Rulers of India in all parts of
the Empire. Those who study it attentively cannot fail to become
better acquainted with the customs and habits of thought, past and
present, of the people committed to their sway.

And it cannot be too often repeated that our duty towards our great
Dependency requires us to do something more than merely rule justly.
We may impart high education, we may make good laws, we may administer
impartial justice, we may make roads, lay down railroads and
telegraphs, stimulate trade, accomplish amazing engineering
feats--like that lately achieved at Periyar--increase the wealth and
develop the resources of our vast Eastern territories; but unless we
seek to understand the inhabitants, unless we think it worth while to
study their ancient literatures, their religious ideas, and
time-honoured institutions, unless we find in them something to admire
and respect, we can never expect any reciprocity of esteem and respect
on their part--we can never look forward to a time when the present
partition-wall, which obstructs the free Interchange of social
relations between European and Asiatic races, will be entirely



About a century has elapsed since the great English Orientalist, Sir
William Jones, astonished the learned world by the discovery of a
Sanskrit Dramatic Literature. He has himself given us the history of
this discovery. It appears that, on his arrival in Bengal, he was very
solicitous to procure access to certain books called Nataks, of which
he had read in one of the 'Lettres Edifiantes et Curieuses' written by
the Jesuit Missionaries of China. But, although he sought information
by consulting both Brahmans and Europeans, he was wholly unable for
some time to satisfy his curiosity as to the nature of these books. It
was reported to him that they were not histories, as he had hoped, but
that they abounded with fables, and consisted of conversations in
prose and verse held before ancient Rajas, in their public assemblies.
Others, again, asserted that they were discourses on dancing, music,
and poetry. At length, a sensible Brahman, conversant with European
manners, removed all his doubts, and gave him no less delight than
surprise, by telling him that the English nation had compositions of
the same sort, which were publicly represented at Calcutta in the cold
season, and bore the name of 'plays.' The same Brahman, when asked
which of these Nataks was most universally esteemed, answered without
hesitation, '[S']akoontala.'

It may readily be imagined with what interest, the keen Orientalist
received this communication; with what rapidity he followed up the
clue; and, when at length his zeal was rewarded by actual possession
of a MS. copy of one of these dramas, with what avidity he proceeded
to explore the treasures which for eighteen hundred years had remained
as unknown to the European world as the gold-fields of Australia.

The earliest Sanskrit drama with which we are acquainted, the
'Clay-cart,' translated by my predecessor in the Boden Chair at
Oxford, Professor H.H. Wilson, is attributed to a regal author, King
[S']udraka, the date of whose reign cannot be fixed with any certainty,
though some have assigned it to the first or second century B.C.
Considering that the nations of Europe can scarcely be said to have
possessed a dramatic literature before the fourteenth or fifteenth
century of the present era, the great age of the Hindu plays would of
itself be a most interesting and attractive circumstance, even if
their poetical merit were not of a very high order. But when to the
antiquity of these productions is added their extreme beauty and
excellence as literary compositions, and when we also take into
account their value as representations of the early condition of Hindu
society--which, notwithstanding the lapse of two thousand years, has
in many particulars obeyed the law of unchangeableness ever stamped on
the manners and customs of the East--we are led to wonder that the
study of the Indian drama has not commended itself in a greater degree
to the attention of Europeans, and especially of Englishmen. The
English student, at least, is bound by considerations of duty, as well
as curiosity, to make himself acquainted with a subject which
elucidates and explains the condition of the millions of Hindus who
owe allegiance to his own Sovereign, and are governed by English laws.

Of all the Indian dramatists, indeed of all Indian poets, the most
celebrated is Kalidasa, the writer of the present play. The late
Professor Lassen thought it probable that he flourished about the
middle of the third century after Christ. Professor Kielhorn of
Goettingen has proved that the composer of the Mandasor Inscription
(A.D. 472) knew Kalidasa's Ritusamhara. Hence it may be inferred that
Lassen was not far wrong[1]. Possibly some King named Vikramaditya
received Kalidasa at his Court, and honoured him by his patronage
about that time. Little, however, is known of the circumstances of his
life. There is certainly no satisfactory evidence to be adduced in
support of the tradition current in India that he lived in the time
of the _great_ King Vikramaditya I., whose capital was Ujjayini, now

From the absence of historical literature in India, our knowledge of
the state of Hindustan between the incursion of Alexander and the
Muhammadan conquest is very slight. But it is ascertained with
tolerable accuracy that, after the invasion of the kingdoms of Bactria
and Afghanistan, the Tartars or Scythians (called by the Hindus
'[S']akas') overran the north-western provinces of India, and retained
possession of them. The great Vikramaditya or Vikramarka succeeded in
driving back the barbaric hordes beyond the Indus, and so consolidated
his empire that it extended over the whole of Northern Hindustan. His
name is even now cherished among the Hindus with pride and affection.
His victory over the Scythians is believed to have taken place about
B.C. 57. At any rate this is the starting-point of the Vikrama (also
called the Malava and in later times the Samvat) era, one of the
epochs from which the Hindus still continue to count. There is good
authority for affirming that the reign of this Vikramarka or
Vikramaditya was equal in brilliancy to that of any monarch in any
age. He was a liberal patron of science and literature, and gave
splendid encouragement to poets, philologists, astronomers, and
mathematicians. Nine illustrious men of genius are said to have
adorned his Court, and to have been supported by his bounty. They were
called the 'Nine Gems'; and a not unnatural tradition, which, however,
must be considered untrustworthy, included Kalidasa among the Nine.

To Kalidasa (as to another celebrated Indian Dramatist, Bhavabhuti,
who probably flourished in the eighth century) only three plays are
attributed; and of these the '[S']akoontala' (here translated) has
acquired the greatest celebrity [2].

Indeed, the popularity of this play with the natives of India exceeds
that of any other dramatic, and probably of any other poetical
composition [3]. But it is not in India alone that the '[S']akoontala' is
known and admired. Its excellence is now recognized in every
literary circle throughout the continent of Europe; and its beauties,
if not yet universally known and appreciated, are at least
acknowledged by many learned men in every country of the civilized
world. The four well-known lines of Goethe, so often quoted in
relation to the Indian drama, may here be repeated:

'Willst du die Bluethe des fruehen, die Fruechte des
spaeteren Jahres,
Willst du was reizt und entzueckt, willst du was saettigt
und naehrt,
Willst du den Himmel, die Erde, mit einem Namen
Nenn' ich, [S']akoontala, Dich, und so ist Alles gesagt.'

'Would'st thou the young year's blossoms and the fruits
of its decline,
And all by which the soul is charmed, enraptured,
feasted, fed?
Would'st thou the Earth and Heaven itself in one sole
name combine?
I name thee, O [S']akoontala! and all at once is said.'

_E.B. Eastwick_.

Augustus William von Schlegel, in his first Lecture on Dramatic
Literature, says: 'Among the Indians, the people from whom perhaps all
the cultivation of the human race has been derived, plays were known
long before they could have experienced any foreign influence. It has
lately been made known in Europe that they have a rich dramatic
literature, which ascends back for more than two thousand years. The
only specimen of their plays (Nataks) hitherto known to us is the
delightful [S']akoontala, which, notwithstanding the colouring of a
foreign clime, bears in its general structure a striking resemblance
to our romantic drama.'

Alexander von Humboldt, in treating of Indian poetry, observes:
'Kalidasa, the celebrated author of the [S']akoontala, is a masterly
describer of the influence which Nature exercises upon the minds of
lovers. This great poet flourished at the splendid court of
Vikramaditya, and was, therefore, cotemporary with Virgil and Horace.
Tenderness in the expression of feeling, and richness of creative
fancy, have assigned to him his lofty place among the poets of all

These considerations induced me, in 1853, to compile and publish an
edition of the text of the '[S']akoontala' from various original MSS.,
with English translations of the metrical passages, and explanatory
notes. A second edition of this work has since been published by the
Delegates of the Oxford University Press. To the notes of that edition
I must refer all students of Sanskrit literature who desire a close
and literal translation of the present drama, and in the Preface will
be found an account of various other editions and translations.

The following pages contain a _free_ translation, and the first
English version in prose and metre, of the purest recension of the
most celebrated drama of the Shakespeare of India.

The need felt by the British public for some such translation as I
have here offered can scarcely be questioned. A great people, who,
through their empire in India, command the destinies of the Eastern
world, ought surely to be conversant with the most popular of Indian
dramas, in which the customs of the Hindus, their opinions,
prejudices, and fables, their religious rites, daily occupations and
amusements, are reflected as in a mirror. Nor is the prose translation
of Sir W. Jones (excellent though it be) adapted to meet the
requirements of modern times. That translation was unfortunately made
from corrupt manuscripts (the best that could then be procured), in
which the bold phraseology of Kalidasa has been occasionally weakened,
his delicate expressions of refined love clothed in an unbecoming
dress, and his ideas, grand in their simplicity, diluted by repetition
or amplification. It is, moreover, altogether unfurnished with
explanatory annotations. The present translation, on the contrary,
while representing the purest version of the drama, has abundant
notes, sufficient to answer the exigencies of the non-oriental

It may be remarked that in every Sanskrit play the women and inferior
characters speak a kind of provincial dialect or _patois_, called
Prakrit--bearing the relation to Sanskrit that Italian bears to Latin,
or that the spoken Latin of the age of Cicero bore to the highly
polished Latin in which he delivered his Orations. Even the heroine of
the drama is made to speak in the vernacular dialect. The hero, on the
other hand, and all the higher male characters, speak in Sanskrit; and
as if to invest them with greater dignity, half of what they say is in
verse. Indeed the prose part of their speeches is often very
commonplace, being only introductory to the lofty sentiment of the
poetry that follows. Thus, if the whole composition be compared to a
web, the prose will correspond to the warp, or that part which is
extended lengthwise in the loom, while the metrical portion will
answer to the cross-threads which constitute the woof.

The original verses are written in a great variety of Sanskrit metres.
For example, the first thirty-four verses of '[S']akoontala' exhibit
eleven different varieties of metre. No English metrical system could
give any idea of the almost infinite resources of Sanskrit in this
respect. Nor have I attempted it. Blank verse has been employed by me
in my translation, as more in unison with the character of our own
dramatic writings, and rhyming stanzas have only been admitted when
the subject-matter seemed to call for such a change. Perhaps the chief
consideration that induced me to adopt this mode of metrical
translation was, that the free and unfettered character of the verse
enabled me to preserve more of the freshness and vigour of the
original. If the poetical ideas of Kalidasa have not been expressed in
language as musical as his own, I have at least done my best to avoid
diluting them by unwarrantable paraphrases or additions. If the
English verses are prosaic, I have the satisfaction of knowing that by
resisting the allurements of rhyme, I have done all in my power to
avoid substituting a fictitious and meagre poem of my own for the
grand, yet simple and chaste creation of Kalidasa.

The unrestricted liberty of employing hypermetrical lines of eleven
syllables, sanctioned by the highest authority in dramatic
composition, has, I think, facilitated the attainment of this object.
One of our own poets has said in relation to such lines: 'Let it be
remembered that they supply us with another cadence; that they add, as
it were, a string to the instrument; and--by enabling the poet to
relax at pleasure, to rise and fall with his subject--contribute what
most is wanted, compass and variety. They are nearest to the flow of
an unstudied eloquence, and should therefore be used in the drama[4].'
Shakespeare does not scruple to avail himself of this licence four or
five times in succession, as in the well-known passage beginning--

'To be or not to be, that is the question';

and even Milton uses the same freedom once or twice in every page.

The poetical merit of Kalidasa's '[S']akoontala' is so universally
admitted that any remarks on this head would be superfluous. I will
merely observe that, in the opinion of learned natives, the Fourth
Act, which describes the departure of [S']akoontala from the hermitage,
contains the most obvious beauties; and that no one can read this Act,
nor indeed any part of the play, without being struck with the
richness and elevation of its author's genius, the exuberance and glow
of his fancy, his ardent love of the beautiful, his deep sympathy with
Nature and Nature's loveliest scenes, his profound knowledge of the
human heart, his delicate appreciation of its most refined feelings,
his familiarity with its conflicting sentiments and emotions. But in
proportion to the acknowledged excellence of Kalidasa's composition,
and in proportion to my own increasing admiration of its beauties, is
the diffidence I feel lest I may have failed to infuse any of the
poetry of the original into the present version. Translation of poetry
must, at the best, resemble the process of pouring a highly volatile
and evanescent spirit from one receptacle into another. The original
fluid will always suffer a certain amount of waste and evaporation.

The English reader will at least be inclined to wonder at the
analogies which a thoroughly Eastern play offers to our own dramatic
compositions written many centuries later. The dexterity with which
the plot is arranged and conducted, the ingenuity with which the
incidents are connected, the skill with which the characters are
delineated and contrasted with each other, the boldness and felicity
of the diction, are scarcely unworthy of the great dramatists of
European countries. Nor does the parallel fail in the management of
the business of the stage, in minute directions to the actors, and
various scenic artifices. The asides and aparts, the exits and the
entrances, the manner, attitude, and gait of the speakers, the tone of
voice with which they are to deliver themselves, the tears, the
smiles, and the laughter, are as regularly indicated as in a modern

In reference to the constitution and structure of the play here
translated, a few general remarks on the dramatic system of the Hindus
may be needed[5].

Dramatic poetry is said to have been invented by the sage Bharata,
who lived at a very remote period of Indian history, and was the
author of a system of music. The drama of these early times was
probably nothing more than the Indian Nach-dance (Nautch) of the
present day. It was a species of rude pantomime, in which dancing and
movements of the body were accompanied by mute gestures of the hands
and face, or by singing and music. Subsequently, dialogue was added,
and the art of theatrical representation was brought to great
perfection. Elaborate treatises were written which laid down minute
regulations for the construction and conduct of plays, and subjected
dramatic composition to highly artificial rules of poetical and
rhetorical style. For example, the Sahitya-darpana divides Sanskrit
plays into two great classes, the Rupaka or principal dramas, and the
Uparupaka or minor dramas. At the head of the ten species of Rupaka
stands the Nataka, of which the '[S']akoontala' is an example. It should
consist of from five to ten Acts; it should have a celebrated story
for its plot; it should represent heroic or godlike characters and
good deeds; it should be written in an elaborate style, and be full of
noble sentiments. Moreover, it should be composed like the end of a
cow's tail; so that each of the Acts be gradually shorter.

In India, as in Greece, scenic entertainments took place at religious
festivals, and on solemn public occasions. Kalidasa's '[S']akoontala'
seems to have been acted at the commencement of the summer season--a
period peculiarly sacred to Kama-deva, the Indian god of love. We are
told that it was enacted before an audience 'consisting chiefly of men
of education and discernment.' As the greater part of every play was
written in Sanskrit, which, although spoken by the learned in every
part of India even at the present day, was certainly not the
vernacular language of the country at the time when the Hindu dramas
were performed, few spectators would be present who were not of the
educated classes. This circumstance is in accordance with the
constitution of Hindu society, whereby the productions of literature
as well as the offices of state, were reserved for the privileged

Every Sanskrit play opens with a prologue, or, to speak more
correctly, an introduction, designed to prepare the way for the
entrance of the _dramatis personae_. The prologue commences with a
benediction or prayer (pronounced by a Brahman, or if the
stage-manager happened to be of the Brahmanical caste, by the manager
himself), in which the poet invokes the favour of the national deity
in behalf of the audience. The blessing is generally followed by a
dialogue between the manager and one or two of the actors, in which an
account is given of the author of the drama, a complimentary tribute
is paid to the critical acumen of the spectators, and such a reference
is made to past occurrences or present circumstances as may be
necessary for the elucidation of the plot. At the conclusion of the
prologue, the manager, by some abrupt exclamation, adroitly introduces
one of the dramatic personages, and the real performance commences.

The play, being thus opened, is carried forward in scenes and Acts;
each scene being marked by the entrance of one character and the exit
of another, as in the French drama. The _dramatis personae_ were
divided into three classes--the inferior characters (nicha), who were
said to speak Prakrit in a monotonous accentless tone of voice
(anudattoktya); the middling (madhyama), and the superior (pradhana),
who were said to speak Sanskrit with accent, emphasis, and expression
(udattoktya). In general, the stage is never left vacant till the end
of an Act, nor does any change of locality take place until then. The
commencement of a new Act is often marked, like the commencement of
the piece, by an introductory monologue or dialogue spoken by one or
more of the _dramatis personae_, and called Vishkambha or Prave[S']aka.
In this scene allusion is frequently made to events supposed to have
occurred in the interval of the Acts, and the audience is the better
prepared to take up the thread of the story, which is then skilfully
carried on to the concluding scene. The piece closes, as it began,
with a prayer for national plenty and prosperity, addressed to the
favourite deity, and spoken by one of the principal personages of the

Although, in the conduct of the plot, and the delineation of
character, Hindu dramatists show considerable skill, yet they do not
appear to have been remarkable for much fertility of invention. Love,
according to Hindu notions, is the subject of most of their dramas.

The hero, who is generally a king, and already the husband of a wife
or wives (for a wife or two more or less is no encumbrance in Indian
plays), is suddenly smitten with the charms of a lovely woman,
sometimes a nymph, or, as in the case of [S']akoontala, the daughter of
a nymph by a mortal father. The heroine is required to be equally
impressible, and the first tender glance from the hero's eye reaches
her heart. With true feminine delicacy, however, she locks the secret
of her passion in her own breast, and by her coyness and reserve keeps
her lover for a long period in the agonies of suspense. The hero,
being reduced to a proper state of desperation, is harassed by other
difficulties. Either the celestial nature of the nymph is in the way
of their union, or he doubts the legality of the match, or he fears
his own unworthiness, or he is hampered by the angry jealousy of a
previous wife. In short, doubts, obstacles, and delays make great
havoc of both hero and heroine. They give way to melancholy, indulge
in amorous rhapsodies, and become very emaciated. So far, it must be
confessed, the story is decidedly dull, and its chain, however, does
not commence until the Fourth Act, when the union of the heroine with
King Dushyanta, and her acceptance of the marriage-ring as a token of
recognition, are supposed to have taken place. Then follows the King's
departure and temporary desertion of his bride; the curse pronounced
on [S']akoontala by the choleric Sage; the monarch's consequent loss of
memory; the bride's journey to the palace of her husband; the
mysterious disappearance of the marriage-token; the public repudiation
of [S']akoontala; her miraculous assumption to closes, as it began, with
a prayer for national plenty and prosperity, addressed to the
favourite deity, and spoken by one of the principal personages of the

Although, in the conduct of the plot, and the delineation of
character, Hindu dramatists show considerable skill, yet they do not
appear to have been remarkable for much fertility of invention. Love,
according to Hindu notions, is the subject of most of their dramas.

The hero, who is generally a king, and already the husband of a wife
or wives (for a wife or two more or less is no encumbrance in Indian
plays), is suddenly smitten with the charms of a lovely woman,
sometimes a nymph, or, as in the case of [S']akoontala, the daughter of a
nymph by a mortal father. The heroine is required to be equally
impressible, and the first tender glance from the hero's eye reaches
her heart. With true feminine delicacy, however, she locks the secret
of her passion in her own breast, and by her coyness and reserve keeps
her lover for a long period in the agonies of suspense. The hero,
being reduced to a proper state of desperation, is harassed by other
difficulties. Either the celestial nature of the nymph is in the way
of their union, or he doubts the legality of the match, or he his own
unworthiness, or he is hampered by the angry jealousy of a previous
wife. In short, doubts, obstacles, and delays make great havoc of both
hero and heroine. They give way to melancholy, indulge in amorous
rhapsodies, and become very emaciated. So far, it must be confessed,
the story is decidedly dull, and its pathos, notwithstanding the
occasional grandeur and beauty of the imagery, often verges on the

But, by way of relief, an element of life is generally introduced in
the character of the Vidushaka, or Jester, who is the constant
companion of the hero; and in the young maidens, who are the
confidential friends of the heroine, and soon become possessed of her
secret. By a curious regulation, the Jester is always a Brahman, and
therefore of a caste superior to the king himself; yet his business is
to excite mirth by being ridiculous in person, age, and attire. He is
sometimes represented as grey-haired, hump-backed, lame, and ugly. In
fact, he is a species of buffoon, who is allowed full liberty of
speech, being himself a universal butt. His attempts at wit, which are
rarely very successful, and his allusions to the pleasures of the
table, of which he is a confessed votary, are absurdly contrasted with
the sententious solemnity of the despairing hero, crossed in the
prosecution of his love-suit. His clumsy interference in the intrigues
of his friend only serves to augment his difficulties, and occasions
many an awkward dilemma. On the other hand, the shrewdness of the
heroine's confidantes never seems to fail them under the most trying
circumstances; while their sly jokes and innuendos, their love of fun,
their girlish sympathy with the progress of the love affair, their
warm affection for their friend, heighten the interest of the plot,
and contribute not a little to vary its monotony.

Fortunately, in the '[S']akoontala' the story is diversified and the
interest well sustained by a chain of stirring incidents. The first
link of the chain, however, does not commence until the Fourth Act,
when the union of the heroine with King Dushyanta, and her acceptance
of the marriage-ring as a token of recognition, are supposed to have
taken place. Then follows the King's departure and temporary desertion
of his bride; the curse pronounced on [S']akoontala by the choleric Sage;
the monarch's consequent loss of memory; the bride's journey to the
palace of her husband; the mysterious disappearance of the
marriage-token; the public repudiation of [S']akoontala; her miraculous
assumption to a celestial asylum; the unexpected discovery of the ring
by a poor fisherman; the King's agony on recovering his recollection;
his aerial voyage in the car of Indra; his strange meeting with the
refractory child in the groves of Kasyapa; the boy's battle with the
young lion; the search for the amulet, by which the King is proved to
be his father; the return of [S']akoontala, and the happy reunion of the
lovers;--all these form a connected series of moving and interesting
incidents. The feelings of the audience are wrought up to a pitch of
great intensity; and whatever emotions of terror, grief, or pity may
have been excited, are properly tranquillized by the happy termination
of the story.

Indeed, if a calamitous conclusion be necessary to constitute a
tragedy, the Hindu dramas are never tragedies. They are mixed
compositions, in which joy and sorrow, happiness and misery, are woven
in a mingled web--tragi-comic representations, in which good and evil,
right and wrong, truth and falsehood, are allowed to blend in
confusion during the first Acts of the drama. But, in the last Act,
harmony is always restored, order succeeds to disorder, tranquillity
to agitation; and the mind of the spectator, no longer perplexed by
the apparent ascendency of evil, is soothed, and purified, and made to
acquiesce in the moral lesson deducible from the plot.

The play of '[S']akoontala,' as Sir W. Jones observes, must have been
very popular when it was first performed. The Indian empire was then
in its palmy days, and the vanity of the natives would be flattered by
the introduction of those kings and heroes who were supposed to have
laid the foundation of its greatness and magnificence, and whose were
connected with all that was sacred and holy in their religion,
Dushyanta, the hero of the drama, according to Indian legends, was one
of the descendants of the Moon, or in other words, belonged to the
Lunar dynasty of Indian princes; and, if any dependence may be placed
on Hindu chronology, he must have lived in the twenty-first or
twenty-second generation after the Flood. Puru, his most celebrated
ancestor, was the sixth in descent from the Moon's son Budha, who
married a daughter of the good King Satya-vrata, preserved by Vishnu
in the Ark at the time of the Deluge. The son of Dushyanta, by
[S']akoontala, was Bharata, from whom India is still called by the
natives Bharata-varsha. After him came Samvarana, Kuru, Santanu,
Bhishma, and Vyasa. The latter was the father of Dhritarashtra and
Pandu, the quarrels of whose sons form the subject of the great
Sanskrit epic poem called Maha-bharata, a poem with parts of which the
audience would be familiar, and in which they would feel the greatest
pride. Indeed the whole story of [S']akoontala is told in the
Maha-bharata. The pedigree of [S']akoontala, the heroine of the drama,
was no less interesting, and calculated to awaken the religious
sympathies of Indian spectators. She was the daughter of the
celebrated Vi[s']wamitra, a name associated with many remarkable
circumstances in Hindu mythology and history. His genealogy and the
principal events of his life are narrated in the Ramayana, the first
of the two epic poems which were to the Hindus what the Iliad and the
Odyssey were to the Greeks. He was originally of the regal caste; and,
having raised himself to the rank of a Brahman by the length and
rigour of his penance, he became the preceptor of Ramachandra, who
was the hero of the Ramayana, and one of the incarnations of the god
Vishnu. With such an antecedent interest in the particulars of the
story, the audience could not fail to bring a sharpened appetite, and
a self-satisfied frame of mind, to the performance of the play.

Although in the following translation it has been thought expedient to
conform to modern usage, by indicating at the head of each Act the
scene in which it is laid, yet it is proper to apprise the English
reader that in scenery and scenic apparatus the Hindu drama, must have
been very defective. No directions as to changes of scene are given in
the original text of the play. This is the more curious, as there are
numerous stage directions, which prove that in respect of dresses and
decorations the resources of the Indian theatre were sufficiently

It is probable that a curtain suspended across the stage, and divided
in the centre, answered all the purposes of scenes. Behind the curtain
was the space or room called _nepathya_, where the decorations were
kept, where the actors attired themselves, and remained in readiness
before entering the stage, and whither they withdrew on leaving it.
When an actor was to enter hurriedly, he was directed to do so 'with a
toss of the curtain.'

The machinery and paraphernalia of the Indian theatre were also very
limited, contrasting in this respect unfavourably with the ancient
Greek theatre, which appears to have comprehended nearly all that
modern ingenuity has devised. Nevertheless, seats, thrones, weapons,
and chariots, were certainly introduced, and as the intercourse
between the inhabitants of heaven and earth was very frequent, it is
not improbable that there may have been aerial contrivances to
represent the chariots of celestial beings, as on the Greek stage. It
is plain, however, from the frequent occurrence of the word
_natayitwa_, 'gesticulating,' 'acting,' that much had to be supplied
by the imagination of the spectator, assisted by the gesticulations of
the actors.

For further information relative to the dramatic system of the Hindus,
the reader is referred to the notes appended to the present
translation. It is hoped that they will be found sufficient to explain
every allusion that might otherwise be unintelligible to the English



[Footnote 1: In the Aihole Inscription (edited by Dr. Fleet) of the
Western Chalukya King Pulike[S']in II, dated [S']aka 556=A.D. 634-35,
actual mention is made of Kalidasa and Bharavi by name, and Professor
Kielhorn has informed me that he found a verse from the Raghu-van[S']a
quoted in an inscription dated A.D. 602.]

[Footnote 2: As to the other two, the most celebrated, called
Vikramorva[S']i, has been excellently translated by Professors H.H.
Wilson and E.B. Cowell, and the Malavikagnimitra, by Professor Weber,
the eminent Orientalist of Berlin.]

[Footnote 3: The following is an extract from, the _Bombay Times_ of
February 3, 1855. It is given _literatim_, and the orthographical
errors and mutilation of the story prove that in those days a good and
complete version of India's most celebrated drama was not obtainable.


'An outline of the play to be performed at the Theatre this night.

'After a short discourse between the Sutradhar (the chief actor) and
the Vidushaka (the clown), Surswati (the Goddess of learning) will
appear. Sutradhar will call his wife (Nati), and they will determine
on performing the play of Shakuntala. They both will sing songs
together, after which Nati will go away. The play will then regularly
commence. Dushanta Rajah will appear in the Court, and order his
Pradhan (the Minister) to make preparations for a hunting excursion.
The Rajah, sitting in his carriage, will pursue a stag, the stag will
disappear, upon which Dushanta will ask his coachman the cause
thereof, this being known, the Rajah in his carriage will proceed
farther, when they will see the stag again, upon which he will aim an
arrow at the stag. The stag will run and reach the retirement of
Waikhanas Rushi. The sage will come out of his hut and remonstrate
with the Rajah against his killing the harmless animal. The Rajah will
obey the injunctions of the sage, who will pronounce benedictions upon
him. According to the Rushi's instructions, he will prepare to proceed
to the residence of another sage named Kunwa. Bidding each other
farewell, the Rushi will go to procure material for his religious
ceremonies. After reaching Kunwa's place, and commanding his coachman
to groom the horses, the Rajah will walk forth to the sage's hut.
Observing on his way thither Shakuntala with her fellow mates watering
the trees, he will hide himself behind a tree. Shakuntala will praise
to her mates the beauty of the Keshar tree. Charmed with overhearing
her discourse, Dushanta will try to find out her descent. Shakuntala
will be very much teased by a Bhramar (fly) hovering about her face.
The Rajah will then come forward and ask the cause of the disturbed
state of her mind. After a mutual exchange of polite respect they all
take their seats beneath a shady tree, Dushanta will inform her of his
country and descent, whereupon they will all go to the Rushi's hut.

'Here there is a pause. A pleasing farce will then be performed.'

I have already stated that the '[S']akoontala' in the words of my own
translation has been since performed at Bombay and recently at
Trivandrum, the capital of Travancore (see Preface to this edition, p.
vii, &c).]

[Footnote 4: Rogers' Italy, note to line 23.]

[Footnote 5: The admirable Essay by Professor H.H. Wilson, prefixed to
his Hindu Theatre, is the principal source of the information which I
have here given.]

[Footnote 6: Wilson's Hindu Theatre, p. xii.]


Observe, that in order to secure the correct pronunciation of the
title of this Drama, 'Sakuntala' has been spelt '[S']akoontala,' the
_u_ of [S']akuntala being pronounced like the _u_ in the English
word _rule_.

The vowel _a_ must invariably be pronounced with a dull sound,
like the _a_ in _organ_, or the _u_ in _gun, sun. Dushyanta_ must
therefore be pronounced as if written _Dooshyunta_. The long
vowel _a_ is pronounced like the _a_ in _last, cart_; _i_ like
the _i_ in _pin, sin_; _i_ like the _i_ in _marine_; _e_ like the
_e_ in _prey_; _o_ like the _o_ in _so_; _ai_ like the _ai_ in
_aisle_; _au_ like _au_ in the German word _haus_, or like the
_ou_ in _our_.

The consonants are generally pronounced as in English, but _g_
has always the sound of _g_ in _gun, give_, never of _g_ in
_gin_. S with the accent over it (s), has the sound of _s_ in
_sure_, or of the last _s_ in _session_.

* * * * *


* * * * *

DUSHYANTA, _King of India_.

MA[T.]HAVYA, _the jester, friend, and companion of the King_.

KANWA, _chief of the hermits, foster-father of_ [S']AKOONTALA.

} _two Brahmans, belonging to the hermitage of KANWA_.

MITRAVASU, _brother-in-law of the King, and superintendent of the
city police_.

JANUKA _and_ SUCHAKA, _two constables_.

VATAYANA, _the chamberlain or attendant on the women's

SOMARATA, _the domestic priest_.

KARABHAKA, _a messenger of the queen-mother_.

RAIVATIKA, _the warder or doorkeeper_.

MATALI, _charioteer of Indra_.

SARVA-DAMANA, _afterwards_ BHARATA, _a little boy, son

KA[S']YAPA, _a divine sage, progenitor of men and gods, son of_
MARICHI, _and grandson of_ BRAHMA.

[S']AKOONTALA, _daughter of the sage_ VI[S']WAMITRA _and the
nymph_ MENAKA, _foster-child of the hermit_ KANWA.

PRIYAMVADA _and_ ANASUYA, _female attendants, companions

GAUTAMI, _a holy matron, Superior of the female inhabitants
of the hermitage_.


SANUMATI, _a nymph, friend of_ [S']AKOONTALA.

TARALIKA, _personal attendant of the Queen_.

CHATURIKA, _personal attendant of the King_.

VETRAVATI, _female warder or doorkeeper_.


MADHUKARIKA,} _maidens in charge of the royal gardens_.

SUVRATA, _a nurse_.

ADITI, _wife of_ KA[S']YAPA; _granddaughter of_ BRAHMA
_through her father_ DAKSHA.





I[S']a preserve you [1]! he who is revealed
In these eight forms[2] by man perceptible--
Water, of all creation's works the first;
The Fire that bears on high the sacrifice
Presented with solemnity to heaven;
The Priest, the holy offerer of gifts;
The Sun and Moon, those two majestic orbs,
Eternal marshallers of day and night;
The subtle Ether, vehicle of sound,
Diffused throughout the boundless universe;
The Earth, by sages called 'The place of birth
Of all material essences and things';
And Air, which giveth life to all that breathe.


[_After the recitation of the benediction_.]

[_Looking toward the living-room_.]

Lady, when you have finished attiring yourself, come this way.



Here I am, Sir; what are your commands?


We are here before the eyes of an audience of educated and
discerning men[3]; and have to represent in their presence a new
drama composed by Kalidasa, called '[S']akoontala; or, the Lost
Ring[4].' Let the whole company exert themselves to do justice to
their several parts.


You, Sir, have so judiciously managed the cast of the characters,
that nothing will be defective in the acting.


Lady, I will tell you the exact state of the case,

No skill in acting can I deem complete,
Till from the wise the actor gain applause;
Know that the heart e'en of the truly skilful,
Shrinks from too boastful confidence in self.

ACTRESS. [_Modestly_.]

You judge correctly And now, what are your commands?


What can you do better than engage the attention of the audience
by some captivating melody?


Which among the seasons shall I select as the subject of my song?


You surely ought to give the preference to the present Summer
season[5] that has but recently commenced, a season so rich in
enjoyment. For now

Unceasing are the charms of halcyon days,
When the cool bath exhilarates the frame;
When sylvan gales are laden with the scent
Of fragrant Patalas[6]; when soothing sleep
Creeps softly on beneath the deepening shade;
And when, at last, the dulcet calm of eve
Entrancing steals o'er every yielding sense.


I will:--


Fond maids, the chosen of their hearts to please,
Entwine their ears with sweet [S']irisha flowers[7],
Whose fragrant lips attract the kiss of bees
That softly murmur through the summer hours.


Charmingly sung! The audience are motionless as statues, their
souls riveted by the enchanting strain. What subject shall we
select for representation, that we may ensure a continuance
of their favour?


Why not the same, Sir, announced by you at first? Let the drama
called '[S']akoontala; or, the Lost Ring,' be the subject of our
dramatic performance.


Rightly reminded! For the moment I had forgotten it.

Your song's transporting melody decoyed
My thoughts, and rapt with ecstasy my soul;
As now the bounding antelope allures
The King Dushyanta[8] on the chase intent.



SCENE-_A Forest_.

_Enter King_ DUSHYANTA, _armed with a bow and arrow, in a
chariot, chasing an antelope, attended by his_ CHARIOTEER.


[_Looking at the deer, and then at the_ KING.

Great Prince,

When on the antelope I bend my gaze,
And on your Majesty, whose mighty bow
Has its string firmly braced; before my eyes
The god that wields the trident[9] seems revealed.
Chasing the deer that flies from him in vain.


Charioteer, this fleet antelope has drawn us far from my
attendants. See! there he runs:

Aye and anon his graceful neck he bends
To cast a glance at the pursuing car;
And dreading now the swift-descending shaft,
Contracts into itself his slender frame;
About his path, in scattered fragments strewn,
The half-chewed grass falls from his panting mouth;
See! in his airy bounds he seems to fly,
And leaves no trace upon th' elastic turf.

[_With astonishment_.]

How now! swift as is our pursuit, I scarce can see him.


Sire, the ground here is full of hollows; I have therefore drawn
in the reins and checked the speed of the chariot. Hence the deer
has somewhat gained upon us. Now that we are passing over level
ground, we shall have no difficulty in overtaking him.


Loosen the reins, then.


The King is obeyed.

[_Drives the chariot at full speed_.]

Great Prince, see I see!

Responsive to the slackened rein, the steeds,
Chafing with eager rivalry, career
With emulative fleetness o'er the plain;
Their necks outstretched, their waving plumes, that late
Fluttered above their brows, are motionless[10];
Their sprightly ears, but now erect, bent low;
Themselves unsullied by the circling dust,
That vainly follows on their rapid course.

KING. [_Joyously_.

In good sooth, the horses seem as if they would outstrip the
steeds of Indra and the Sun[11].

That which but now showed to my view minute
Quickly assumes dimension; that which seemed
A moment since disjoined in diverse parts,
Looks suddenly like one compacted whole;
That which is really crooked in its shape
In the far distance left, grows regular;
Wondrous the chariot's speed, that in a breath,
Makes the near distant and the distant near.

Now, Charioteer, see me kill the deer.

[_Takes aim_.


Hold, O King! this deer belongs to our hermitage.
Kill it not! kill it not!

CHARIOTEER. [_Listening and looking_.

Great King, some hermits have stationed themselves so as to
screen the antelope at the very moment of its coming within range
of your arrow.

KING. [_Hastily_.

Then stop the horses.


I obey.

[_Stops the chariot_.

_Enter a_ HERMIT, _and two others with him_.]

HERMIT. [_Raising his hand_.

This deer, O King, belongs to our hermitage. Kill
it not! kill it not!

Now heaven forbid this barbed shaft descend
Upon the fragile body of a fawn,
Like fire upon a heap of tender flowers!
Can thy steel bolts no meeter quarry find
Than the warm life-blood of a harmless deer?
Restore, great Prince, thy weapon to its quiver.
More it becomes thy arms to shield the weak,
Than to bring anguish on the innocent.


'Tis done.

[_Replaces the arrow in its quiver_.


Worthy is this action of a Prince, the light of Puru's race[12].

Well does this act befit a Prince like thee,
Right worthy is it of thine ancestry.
Thy guerdon be a son of peerless worth,
Whose wide dominion shall embrace the earth.

BOTH THE OTHER HERMITS. [_Raising their hands_.

May heaven indeed grant thee a son, a sovereign of the earth from
sea to sea!



I accept with gratitude a Brahman's benediction.


We came hither, mighty Prince, to collect sacrificial wood. Here
on the banks of the Malini you may perceive the hermitage of the
great sage Kanwa[13]. If other duties require not your presence,
deign to enter and accept our hospitality.

When you behold our penitential rites
Performed without impediment by saints
Rich only in devotion, then with pride
Will you reflect:--Such are the holy men
Who call me Guardian; such the men for whom
To wield the bow I bare my nervous arm,
Scarred by the motion of the glancing string.


Is the Chief of your Society now at home?


No; he has gone to Soma-tirtha[14] to propitiate Destiny, which
threatens his daughter [S']akoontala with some calamity; but he has
commissioned her in his absence to entertain all guests with


Good! I will pay her a visit. She will make me acquainted with
the mighty sage's acts of penance and devotion.


And we will depart on our errand.

[_Exit with his companions_.


Charioteer, urge on the horses. We will at least purify our souls
by a sight of this hallowed retreat.


Your Majesty is obeyed.

[_Drives the chariot with great velocity_.

KING. [_Looking all about him_.

Charioteer, even without being told, I should have known that
these were the precincts of a grove consecrated to penitential


How so?


Do not you observe?

Beneath the trees, whose hollow trunks afford
Secure retreat to many a nestling brood
Of parrots, scattered grains of rice lie strewn.
Lo! here and there are seen the polished slabs
That serve to bruise the fruit of Ingudi[15].
The gentle roe-deer, taught to trust in man,
Unstartled hear our voices. On the paths
Appear the traces of bark-woven vests[16]
Borne dripping from the limpid fount of waters.

And mark!

Laved are the roots of trees by deep canals [17],
Whose glassy waters tremble in the breeze;
The sprouting verdure of the leaves is dimmed
By dusky wreaths of upward curling smoke
From burnt oblations; and on new-mown lawns
Around our car graze leisurely the fawns.


I observe it all.

KING. [_Advancing a little further_.

The inhabitants of this sacred retreat must not be disturbed.
Stay the chariot, that I may alight.


The reins are held in. Your Majesty may descend.

KING. [_Alighting_.

Charioteer, groves devoted to penance must be entered in humble
attire. Take these ornaments.

[_Delivers his ornaments and bow to CHARIOTEER_.]

Charioteer, see that the horses are watered, and attend to them
until I return from visiting the inhabitants of the hermitage.


I Will.


KING. [_Walking and looking about_.

Here is the entrance to the hermitage. I will now go in.

[_Entering and feeling a throbbing sensation in his arm_.

Serenest peace is in this calm retreat,
By passion's breath unruffled; what portends
My throbbing arm[18]? Why should it whisper here
Of happy love? Yet everywhere around us
Stand the closed portals of events unknown.


This way, my dear companions; this way.

KING. [_Listening_.

Hark! I hear voices to the right of yonder grove
of trees. I will walk in that direction.

[_Walking and looking about_.]

Ah! here are the maidens of the hermitage coming this way to
water the shrubs, carrying water-pots proportioned to their

[_Gazing at them_.]

How graceful they look!

In palaces such charms are rarely ours;
The woodland plants outshine the garden flowers.

I will conceal myself in this shade and watch them.

[_Stands gazing at them_.

_Enter [S']AKOONTALA, with her two female companions, employed in
the manner described_.


This way, my dear companions; this way.


Dear [S']akoontala, one would think that father Kanwa had more
affection for the shrubs of the hermitage even than for you,
seeing he assigns to you, who are yourself as delicate as the
fresh-blown jasmine, the task of filling with water the trenches
which encircle their roots.


Dear Anasuya, although I am charged by my good father with this
duty, yet I cannot regard it as a task. I really feel a sisterly
love for these plants.

[_Continues watering the shrubs_.


Can this be the daughter of Kanwa? The saintly man, though
descended from the great Kasyapa, must be very deficient in
judgment to habituate such a maiden to the life of a recluse.

The sage who would this form of artless grace
Inure to penance, thoughtlessly attempts
To cleave in twain the hard acacia's stem[19]
With the soft edge of a blue lotus-leaf.

Well! concealed behind this tree, I will watch her without
raising her suspicions.

[_Conceals himself_.


Good Anasuya, Priyamvada has drawn this bark-dress too tightly
about my chest. I pray thee, loosen it a little.


I will. [_Loosens it_.

PRIYAMVADA. [_Smiling_.

Why do you lay the blame on me? Blame rather your own blooming
youthfulness which imparts fulness to your bosom.


A most just observation!

This youthful form, whose bosom's swelling charms
By the bark's knotted tissue are concealed,
Like some fair bud close folded in its sheath,
Gives not to view the blooming of its beauty.

But what am I saying? In real truth this bark-dress,
though ill-suited to her figure, sets it off like an ornament.

The lotus[20] with the [S']aivala[21] entwined
Is not a whit less brilliant; dusky spots
Heighten the lustre of the cold-rayed moon;
This lovely maiden in her dress of bark
Seems all the lovelier. E'en the meanest garb
Gives to true beauty fresh attractiveness.

[S']AKOONTALA. [Looking before her.

Yon Ke[S']ara-tree[22] beckons to me with its young shoots, which,
as the breeze waves them to and fro, appear like slender fingers.
I will go and attend to it.

[_Walks towards it_.


Dear [S']akoontala, prithee, rest in that attitude one moment.


Why so?


The Ke[S']ara-tree, whilst your graceful form bends about its stem,
appears as if it were wedded to some lovely twining creeper.


Ah! saucy girl, you are most appropriately named Priyamvada
('Speaker of flattering things').


What Priyamvada says, though complimentary, is nevertheless true.

Her ruddy lip vies with the opening bud;
Her graceful arms are as the twining stalks;
And her whole form is radiant with the glow
Of youthful beauty, as the tree with bloom.


See, dear [S']akoontala, here is the young jasmine, which you
named 'the Moonlight of the Grove,' the self-elected wife of the
mango-tree. Have you forgotten it?


Rather will I forget myself.

[_Approaching the plant and looking at it_.]

How delightful is the season when the jasmine-creeper and the
mango-tree seem thus to unite in mutual embraces! The fresh
blossoms of the jasmine resemble the bloom of a young bride, and
the newly-formed shoots of the mango appear to make it her
natural protector.

[_Continues gazing at it_.


Do you know, my Anasuya, why [S']akoontala gazes so intently at the


No, indeed, I cannot imagine. I pray thee tell me.


She is wishing that as the jasmine is united to a suitable tree,
so, in like manner, she may obtain a husband worthy of her.


Speak for yourself, girl; this is the thought in your own mind.

[_Continues watering the flowers_.


Would that my union with her were permissible[23]! and yet I
hardly dare hope that the maiden is sprung from a caste different
from that of the Head of the hermitage. But away with doubt:

That she is free to wed a warrior-king
My heart attests. For, in conflicting doubts,
The secret promptings of the good man's soul
Are an unerring index of the truth.

However, come what may, I will ascertain the fact.

[S']AKOONTALA. [_In a flurry_.

Ah! a bee, disturbed by the sprinkling of the water, has left the
young jasmine, and is trying to settle on my face.

[_Attempts to drive it away_.

KING. [_Gazing at her ardently_.

Beautiful! there is something charming even in her repulse.

Where'er the bee his eager onset plies,
Now here, now there, she darts her kindling eyes;
What love hath yet to teach, fear teaches now,
The furtive glances and the frowning brow.

[_In a tone of envy_.

Ah, happy bee! how boldly dost thou try
To steal the lustre from her sparkling eye;
And in thy circling movements hover near,
To murmur tender secrets in her ear;
Or, as she coyly waves her hand, to sip
Voluptuous nectar from her lower lip!
While rising doubts my heart's fond hopes destroy,
Thou dost the fulness of her charms enjoy.


This impertinent bee will not rest quiet. I must move elsewhere.

[_Moving a few steps off, and casting a glance around_.]

How now! he is following me here. Help! my dear friends, help!
deliver me from the attacks of this troublesome insect.


How can we deliver you? Call Dushyanta to your aid. The sacred
groves are under the King's special protection.


An excellent opportunity for me to show myself.
Fear not--

[_Checks himself when the words are half-uttered; Aside_.]

But stay, if I introduce myself in this manner, they will know me
to be the King. Be it so, I will accost them, nevertheless.


[_Moving a step or two further off_.

What! it still persists in following me.

KING. [_Advancing hastily_.

When mighty Puru's offspring sways the earth,
And o'er the wayward holds his threatening rod,
Who dares molest the gentle maids that keep
Their holy vigils here in Kanwa's grove?

[_All look at the_ KING, _and all are embarrassed_.


Kind Sir, no outrage has been committed; only our dear friend
here was teased by the attacks of a troublesome bee.

[_Points to_ [S']AKOONTALA.

KING. [_Turning to_ [S']AKOONTALA.

I trust all is well with your devotional rites[24]?

[[S']AKOONTALA _stands confused and silent_.]


All is well indeed, now that we are honoured by the reception of
a distinguished guest. Dear [S']akoontala, go, bring from the
hermitage an offering of flowers, rice, and fruit. This water
that we have brought with us will serve to bathe our guest's


The rites of hospitality are already performed; your truly kind
words are the best offering I can receive.


At least be good enough, gentle Sir, to sit down awhile, and rest
yourself on this seat shaded by the leaves of the Sapta-parna


You, too, must all be fatigued by your employment.


Dear [S']akoontala, there is no impropriety in our sitting by the
side of our guest; come, let us sit down here.

[_All sit down together_.

[S']AKOONTALA. [_Aside_.

How is it that the sight of this made me sensible of emotions
inconsistent with religious vows?

KING. [_Gazing at them all By turns_.

How charmingly your friendship is in keeping with the equality of
your ages and appearance!


Who can this person be, whose lively yet dignified manner, and
polite conversation, bespeak him a man of high rank?


I, too, my dear, am very curious to know. I will ask him myself.


Your kind words, noble Sir, fill me with confidence, and prompt
me to inquire of what regal family our noble guest is the
ornament? what country is now mourning his absence? and what
induced a person so delicately nurtured to expose himself to the
fatigue of visiting this grove of penance?

[S']AKOONTALA. [_Aside_.

Be not troubled, O my heart, Anasuya is giving utterance to thy

KING. [_Aside_.

How now shall I reply? shall I make myself known, or shall I
still disguise my real rank? I have it; I will answer her thus.
[_Aloud_.] I am the person charged by his Majesty, the descendant
of Puru, with the administration of justice and religion; and am
come to this sacred grove to satisfy myself that the rites of the
hermits are free from obstruction.


The hermits, then, and all the members of our religious society,
have now a guardian.

[[S']AKOONTALA _gazes bashfully at the_ KING.


[_Perceiving the state of her feelings, and of the_ KING'S.
_Aside to_ [S']AKOONTALA.

Dear [S']akoontala, if father Kanwa were but at home to-day--

[S']AKOONTALA. [_Angrily_.

What if he were?


He would honour this our distinguished guest with an offering of
the most precious of his possessions.


Go to! you have some silly idea in your minds, I will not listen
to such remarks.


May I be allowed, in my turn, to ask you maidens a few
particulars respecting your friend?


Your request, Sir, is an honour.


The sage Kanwa lives in the constant practice of austerities.
How, then, can this friend of yours be called his daughter?


I will explain to you. Sir. You have heard of an illustrious sage
of regal caste, Vi[s']wamitra, whose family name is Kau[S']ika[27].


I have.


Know that he is the real father of our friend. The venerable
Kanwa is only her reputed father. He it was who brought her up,
when she was deserted by her mother.


'Deserted by her mother!' My curiosity is excited; pray let me
hear the story from the beginning.


You shall hear it, Sir. Some time since, this sage of regal
caste, while performing a most severe penance on the banks of the
river Godavari, excited the jealousy and alarm of the gods;
insomuch that they despatched a lovely nymph named Menaka to
interrupt his devotions.


The inferior gods, I am aware, are jealous[28] of the power which
the practice of excessive devotion confers on mortals.


Well, then, it happened that Vi[s']wamitra, gazing on the
bewitching beauty of that nymph at a season when, spring being in
its glory--

[_Stops short, and appears confused_.


The rest may be easily divined. [S']akoontala, then, is the
offspring of the nymph.


Just so.


It is quite intelligible.

How would a mortal to such charms give birth?
The lightning's radiance flashes not from earth.

[[S']AKOONTALA _remains modestly seated with downcast eyes_.

And so my desire has really scope for its indulgence. Yet I am
still distracted by doubts, remembering the pleasantry of her
female companions respecting her wish for a husband.


[_Looking with a smile at [S']AKOONTALA, and then turning towards
the KING.]

You seem desirous, Sir, of asking something further.

[[S']AKOONTALA _makes a chiding gesture with her finger_.


You conjecture truly. I am so eager to hear the particulars of
your friend's history, that I have still another question to ask.


Scruple not to do so. Persons who lead the life of hermits may be
questioned unreservedly.


I wish to ascertain one point respecting your friend.

Will she be bound by solitary vows
Opposed to love, till her espousals only?
Or ever dwell with these her cherished fawns,
Whose eyes, in lustre vying with her own,
Return her gaze of sisterly affection?


Hitherto, Sir, she has been engaged in the practice of religious
duties, and has lived in subjection to her foster-father; but it
is now his fixed intention to give her away in marriage to a
husband worthy of her.

KING. [_Aside_.

His intention may be easily carried into effect.

Be hopeful, O my heart, thy harrowing doubts
Are past and gone; that which thou didst believe
To be as unapproachable as fire,
Is found a glittering gem that may be touched.

[S']AKOONTALA. [_Pretending anger_.

Anasuya, I shall leave you.


Why so?


That I may go and report this impertinent Priyamvada to the
venerable matron, Gautami[29].


Surely, dear friend, it would not be right to leave a
distinguished guest before he has received the rites of
hospitality, and quit his presence in this wilful manner.

[[S']AKOONTALA, _without answering a word, moves away_.


[_Making a movement to arrest her departure, but checking
himself. Aside_.

Ah! a lover's feelings betray themselves by his gestures.

When I would fain have stayed the maid, a sense
Of due decorum checked my bold design;
Though I have stirred not, yet my mien betrays
My eagerness to follow on her steps.


[_Holding [S']AKOONTALA back_.

Dear [S']akoontala, it does not become you to go away in this

[S']AKOONTALA. [_Frowning_.

Why not, pray?


You are under a promise to water two more shrubs for me. When you
have paid your debt, you shall go, and not before.

[_Forces her to turn back_.


Spare her this trouble, gentle maiden. The exertion of watering
the shrubs has already fatigued her.

The water-jar has overtasked the strength
Of her slim arms; her shoulders droop, her hands
Are ruddy with the glow of quickened pulses;
E'en now her agitated breath imparts
Unwonted tremor to her heaving breast;
The pearly drops that mar the recent bloom
Of the [S']irisha pendent in her ear,
Gather in clustering circles on her cheek;
Loosed is the fillet of her hair; her hand
Restrains the locks that struggle to be free.
Suffer me, then, thus to discharge the debt for you.

[_Offers a ring to_ PRIYAMVADA. _Both the maidens, reading the
name_ DUSHYANTA _on the seal, look at each other with


Nay, think not that I am King Dushyanta. I am only the King's
officer, and this is the ring which I have received from him as
my credentials.


The greater the reason you ought not to part with the ring from
your finger. I am content to release her from her obligation at
your simple request.

[_With a smile_.]

Now, [S']akoontala, my love, you are at liberty to retire, thanks
to the intercession of this noble stranger, or rather of this
mighty prince.

[S']AKOONTALA. [_Aside_.

My movements are no longer under my own control.


Pray, what authority have you over me, either to send me away or
keep me back?

KING. [_Gazing at_ [S']AKOONTALA. _Aside_.

Would I could ascertain whether she is affected towards me as I
am towards her! At any rate, my hopes are free to indulge
themselves. Because,

Although she mingles not her words with mine,
Yet doth her listening ear drink in my speech;
Although her eye shrinks from my ardent gaze,
No form but mine attracts its timid glances.


O hermits, be ready to protect the animals belonging to our
hermitage. King Dushyanta, amusing himself with hunting, is near
at hand.

Lo! by the feet of prancing horses raised,
Thick clouds of moving dust, like glittering swarms
Of locusts, in the glow of eventide,
Fall on the branches of our sacred trees
Where hang the dripping vests of woven bark,
Bleached by the waters of the cleansing fountain.

And see!

Scared by the royal chariot in its course,
With headlong haste an elephant invades
The hallowed precincts of our sacred grove;
Himself the terror of the startled deer,
And an embodied hindrance to our rites.
The hedge of creepers clinging to his feet,
Feeble obstruction to his mad career,
Is dragged behind him in a tangled chain;
And with terrific shock one tusk he drives
Into the riven body of a tree,
Sweeping before him all impediments.

KING. [_Aside_.

Out upon it! my retinue are looking for me, and are disturbing
this holy retreat. Well! there is no help for it; I must go and
meet them.


Noble Sir, we are terrified by the accidental disturbance caused
by the wild elephant. Permit us to return to the cottage.

KING. [_Hastily_.

Go, gentle maidens. It shall be our care that no injury happen to
the hermitage.

[_All rise up_.


After such poor hospitality, we are ashamed to request the honour
of a second visit from you.


Say not so. The mere sight of you, sweet maidens, has been to me
the best entertainment.


Anasuya, a pointed blade of Ku[s']a-grass [30] has pricked my foot;
and my bark-mantle is caught in the branch of a Kuruvaka-bush[31].
Be so good as to wait for me until I have disentangled it.

[_Exit with her two companions, after making pretexts
for delay, that she may steal glances at the_ KING.


I have no longer any desire to return to the city. I will
therefore rejoin my attendants, and make them encamp somewhere in
the vicinity of this sacred grove. In good truth, [S']akoontala has
taken such possession of my thoughts, that I cannot turn myself
in any other direction.

My limbs drawn onward leave my heart behind,
Like silken pennon borne against the wind.

* * * * *


SCENE.--_A plain on the skirts of the forest.

Enter the Jester_ [32] MA[T.]HAVYA, _in a melancholy mood_.

MA[T.]HAVYA. [_Sighing_.

Heigh-ho! what an unlucky fellow I am! worn to a shadow by my
royal friend's sporting propensities. 'Here's a deer!' 'There
goes a boar!' 'Yonder's a tiger!' This is the only burden of our
talk, while in the heat of the meridian sun we toil on from
jungle to jungle, wandering about in the paths of the woods,
where the trees afford us no shelter. Are we thirsty? We have
nothing to drink but the dirty water of some mountain stream
mixed with dry leaves, which give it a most pungent flavour. Are
we hungry? We have nothing to eat but roast game[33], which we
must swallow down at odd times, as best we can. Even at night
there is no peace to be had. Sleeping is out of the question,
with joints all strained by dancing attendance upon my sporting
friend; or if I do happen to doze, I am awakened at the very
earliest dawn by the horrible din of a lot of rascally beaters
and huntsmen, who must needs surround the wood before sunrise,
and deafen me with their clatter. Nor are these my only troubles.
Here's a fresh grievance, like a new boil rising upon an old
one! Yesterday, while we were lagging behind, my royal friend
entered yonder hermitage after a deer; and there, as ill-luck
would have it, caught sight of a beautiful girl, called
[S']akoontala, the hermit's daughter. From that moment, not another
thought about returning to the city! and all last night not a
wink of sleep did he get for thinking of the damsel. What is to
be done? At any rate I will be on the watch for him as soon as he
has finished his toilet.

[_Walking and looking about_.]

Oh! here he comes, attended by the Yavana women[34], with bows in
their hands, wearing garlands of wild flowers. What shall I do? I
have it. I will pretend to stand in the easiest attitude for
resting my bruised and crippled limbs.

[_Stands leaning on a staff_.

_Enter King_ DUSHYANTA, _followed by a retinue, in the manner


True, by no easy conquest may I win her,
Yet are my hopes encouraged by her mien,
Love is not yet triumphant; but, methinks,

Book of the day: