Part 3 out of 5
Is heavy with its grief; the streams of sorrow,
Choked at the source, repress my faltering voice,
I have no words to speak; mine eyes are dimmed
By the dark shadows of the thoughts that rise
Within my soul. If such the force of grief
In an old hermit parted from his nursling,
What anguish must the stricken parent feel--
Bereft for ever of an only daughter.
[_Advances towards_ [S']AKOONTALA
PRIYAMVADA AND ANASUYA.
Now, dearest [S']akoontala, we have finished decorating you. You
have only to put on the two linen mantles.
[[S']AKOONTALA _rises and puts them on_.
Daughter, see, here comes thy foster-father; he is eager to fold
thee in his arms; his eyes swim with tears of joy. Hasten to do
My father, I salute you.
May'st thou be highly honoured by thy lord,
E'en as Yayati [S']armishtha adored!
And, as she bore him Puru, so may'st thou
Bring forth a son to whom the world shall bow!
Most venerable father, she accepts your benediction as if she
already possessed the boon it confers.
Now come this way, my child, and walk reverently
round these sacrificial fires.
[_They all walk round_.
[_Repeats a prayer in the metre of the Rig-veda_.
Holy flames, that gleam around
Every altar's hallowed ground;
Holy flames, whose frequent food
Is the consecrated wood,
And for whose encircling bed,
Sacred Ku[s']a-grass is spread ;
Holy flames, that waft to heaven
Sweet oblations daily given,
Mortal guilt to purge away,
Hear, oh hear me, when I pray--
Purify my child this day!
Now then, my daughter, set out on thy journey.
[_Looking on one side_.]
Where are thy attendants. [S']arngarava and the others?
YOUNG HERMIT. [_Entering_.
Here we are, most venerable father.
Lead the way for thy sister.
Come, [S']akoontala, let us proceed.
[_All move away_.
Hear me, ye trees that surround our hermitage!
[S']akoontala ne'er moistened in the stream
Her own parched lips, till she had fondly poured
Its purest water on your thirsty roots;
And oft, when she would fain have decked her hair
With your thick-clustering blossoms, in her love
She robbed you not e'en of a single flower.
Her highest joy was ever to behold
The early glory of your opening buds;
Oh, then, dismiss her with a kind farewell.
This very day she quits her father's home,
To seek the palace of her wedded lord.
[_The note of a Koil is heard_.
Hark! heard'st thou not the answer of the trees,
Our sylvan sisters, warbled in the note
Of the melodious Koil? they dismiss
Their dear [S']akoontala with loving wishes.
VOICES IN THE AIR.
Fare thee well, journey pleasantly on amid streams
Where the lotuses bloom, and the sun's glowing beams
Never pierce the deep shade of the wide-spreading trees,
While gently around thee shall sport the cool breeze;
Then light be thy footsteps and easy thy tread,
Beneath thee shall carpets of lilies be spread;
Journey on to thy lord, let thy spirit be gay,
For the smiles of all Nature shall gladden thy way.
[_All listen with astonishment_.
Daughter! the nymphs of the wood, who love thee with the
affection of a sister, dismiss thee with kind wishes for thy
happiness. Take thou leave of them reverentially.
[_Bowing respectfully and walking on. Aside to her friend_.
Eager as I am, dear Priyamvada, to see my husband once more, yet
my feet refuse to move, now that I am quitting for ever the home
of my girlhood.
You are not the only one, dearest, to feel the bitterness of
parting. As the time of separation approaches, the whole grove
seems to share your anguish.
In sorrow for thy loss, the herd of deer
Forget to browse; the peacock on the lawn
Ceases its dance; the very trees around
Shed their pale leaves, like tears, upon the ground.
[S']AKOONTALA. [_Recollecting herself_.
My father, let me, before I go, bid adieu to my pet jasmine, the
Moonlight of the Grove. I love the plant almost as a sister.
Yes, yes, my child, I remember thy sisterly affection for the
creeper. Here it is on the right.
[S']AKOONTALA. [_Approaching the jasmine_.
My beloved jasmine! most brilliant of climbing plants, how sweet
it is to see thee cling thus fondly to thy husband, the
mango-tree; yet, prithee, turn thy twining arms for a moment in
this direction to embrace thy sister; she is going far away, and
may never see thee again.
Daughter, the cherished purpose of my heart
Has ever been to wed thee to a man
That should be worthy of thee; such a spouse
Hast thou thyself, by thine own merits, won.
To him thou goest, and about his neck
Soon shalt thou cling confidingly, as now
Thy favourite jasmine twines its loving arms
Around the sturdy mango. Leave thou it
To its protector--e'en as I consign
Thee to thy lord, and henceforth from my mind
Banish all anxious thought on thy behalf.
Proceed on thy journey, my child.
[S']AKOONTALA. [_To_ PRIYAMVADA _and_ ANASUYA.
To you, my sweet companions, I leave it as a keepsake. Take
charge of it when I am gone.
PRIYAMVADA AND ANASUYA. [_Bursting into tears_.
And to whose charge do you leave us, dearest? Who will care for
us when you are gone?
For shame, Anasuya! dry your tears. Is this the way to cheer your
friend at a time when she needs your support and consolation?
[_All move on_.
My father, see you there my pet deer, grazing close to the
hermitage? She expects soon to fawn, and even now the weight of
the little one she carries hinders her movements. Do not forget
to send me word when she becomes a mother.
I will not forget it.
[S']AKOONTALA. [_Feeling herself drawn back_.
What can this be, fastened to my dress?
It is the little fawn, thy foster-child,
Poor helpless orphan! it remembers well
How with a mother's tenderness and love
Thou didst protect it, and with grains of rice
From thine own hand didst daily nourish it;
And, ever and anon, when some sharp thorn
Had pierced its mouth, how gently thou didst tend
The bleeding wound, and pour in healing balm.
The grateful nursling clings to its protectress,
Mutely imploring leave to follow her.
My poor little fawn! dost thou ask to follow an ungrateful
wretch who hesitates not to desert her companions! When thy
mother died, soon after thy birth, I supplied her place, and
reared thee with my own hand; and now that thy second mother is
about to leave thee, who will care for thee? My father, be thou a
mother to her. My child, go back, and be a daughter to my father.
[_Moves on, weeping_.
Weep not, my daughter, check the gathering tear
That lurks beneath thine eyelid, ere it flow
And weaken thy resolve; be firm and true--
True to thyself and me; the path of life
Will lead o'er hill and plain, o'er rough and smooth,
And all must feel the steepness of the way;
Though rugged be thy course, press boldly on.
Venerable Sire! the sacred precept is:--'Accompany thy friend as
far as the margin of the first stream.' Here, then, we are
arrived at the border of a lake. It is time for you to give us
your final instructions and return.
Be it so; let us tarry for a moment under the shade of this
[_They do so_.
I must think of some appropriate message to send to his Majesty
[S']AKOONTALA. [_Aside to_ ANASUYA.
See, see, dear Anasuya, the poor female Chakravaka-bird, whom
cruel fate dooms to nightly separation from her mate, calls to
him in mournful notes from the other side of the stream, though
he is only hidden from her view by the spreading leaves of the
water-lily. Her cry is so piteous that I could almost fancy she
was lamenting her hard lot in intelligible words.
Say not so, dearest:
Fond bird! though sorrow lengthen out her night
Of widowhood, yet with a cry of joy
She hails the morning light that brings her mate
Back to her side. The agony of parting
Would wound us like a sword, but that its edge
Is blunted by the hope of future meeting.
[S']arngarava! when you have introduced [S']akoontala into the
presence of the King, you must give him this message from me:--
Let me hear it, venerable father.
This is it:--
Most puissant prince! we here present before thee
One thou art bound to cherish and receive
As thine own wife; yea, even to enthrone
As thine own queen--worthy of equal love
With thine imperial consorts. So much, Sire,
We claim of thee as justice due to us,
In virtue of our holy character,
In virtue of thine honourable rank,
In virtue of the pure spontaneous love
That secretly grew up 'twixt thee and her,
Without consent or privity of us.
We ask no more--the rest we freely leave
To thy just feeling and to destiny.
A most suitable message! I will take care to deliver it
And, now, my child, a few words of advice for thee. We hermits,
though we live secluded from the world are not ignorant of
No, indeed. Wise men are conversant with all subjects.
Listen, then, my daughter. When thou reachest thy husband's
palace, and art admitted into his family,
Honour thy betters; ever be respectful
To those above thee; and, should others share
Thy husband's love, ne'er yield thyself a prey
to jealousy; but ever be a friend,
A loving friend, to those who rival thee
In his affections. Should thy wedded lord
Treat thee with harshness, thou most never be
Harsh in return, but patient and submissive;
Be to thy menials courteous, and to all
Placed under thee, considerate and kind;
Be never self-indulgent, but avoid
Excess in pleasure; and, when fortune smiles,
Be not puffed up. Thus to thy husband's house
Wilt thou a blessing prove, and not a curse.
What thinks Gautami of this advice?
An excellent compendium, truly, of every wife's duties! Lay it
well to heart, my daughter.
Come, my beloved child, one parting embrace for me and for thy
companions, and then we leave thee.
My father, must Priyamvada and Anasuya really return with you?
They are very dear to me.
Yes, my child; they, too, in good time, will be given in marriage
to suitable husbands. It would not be proper for them to
accompany thee to such a public place. But Gautami shall be thy
[S']AKOONTALA. [_Embracing him_.
Removed from thy bosom, my beloved father, like a young
tendril of the sandal-tree torn from its home in the western
mountains, how shall I be able to support life in a foreign
Daughter, thy fears are groundless.
Soon shall thy lord prefer thee to the rank
Of his own consort; and unnumbered cares
Befitting his imperial dignity
Shall constantly engross thee. Then the bliss
Of bearing him a son--a noble boy,
Bright as the day-star, shall transport thy soul
With new delights, and little shalt thou reck
Of the light sorrow that afflicts thee now
At parting from thy father and thy friends.
[[S']AKOONTALA _throws herself at her foster-father's feet_.
Blessings on thee, my child! May all my hopes of thee be
[S']AKOONTALA [_Approaching her friends_.
Come, my two loved companions, embrace me both of you together.
PRIYAMVADA AND ANASUYA. [_Embracing her_.
Dear [S']akoontala, remember, if the King should by any chance be
slow in recognizing you, you have only to show him this ring, on
which his own name is engraved.
The bare thought of it puts me in a tremor.
PRIYAMVADA AND ANASUYA.
There is no real cause for fear, dearest. Excessive affection is
too apt to suspect evil where none exists.
Come, lady, we must hasten on. The sun is rising in the heavens.
[S']AKOONTALA. [_Looking towards the hermitage_.
Dear father, when shall I ever see this hallowed grove again?
I will tell thee; listen:--
When thou hast passed a long and blissful life
As King Dushyanta's queen, and jointly shared
With all the earth his ever-watchful care;
And hast beheld thine own heroic son,
Matchless in arms, united to a bride
In happy wedlock; when his aged sire,
Thy faithful husband, hath to him resigned
The helm of state; then, weary of the world,
Together with Dushyanta thou shalt seek
The calm seclusion of thy former home;
There amid holy scenes to be at peace,
Till thy pure spirit gain its last release.
Come, my child, the favourable time for our journey is fast
passing. Let thy father return. Venerable Sire, be thou the first
to move homewards, or these last words will never end.
Daughter, detain me no longer. My religious duties must not be
[S']AKOONTALA. [_Again embracing her foster-father_.
Beloved father, thy frame is much enfeebled by penitential
exercises. Do not, oh! do not, allow thyself to sorrow too much
on my account.
How, O my child, shall my bereaved heart
Forget its bitterness, when, day by day,
Full in my sight shall grow the tender plants
Reared by thy care, or sprang from hallowed grain
Which thy loved hands have strewn around the door--
A frequent offering to our household gods?
Go, my daughter, and may thy journey be prosperous.
[_Exit_ [S']AKOONTALA _with her escort_.
PRIYAMVADA AND ANASUYA. [_Gazing after_ [S']AKOONTALA.
Alas! alas! she is gone, and now the trees hide our darling from
Well, Anasuya, your sister has departed. Moderate your grief,
both of you, and follow me, I go back to the hermitage.
PRIYAMVADA AND ANASUYA.
Holy father, the sacred grove will be a desert without
[S']akoontala. How can we ever return to it?
It is natural enough that your affection should make you view it
in this light.
[_Walking pensively on_.]
As for me, I am quite surprised at myself. Now that I have fairly
dismissed her to her husband's house, my mind is easy; for,
A daughter is a loan--a precious jewel
Lent to a parent till her husband claim her.
And now that to her rightful lord and master
I have delivered her, my burdened soul
Is lightened, and I seem to breathe more freely.
* * * * *
SCENE.--_A Room in the Palace_.
_The King_ DUSHYANTA _and the Jester_ MA[T.]HAVYA _are discovered
Hark! my dear friend, listen a minute, and you will hear sweet
sounds proceeding from the music-room. Some one is singing a
charming air. Who can it be? Oh! I know. The queen Hansapadika is
practising her notes, that she may greet you with a new song.
Hush! Let me listen.
A VOICE SINGS BEHIND THE SCENES.
How often hither didst thou rove,
Sweet bee, to kiss the mango's cheek;
Oh! leave not, then, thy early love,
The lily's honeyed lip to seek.
A most impassioned strain, truly!
Do you understand the meaning of the words?
She means to reprove me, because I once paid her great attention,
and have lately deserted her for the queen Vasumati. Go, my dear
fellow, and tell Hansapadika from me that I take her delicate
reproof as it is intended.
[_Rising from his seat_.]
But stay--I don't much relish being sent to bear the brunt of her
jealousy. The chances are that she will have me seized by the
hair of the head and beaten to a jelly. I would as soon expose
myself, after a vow of celibacy, to the seductions of a lovely
nymph, as encounter the fury of a jealous woman.
Go, go; you can disarm her wrath by a civil speech; but give her
What must be must be, I suppose.
Strange! that song has filled me with a most peculiar sensation.
A melancholy feeling has come over me, and I seem to yearn after
some long-forgotten object of affection. Singular, indeed! but
Not seldom In our happy hours of ease,
When thought is still, the sight of some fair form,
Or mournful fall of music breathing low,
Will stir strange fancies, thrilling all the soul
With a mysterious sadness, and a sense
Of vague yet earnest longing. Can it be
That the dim memory of events long past,
Or friendships formed in other states of being,
Flits like a passing shadow o'er the spirit?
[_Remains pensive and sad_.
_Enter the_ CHAMBERLAIN, _named_ VATAYANA.
Alas! to what an advanced period of life have I attained!
Even this wand betrays the lapse of years;
In youthful days 'twas but a useless badge
And symbol of my office; now it serves
As a support to prop my tottering steps.
Ah me! I feel very unwilling to announce to the King that a
deputation of young hermits from the sage Kanwa has arrived, and
craves an immediate audience. Certainly, his Majesty ought not to
neglect a matter of sacred duty, yet I hardly like to trouble him
when he has just risen from the judgment-seat. Well, well; a
monarch's business is to sustain the world, and he must not
expect much repose; because--
Onward, for ever onward, in his car
The unwearied Sun pursues his daily course,
Nor tarries to unyoke his glittering steeds.
And, ever moving, speeds the rushing Wind
Through boundless space, filling the universe
With his life-giving breezes. Day and night,
The King of Serpents on his thousand heads
Upholds the incumbent earth; and even so,
Unceasing toil is aye the lot of kings,
Who, in return, draw nurture from their subjects.
I will therefore deliver my message.
[_Walking on and looking about_.]
Ah! here comes the King.
His subjects are his children; through the day,
Like a fond father, to supply their wants,
Incessantly he labours; wearied now,
The monarch seeks seclusion and repose;
E'en as the prince of elephants defies
The sun's fierce heat, and leads the fainting herd
To verdant pastures, ere his wayworn limbs
He yields to rest beneath the cooling shade.
Victory to the King! So please your Majesty, some hermits who
live in a forest near the Snowy Mountains have arrived here,
bringing certain women with them. They have a message to deliver
from the sage Kanwa and desire an audience. I await your
A message from the sage Kanwa, did you say?
Even so, my liege.
Tell my domestic priest Somarata to receive the hermits with due
honour, according to the prescribed form. He may then himself
introduce them into my presence. I will await them in a place
suitable for the reception of such holy guests.
Your Majesty's commands shall be obeyed.
KING. [_Rising and addressing his_ WARDER.
Vetravati, lead the way to the chamber of the consecrated
This way, Sire.
[_Walking on, with the air of one oppressed by the cares of
People are generally contented and happy when they have gained
their desires; but kings have no sooner attained the object of
their aspirations than all their troubles begin.
'Tis a fond thought that to attain the end
And object of ambition is to rest;
Success doth only mitigate the fever
Of anxious expectation; soon the fear
Of losing what we have, the constant care
Of guarding it, doth weary. Ceaseless toil
Must be the lot of him who with his hands
Supports the canopy that shields his subjects.
TWO HERALDS. [_Behind the scenes_.
May the King be victorious!
Honour to him who labours day by day
For the world's weal, forgetful of his own;
Like some tall tree that with its stately head
Endures the solar beam, while underneath
It yields refreshing shelter to the weary.
Let but the monarch wield his threatening rod
And e'en the guilty tremble; at his voice
The rebel spirit cowers; his grateful subjects
Acknowledge him their guardian; rich and poor
Hail him a faithful friend--a loving kinsman.
Weary as I was before, this complimentary address has refreshed
Here is the terrace of the hallowed fire-chamber, and yonder
stands the cow that yields the milk for the oblations. The sacred
enclosure has been recently purified, and looks clean and
beautiful. Ascend, Sire.
KING. [Leans on the shoulders of his attendants and ascends_.
Vetravati, what can possibly be the message that the venerable
Kanwa has sent me by these hermits?
Perchance their sacred rites have been disturbed
By demons, or some evil has befallen
The innocent herds, their favourites, that graze
Within the precincts of the hermitage,
Or haply, through my sins, some withering blight
Has nipped the creeping plants that spread their arms
Around the hallowed grove. Such troubled thoughts
Crowd through my mind, and fill me with misgiving.
If you ask my opinion, Sire, I think the hermits merely wish to
take an opportunity of testifying their loyalty, and are
therefore come to offer homage to your majesty.
_Enter the_ HERMITS _leading_ [S']AKOONTALA, _attended by_ GAUTAMI;
_and in advance of them, the_ CHAMBERLAIN _and the_ DOMESTIC
This way, reverend Sirs, this way.
'Tis true the monarch lacks no royal grace,
Nor ever swerves from justice; true, his people,
Yea such as in life's humblest walks are found,
Refrain from evil courses; still to me,
A lonely hermit reared in solitude,
This throng appears bewildering, and I seem
To look upon a burning house, whose inmates
Are running to and fro in wild dismay.
It is natural that the first sight of the King's capital should
affect you in this manner; my own sensations are very similar.
As one just bathed beholds the man polluted;
As one late purified, the yet impure;
As one awake looks on the yet unawakened;
Or as the freeman gazes on the thrall,
So I regard this crowd of pleasure-seekers.
[_Feeling a quivering sensation in her right eyelid_ _, and
suspecting a bad omen_.
Alas! what means this throbbing of my right eyelid?
Heaven avert the evil omen, my child! May the guardian deities of
thy husband's family convert it into a sign of good fortune!
[_Pointing to the King_.
Most reverend Sirs, there stands the protector of the four
classes of the people; the guardian of the four conditions of the
priesthood. He has just left the judgment-seat, and is
waiting for you. Behold him!
Great Brahman, we are happy in thinking that the King's power is
exerted for the protection of all classes of his subjects. We
have not come as petitioners--we have the fullest confidence in
the generosity of his nature.
The loftiest trees bend humbly to the ground
Beneath the teeming burden of their fruit;
High in the vernal sky the pregnant clouds
Suspend their stately course, and, hanging low,
Scatter their sparkling treasures o'er the earth;
And such is true benevolence; the good
Are never rendered arrogant by riches.
So please your Majesty, I judge from the placid countenance of
the hermits that they have no alarming message to deliver.
KING. [_Looking at [S']AKOONTALA_.
But the lady there--
Who can she be, whose form of matchless grace
Is half concealed beneath her flowing veil?
Among the sombre hermits she appears
Like a fresh bud 'mid sear and yellow leaves.
So please your Majesty, my curiosity is also roused, but no
conjecture occurs to my mind. This at least is certain, that she
deserves to be looked at more closely.
True; but it is not right to gaze at another man's wife.
[S']AKOONTALA. [_Placing her hand on her bosom. Aside_.
O my heart, why this throbbing? Remember thy lord's affection,
and take courage.
These holy men have been received with all due honour. One of
them has now a message to deliver from his spiritual superior.
Will your Majesty deign to hear it?
I am all attention.
HERMITS. [_Extending their hands_.
Victory to the King!
Accept my respectful greeting.
May the desires of your soul be accomplished!
I trust no one is molesting you in the prosecution of your
Who dares disturb our penitential rites
When thou art our protector? Can the night
Prevail to cast her shadows o'er the earth
While the sun's beams irradiate the sky?
Such, indeed, is the very meaning of my title--'Defender of the
Just.' I trust the venerable Kanwa is in good health. The world
is interested in his well-being.
Holy men have health and prosperity in their own power. He bade
us greet your Majesty, and, after kind inquiries, deliver this
Let me hear his commands.
He bade us say that he feels happy in giving his sanction to the
marriage which your Majesty contracted with this lady, his
daughter, privately and by mutual agreement. Because,
By us thou art esteemed the most illustrious
Of noble husbands; and [S']akoontala,
Virtue herself in human form revealed.
Great Brahma hath in equal yoke united
A bride unto a husband worthy of her;
Henceforth let none make blasphemous complaint
That he is pleased with ill-assorted unions.
Since, therefore, she expects soon to be the mother of thy child,
receive her into thy palace, that she may perform, in conjunction
with thee, the ceremonies prescribed by religion on such an
So please your Majesty, I would add a few words; but why should
I intrude my sentiments when an opportunity of speaking my mind
has never been allowed me?
She took no counsel with her kindred; thou
Didst not confer with thine, but all alone
Didst solemnize thy nuptials with thy wife.
Together, then, hold converse; let us leave you.
Ah! how I tremble for my lord's reply.
What strange proposal is this?
His words are like fire to me.
What do I hear? Dost thou, then, hesitate? Monarch, thou art well
acquainted with the ways of the world, and knowest that
A wife, however virtuous and discreet,
If she live separate from her wedded lord,
Though under shelter of her parent's roof,
Is marked for vile suspicion. Let her dwell
Beside her husband, though he hold her not
In his affection. So her kinsmen will it.
Do you really mean to assert that I ever married
[S']AKOONTALA. [_Despondingly. Aside_.
O my heart, thy worst misgivings are confirmed.
Is it becoming in a monarch to depart from the rules of justice,
because he repents of his engagements?
I cannot answer a question which is based on a mere fabrication.
Such inconstancy is fortunately not common, except in men
intoxicated by power.
Is that remark aimed at me?
Be not ashamed, my daughter. Let me remove thy veil for a little
space. Thy husband will then recognize thee.
[_Removes her veil_.
[_Gazing at_ [S']AKOONTALA. _Aside_.
What charms are here revealed before mine eyes!
Truly no blemish mars the symmetry
Of that fair form; yet can I ne'er believe
She is my wedded wife; and like a bee
That circles round the flower whose nectared cup
Teems with the dew of morning, I must pause
Ere eagerly I taste the proffered sweetness.
[_Remains wrapped in thought_.
How admirably does our royal master's behaviour prove his regard
for justice! Who else would hesitate for a moment when good
fortune offered for his acceptance a form of such rare beauty?
Great King, why art thou silent?
Holy men, I have revolved the matter in my mind; but the more I
think of it, the less able am I to recollect that I ever
contracted an alliance with this lady. What answer, then, can I
possibly give you when I do not believe myself to be her husband,
and I plainly see that she is soon to become a mother?
Woe! woe! Is our very marriage to be called in question by my own
husband? Ah me! is this to be the end of all my bright visions of
Beware how thou insult the holy Sage!
Remember how he generously allowed
Thy secret union with his foster-child;
And how, when thou didst rob him of his treasure,
He sought to furnish thee excuse, when rather
He should have cursed thee for a ravisher.
[S']arngarava, speak to him no more. [S']akoontala,
our part is performed; we have said all we have to
say, and the King has replied in the manner thou
hast heard. It is now thy turn to give him convincing
evidence of thy marriage.
Since his feeling towards me has undergone a complete revolution,
what will it avail to revive old recollections? One thing is
clear--I shall soon have to mourn my own widowhood.
My revered husband--
But no--I dare not address thee by this title, since thou hast
refused to acknowledge our union. Noble descendant of Puru! It is
not worthy of thee to betray an innocent-minded girl, and disown
her in such terms, after having so lately and so solemnly
plighted thy vows to her in the hermitage.
[_Stopping his ears_.
I will hear no more. Be such a crime far from my thoughts!
What evil spirit can possess thee, lady,
That thou dost seek to sully my good name
By base aspersions, like a swollen torrent,
That, leaping from its narrow bed, o'erthrows
The tree upon its bank, and strives to blend
Its turbid waters with the crystal stream?
If, then, thou really believest me to be the wife of another, and
thy present conduct proceeds from some cloud that obscures thy
recollection, I will easily convince thee by this token.
An excellent idea!
[_Feeling for the ring_.
Alas! alas! woe is me! There is no ring on my finger!
[_Looks with anguish at_ GAUTAMI.
The ring must have slipped off when thou wast in the act of
offering homage to the holy water of [S']achi's sacred pool, near
People may well talk of the readiness of woman's invention! Here
is an instance of it.
Say, rather, of the omnipotence of fate. I will mention another
circumstance, which may yet convince thee.
By all means let me hear it at once.
One day, while we were seated in a jasmine-bower, thou didst pour
into the hollow of thine hand some water, sprinkled by a recent
shower in the cup of a lotus-blossom--
I am listening; proceed.
At that instant, my adopted child, the little fawn, with soft,
long eyes, came running towards us. Upon which, before tasting
the water thyself, thou didst kindly offer some to the little
creature, saying fondly:--'Drink first, gentle fawn.' But she
could not be induced to drink from the hand of a stranger; though
immediately afterwards, when I took the water in my own hand,
she drank with perfect confidence. Then, with a smile, thou didst
say;--'Every creature confides naturally in its own kind. You are
both inhabitants of the same forest, and have learnt to trust
Voluptuaries may allow themselves to be seduced from the path of
duty by falsehoods such as these, expressed in honeyed words.
Speak not thus, illustrious Prince. This lady was brought up in a
hermitage, and has never learnt deceit.
E'en in untutored brutes, the female sex
Is marked by inborn subtlety--much more
In beings gifted with intelligence.
The wily Koil, ere towards the sky
She wings her sportive flight, commits her eggs
To other nests, and artfully consigns
The rearing of her little ones to strangers.
Dishonourable man, thou judgest of others by thine own evil
heart. Thou, at least, art unrivalled in perfidy, and standest
alone--a base deceiver in the garb of virtue and religion--like a
deep pit whose yawning mouth is concealed by smiling flowers.
Her anger, at any rate, appears genuine, and makes me almost
doubt whether I am in the right. For indeed,
When I had vainly searched my memory,
And so with stern severity denied
The fabled story of our secret loves,
Her brows, that met before in graceful curves,
Like the arched weapon of the god of love,
Seemed by her frown dissevered; while the fire
Of sudden anger kindled in her eyes.
My good lady, Dushyanta's character is well known to all. I
comprehend not your meaning.
Well do I deserve to be thought a harlot for having in the
innocence of my heart, and out of the confidence I reposed in a
Prince of Puru's race, entrusted my honour to a man whose mouth
distils honey, while his heart is full of poison.
[_Covers her face with her mantle, and bursts into tears_.
Thus it is that burning remorse must ever follow rash actions
which might have been avoided, and for which one has only one's
self to blame.
Not hastily should marriage be contracted,
And specially in secret. Many a time,
In hearts that know not each the other's fancies,
Fond love is changed into most bitter hate.
How now! Do you give credence to this woman rather than to me,
that you heap such accusations on me?
That would be too absurd, certainly. You have heard the
Hold in contempt the innocent words of those
Who from their infancy have known no guile;
But trust the treacherous counsels of the man
Who makes a very science of deceit.
Most veracious Brahman, grant that you are in the right, what end
would be gained by betraying this lady?
No one will believe that a Prince of Puru's race would seek to
ruin others or himself.
This altercation is idle, [S']arngarava. We have executed the
commission of our preceptor; come, let us return.
[_To the_ KING.
[S']akoontala is certainly thy bride;
Receive her or reject her, she is thine.
Do with her, King, according to thy pleasure--
The husband o'er the wife is absolute.
Go on before us, Gautami.
[_They move away_.
What! is it not enough to have been betrayed by this perfidious
man? Must you also forsake me, regardless of my tears and
[_Attempts to follow them_.
My son [S']arngarava, see! [S']akoontala is following us, and with
tears implores us not to leave her. Alas! poor child, what will
she do here with a cruel husband who casts her from him?
[_Turning angrily towards her_.
Wilful woman, dost thou seek to be independent of thy lord?
[[S']AKOONTALA _trembles with fear_.
If thou art really what the King proclaims thee,
How can thy father e'er receive thee back
Into his house and home? but if thy conscience
Be witness to thy purity of soul,
E'en should thy husband to a handmaid's lot
Condemn thee, thou may'st cheerfully endure it.
When ranked among the number of his household.
Thy duty therefore is to stay. As for us, we must return
Deceive not this lady, my good hermit, by any such expectations.
The moon expands the lotus of the night,
The rising sun awakes the lily; each
Is with his own contented. Even so
The virtuous man is master of his passions,
And from another's wife averts his gaze.
Since thy union with another woman has rendered thee oblivious of
thy marriage with [S']akoontala, whence this fear of losing thy
character for constancy and virtue?
KING. [_To his domestic_ PRIEST.
You must counsel me, revered Sir, as to my course of action.
Which of the two evils involves the greater or less sin?
Whether by some dark veil my mind be clouded.
Or this designing woman speak untruly,
I know not. Tell me, must I rather be
The base disowner of my wedded wife,
Or the defiling and defiled adulterer?
PRIEST. [_After deliberation_.
You must take an intermediate course.
What course, revered Sir? Tell me at once.
I will provide an asylum for the lady in my own house until the
birth of her child; and my reason, if you ask me, is this:
Soothsayers have predicted that your first-born will have
universal dominion. Now, if the hermit's daughter bring forth a
son with the discus or mark of empire in the lines of his
hand, you must admit her immediately into your royal
apartments with great rejoicings; if not, then determine to send
her back as soon as possible to her father.
KING. I bow to the decision of my spiritual advisor.
Daughter, follow me.
O divine earth, open and receive me into thy bosom!
[_Exit_ [S']AKOONTALA _weeping, with the_ PRIEST _and the_ HERMITS.
_The_ KING _remains absorbed in thinking of her, though the curse
still clouds his recollection_.
A VOICE BEHIND THE SCENES.
A miracle! a miracle!
What has happened now?
PRIEST. [_Entering with an air of astonishment_.
Great Prince, a stupendous prodigy has just occurred.
What is it?
May it please your Majesty, so soon as Kanwa's pupils had
departed, [S']akoontala, her eyes all bathed in tears, with
outstretched arms, bewailed her cruel fate--
Well, well, what happened then?
When suddenly a shining apparition,
In female shape, descended from the skies,
Near the nymph's pool, and bore her up to heaven.
[_All remain motionless with astonishment_.
My good priest, from the very first I declined having anything to
do with this matter. It is now all over, and we can never, by our
conjectures, unravel the mystery; let it rest; go, seek repose.
[_Looking at the_ KING.
Be it so. Victory to the King!
Vetravati, I am tired out; lead the way to the bedchamber.
This way, Sire.
[_They move away_.
Do what I will, I cannot call to mind
That I did e'er espouse the sage's daughter;
Therefore I have disowned her; yet 'tis strange
How painfully my agitated heart
Bears witness to the truth of her assertion,
And makes me credit her against my judgment.
* * * * *
PRELUDE TO ACT VI.
_Enter the King's brother-in-law as_ SUPERINTENDENT _of the city
police; and with him_ TWO CONSTABLES, _dragging a poor_
FISHERMAN, _who has his hands tied behind his back_.
BOTH THE CONSTABLES. [_Striking the prisoner_.
Take that for a rascally thief that you are; and now tell us, sirrah,
where you found this ring--aye, the King's own signet-ring. See, here
is the royal name engraved on the setting of the jewel.
FISHERMAN. [_With a gesture of alarm_.
Mercy! kind sirs, mercy! I did not steal it; indeed I did not.
Oh! then I suppose the King took you for some fine Brahman, and
made you a present of it?
Only hear me. I am but a poor fisherman, living at Sakravatara--
Scoundrel, who ever asked you, pray, for a history of your birth
SUPERINTENDENT. [_To one of the_ CONSTABLES.
Suchaka, let the fellow tell his own story from the beginning.
Don't interrupt him.
As you please, master. Go on, then, sirrah, and say what you've
got to say.
You see in me a poor man, who supports his family by catching
fish with nets, hooks, and the like.
A most refined occupation, certainly!
Blame me not for it, master,
The father's occupation, though despised
By others, casts no shame upon the son,
And he should not forsake it. Is the priest
Who kills the animal for sacrifice
Therefore deemed cruel? Sure a low-born man
May, though a fisherman, be tender-hearted.
Well, well; go on with your story.
One day I was cutting open a large carp I had just hooked,
when the sparkle of a jewel caught my eye, and what should I find
in the fish's maw but that ring! Soon afterwards, when I was
offering it for sale, I was seized by your honours. Now you know
everything. Whether you kill me, or whether you let me go, this
is the true account of how the ring came into my possession.
SUPERINTENDENT. [_To one of the_ CONSTABLES.
Well, Januka, the rascal emits such a fishy odour that I have no
doubt of his being a fisherman; but we must inquire a little more
closely into this queer story about the finding of the ring.
Come, we'll take him before the King's household.
Very good, master. Get on with you, you cutpurse.
[_All move on_.
Now attend, Suchaka; keep your guard here at the gate; and hark
ye, sirrahs, take good care your prisoner does not escape, while
I go in and lay the whole story of the discovery of this ring
before the King in person. I will soon return and let you know
Go in, master, by all means; and may you find favour in the
[_Exit_ SUPERINTENDENT. FIRST CONSTABLE.
[_After an interval_.
I say, Januka, the Superintendent is a long time away.
Aye, aye; kings are not to be got at so easily. Folks must bide
the proper opportunity.
Januka, my fingers itch to strike the first blow at this royal
victim here. We must kill him with all the honours, you know. I
long to begin binding the flowers round his head.
[_Pretends to strike a blow at the_ FISHERMAN.
Your Honour surely will not put an innocent man to a cruel death.
There's our Superintendent at last, I declare. See! he is coming
towards us with a paper in his hand. We shall soon know the
King's command; so prepare, my fine fellow, either to become food
for the vultures, or to make acquaintance with some hungry cur.
Ho, there, Suchaka! set the fisherman at liberty, I tell you. His
story about the ring is all correct. SUCHAKA.
Oh! very good, Sir; as you please.
The fellow had one foot in hell, and now here he is in the land
of the living.
[_Bowing to the_ SUPERINTENDENT.
Now, master, what think you of my way of getting a livelihood?
Here, my good man, the King desired me to present you with this
purse. It contains a sum of money equal to the full value of the
[_Gives him the money_.
[_Taking it and bowing_.
His Majesty does me too great honour.
You may well say so. He might as well have taken you from the
gallows to seat you on his state elephant.
Master, the King must value the ring very highly, or he would
never have sent such a sum of money to this ragamuffin.
I don't think he prizes it as a costly jewel so much as a
memorial of some person he tenderly loves. The moment it was
shown to him he became much agitated, though in general he
conceals his feelings. SUCHAKA.
Then you must have done a great service--
Yes, to this husband of a fish-wife.
[_Looks enviously at the_ FISHERMAN.
Here's half the money for you, my masters. It will serve to
purchase the flowers you spoke of, if not to buy me your
Well, now, that's just as it should be.
My good fisherman, you are an excellent fellow, and I begin to
feel quite a regard for you. Let us seal our first friendship
over a glass of good liquor. Come along to the next wine-shop,
and we'll drink your health.
By all means.
* * * * *
SCENE.--_The Garden of a Palace.
The nymph_ SANUMATI _is seen descending in a celestial car_.
Behold me just arrived from attending in my proper turn at the
nymph's pool, where I have left the other nymphs to perform their
ablutions, whilst I seek to ascertain, with my own eyes, how it
fares with King Dushyanta. My connexion with the nymph Menaka has
made her daughter [S']akoontala dearer to me than my own flesh and
blood; and Menaka it was who charged me with this errand on her
[_Looking round in all directions_.]
How is it that I see no preparations in the King's household for
celebrating the great vernal festival? I could easily
discover the reason by my divine faculty of meditation; but
respect must be shown to the wishes of my friend. How then shall
I arrive at the truth? I know what I will do. I will become
invisible, and place myself near those two maidens who are
tending the plants in the garden.
[_Descends and takes her station_.
_Enter a_ MAIDEN, _who stops in front of a mango-tree, and gazes
at the blossom. Another_ MAIDEN _is seen behind her_.
Hail to thee, lovely harbinger of spring! The varied radiance of
thy opening flowers Is welcome to my sight. I bid thee hail,
Sweet mango, soul of this enchanting season.
Parabhritika, what are you saying there to yourself?
Dear Madhukarika, am I not named after the Koil? and does not
the Koil sing for joy at the first appearance of the mango-blossom?
SECOND MAIDEN. [_Approaching hastily, with transport_.
What! is spring really come?
Yes, indeed, Madhukarika, and with it the season of joy, love,
Let me lean upon you, dear, while I stead on tiptoe and pluck a
blossom, of the mango, that I may present it as an offering to
the god of love.
Provided you let me have half the reward which the god will
bestow in return.
To be sure you shall, and that without asking. Are we not one in
heart and soul, though divided in body?
[_Leans on her friend and plucks a mango-blossom_.]
Ah! here is a bud just bursting into flower. It diffuses a
delicious perfume, though not yet quite expanded.
[_Joining her hands reverentially_.]
God of the bow, who with spring's choicest flowers
Dost point thy five unerring shafts; to thee
I dedicate this blossom; let it serve
To barb thy truest arrow; be its mark
Some youthful heart that pines to be beloved.
[_Throws down a mango-blossom_.
[_Entering in a hurried manner, angrily_.
Hold there, thoughtless woman. What are you about, breaking off
those mango-blossoms, when the King has forbidden the celebration
of the spring festival?
BOTH MAIDENS. [_Alarmed_.
Pardon us, kind Sir, we have heard nothing of it.
You have heard nothing of it? Why, all the vernal plants and
shrubs, and the very birds that lodge in their branches, show
more respect to the King's order than you do.
Yon mango-blossoms, though long since expanded,
Gather no down upon their tender crests;
The flower still lingers in the amaranth,
Imprisoned in its bud; the tuneful Koil,
Though winter's chilly dews be overpast,
Suspends the liquid volume of his song
Scarce uttered in his throat; e'en Love, dismayed,
Restores the half-drawn arrow to his quiver.
The mighty power of King Dushyanta is not to be disputed.
It is but a few days since Mitravasu, the King's brother-in-law,
sent us to wait upon his Majesty; and, during the whole of our
sojourn here, we have been entrusted with the charge of the royal
pleasure-grounds. We are therefore strangers in this place, and
heard nothing of the order till you informed us of it.
Well then, now you know it, take care you don't continue your
But tell us, kind Sir, why has the King prohibited the usual
festivities? We are curious to hear, if we may.
Men are naturally fond of festive entertainments. There must be
some good reason for the prohibition.
The whole affair is now public; why should I not speak of it?
Has not the gossip about the King's rejection of [S']akoontala
reached your ears yet?
Oh yes, we heard the story from the King's brother-in-law, as
far, at least, as the discovery of the ring.
Then there is little more to tell you. As soon as the King's
memory was restored by the sight of his own ring, he exclaimed:
'Yes, it is all true. I remember now my secret marriage with
[S']akoontala. When I repudiated her, I had lost my recollection!'
Ever since that moment, he has yielded himself a prey to the
He loathes his former pleasures; he rejects
The daily homage of his ministers;
On his lone couch he tosses to and fro,
Courting repose in vain. Whene'er he meets
The ladies of his palace, and would fain
Address them with politeness, he confounds
Their names; or, calling them '[S']akoontala,'
Is straightway silent and abashed with shame.
To me this account is delightful.
In short, the King is so completely out of his mind that the
festival has been prohibited.
A VOICE BEHIND THE SCENES.
The King! the King! This way, Sire, this way.
Oh! here comes his Majesty in this direction. Pass on, maidens;
attend to your duties.
We will, sir.
_Enter King_ DUSHYANTA, _dressed in deep mourning, attended his
Jester_, MA[T.]HAVYA, _and preceded by_ VETRAVATI.
CHAMBERLAIN. [_Gazing at the_ KING.
Well, noble forms are certainly pleasing, under all varieties of
outward circumstances. The King's person is as charming as ever,
notwithstanding his sorrow of mind.
Though but a single golden bracelet spans
His wasted arm; though costly ornaments
Have given place to penitential weeds;
Though oft-repeated sighs have blanched his lips,
And robbed them of their bloom; though sleepless care
And carking thought have dimmed his beaming eye;
Yet does his form, by its inherent lustre,
Dazzle the gaze; and, like a priceless gem
Committed to some cunning polisher,
Grow more effulgent by the loss of substance.
SANUMATI. [_Aside. Looking at the_ KING.
Now that I have seen him, I can well understand why [S']akoontala
should pine after such a man, in spite of his disdainful
rejection of her.
KING. [_Walking slowly up and down in deep thought_.
When fatal lethargy o'erwhelmed my soul,
My loved one strove to rouse me, but in vain;
And now, when I would fain in slumber deep
Forget myself, full soon remorse doth wake me.
My poor [S']akoontala's sufferings are very similar.
He is taken with another attack of this odious [S']akoontala-fever.
How shall we ever cure him?
Victory to the King! Great Prince, the royal pleasure-grounds
have been put in order. Your Majesty can resort to them for
exercise and amusement whenever you think proper.
Vetravati, tell the worthy Pi[S']una, my prime minister, from me,
that I am so exhausted by want of sleep that I cannot sit on the
judgment-seat to-day. If any case of importance be brought before
the tribunal, he must give it his best attention, and inform me
of the circumstances by letter.
Your Majesty's commands shall be obeyed.
KING. [_To the CHAMBERLAIN_.
And you, Vatayana, may go about your own affairs.
I will, Sire.
Now that you have rid yourself of these troublesome fellows, you
can enjoy the delightful coolness of your pleasure-grounds
Ah! my dear friend, there is an old adage:--'When affliction has
a mind to enter, she will find a crevice somewhere;' and it is
verified in me.
Scarce is my soul delivered from the cloud
That darkened its remembrance of the past,
When lo! the heart-born deity of love
With yonder blossom of the mango barbs
His keenest shaft, and aims it at my breast.
Well, then, wait a moment; I will soon demolish Master Kama's
arrow with a cut of my cane.
[_Raises his stick and strikes off the mango-blossom_.
That will do. I see very well the god of love is not a match for
a Brahman. And now, my dear friend, where shall I sit down, that
I may enchant my sight by gazing on the twining plants, which
seem to remind me of the graceful shape of my beloved?
Don't you remember? you told your personal attendant, Chaturika,
that you would pass the heat of the day in the jasmine-bower; and
commanded her to bring the likeness of your queen [S']akoontala,
sketched with your own hand.
True. The sight of her picture will refresh my soul. Lead the way
to the arbour.
This way, Sire.
[_Both move on, followed by_ SANUMATI.
Here we are at the jasmine-bower. Look, it has a marble seat, and
seems to bid us welcome with its offerings of delicious flowers.
You have only to enter and sit down.
[_Both enter and seat themselves_.
I will lean against these young jasmines. I can easily, from
behind them, glance at my friend's picture, and will then hasten
to inform her of her husband's ardent affection.
[_Stands leaning against the creepers_.
Oh! my dear friend, how vividly all the circumstances of my union
with [S']akoontala present themselves to my recollection at this
moment! But tell me now how it was that, between the time of my
leaving her in the hermitage and my subsequent rejection of her,
you never breathed her name to me? True, you were not by my side
when I disowned her; but I had confided to you the story of my
love, and you were acquainted with every particular. Did it pass
out of your mind as it did out of mine?
No, no; trust me for that. But, if you remember, when you had
finished telling me about it, you added that I was not to take
the story in earnest, for that you were not really in love with a
country girl, but were only jesting; and I was dull and
thick-headed enough to believe you. But so fate decreed, and
there is no help for it.