HotFreeBooks.com
The Dawn and the Day
by Henry Thayer Niles
1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

E-text prepared by Al Haines



THE DAWN AND THE DAY

Or, The Buddha and the Christ, Part I

by

HENRY T. NILES

The Blade Printing & Paper Company Toledo, Ohio

1894



PREFACE.

When Humboldt first ascended the Andes and saw the trees, shrubs and flora he had long before studied on the Alps, he had only to look at his barometer, or at the sea of mountains and hills below, the rocks and soil around, and the sun above, to understand this seeming marvel of creation; while those who knew less of the laws of order and universal harmony might be lost in conjectures about pollen floating in the upper air, or seeds carried by birds across seas, forgetting that preservation is perpetual creation, and that it takes no more power to clothe a mountain just risen from the sea in appropriate verdure than to renew the beauty and the bloom of spring.

Max Mueller, who looks through antiquity with the same clear vision with which Humboldt examined the physical world, when he found the most ancient Hindoos bowing in worship before Dyaus Pitar, the exact equivalent of the Zeus Pater of the Greeks and the Jupiter of the Romans, and of "Our Father who art in the heavens" in our own divinely taught prayer, instead of indulging in wild speculations about the chance belief of some ancient chief or patriarch, transmitted across continents and seas and even across the great gulf that has always divided the Aryan from the Semitic civilization and preserved through ages of darkness and unbelief, saw in it the common yearning of the human soul to find rest on a loving Father's almighty arm; yet when our oriental missionaries and scholars found such fundamental truths of their own religion as the common brotherhood of man, and that love is the vital force of all religion, which consists not in blood-oblations or in forms and creeds, but in shunning evil and doing good, and that we must overcome evil by good and hatred by love, and that there is a spiritual world and life after death embodied in the teachings of Buddha—instead of finding in this great fact new proof of the common Father's love for all His children, they immediately began to indulge in conjectures as to how these truths might have been derived from the early Christians who visited the East, while those who were disposed to reject the claims of Christianity have exhausted research and conjecture to find something looking as if Christianity itself might have been derived from the Buddhist missionaries to Palestine and Egypt, both overlooking the remarkable fact that it is only in fundamental truths that the two religions agree, while in the dogmas, legends, creeds and speculations which form the wall of separation between them they are as wide asunder as the poles.

How comes it on the one theory that the Nestorians, whose peculiar creed had already separated them from the balance of the Christian church, taught their Buddhist disciples no part of that creed to which they have adhered with such tenacity through the ages? And on the other theory, how comes it, if the Divine Master was, as some modern writers claim, an Essene, that is, a Buddhist monk, that there is not in all his teachings a trace of the speculations and legends which had already buried the fundamental truths of Buddhism almost out of sight?

How sad to hear a distinguished Christian scholar like Sir Monier Williams cautioning his readers against giving a Christian meaning to the Christian expressions he constantly met with in Buddhism, and yet informing them that a learned and distinguished Japanese gentleman told him it was a source of great delight to him to find so many of his most cherished religious beliefs in the New Testament; and to see an earnest Christian missionary like good Father Huc, when in the busy city of Lha-ssa, on the approach of evening, at the sound of a bell the whole population sunk on their knees in a concert of prayer, only finding in it an attempt of Satan to counterfeit Christian worship; and on the other hand to see ancient and modern learning ransacked to prove that the brightest and clearest light that ever burst upon a sinful and benighted world was but the reflected rays of another faith.

And yet this same Sir Monier Williams says: "We shall not be far wrong in attempting an outline of the Buddha's life if we begin by assuming that intense individuality, fervid earnestness and severe simplicity, combined with singular beauty of countenance, calm dignity of bearing, and almost superhuman persuasiveness of speech, were conspicuous in the great teacher." To believe that such a character was the product of a false religion, or that he was given over to believe a lie, savors too much of that worst agnosticism which would in effect deny the universality of God's love and would limit His care to some favored locality or age or race.

How much more in harmony with the broad philosophy of such men as Humboldt and Mueller, and with the character of a loving Father, to believe that at all times and in all countries He has been watching over all His children and giving them all the light they were capable of receiving.

This narrow view is especially out of place in treating of Buddhism and Christianity, as Buddha himself predicted that his Dharma would last but five hundred years, when he would be succeeded by Matreya, that is, Love incarnate, on which account the whole Buddhist world was on tiptoe of expectation at the time of the coming of our Lord, so that the wise men of the East were not only following their guiding-star but the prediction of their own great prophet in seeking Bethlehem.

Had the Christian missionaries to the East left behind them their creeds, which have only served to divide Christians into hostile sects and sometimes into hostile camps, and which so far as I can see, after years of patient study, have no necessary connection with the simple, living truths taught by our Saviour, and had taken only their New Testaments and their earnest desire to do good, the history of missions would have been widely different.

How of the earth earthy seemed the walls that divided the delegates to the world's great Congress of Religions, recently held in Chicago, and how altogether divine

The love which like an endless golden chain Joined all in one.

Whatever others may think, it is my firm belief that Buddhism and Christianity, which we cannot doubt have influenced for good such vast masses the human family, both descended from heaven clothed in robes of celestial purity which have become sadly stained by their contact with the selfishness of a sinful world, except for which belief the following pages would never have been written, which are now sent forth in the hope that they may do something to enable Buddhists and Christians to see eye to eye and something to promote peace and good-will among men.

While following my own conceptions and even fancies in many things, I believe the leading characters and incidents to be historical, and I have given nothing as the teaching of the great master which was not to my mind clearly authenticated.

To those who have read so much about agnostic Buddhism, and about Nirvana meaning annihilation, it may seem bold in me to present Buddha as an undoubting believer in the fundamental truths of all religion, and as not only a believer in a spiritual world but an actual visitor to its sad and blissful scenes; but the only agnosticism I have been able to trace to Buddha was a want of faith in the many ways invented through the ages to escape the consequences of sin and to avoid the necessity of personal purification, and the only annihilation he taught and yearned for was the annihilation of self in the highest Christian sense, and escape from that body of death from which the Apostle Paul so earnestly sought deliverance.

Doubtless agnosticism and almost every form of belief and unbelief subsequently sprang up among the intensely acute and speculative peoples of the East known under the general name of Buddhists, as they did among the less acute and speculative peoples of the West known as Christians; but the one is no more primitive Buddhism than the other is primitive Christianity.

While there are innumerable poetic legends—of which Spence Hardy's "Manual of Buddhism" is a great storehouse, and many of which are given by Arnold in his beautiful poem—strewn thick along the track of Buddhist literature, constantly tempting one to leave the straight path of the development of a great religion, I have carefully avoided what did not commend itself to my mind as either historical or spiritual truth.

It was my original design to follow the wonderful career of Buddha until his long life closed with visions of the golden city much as described in Revelation, and then to follow that most wonderful career of Buddhist missions, not only through India and Ceylon, but to Palestine, Greece and Egypt, and over the table-lands of Asia and through the Chinese Empire to Japan, and thence by the black stream to Mexico and Central America, and then to follow the wise men of the East until the Light of the world dawned on them on the plains of Bethlehem—a task but half accomplished, which I shall yet complete if life and strength are spared.

A valued literary friend suggests that the social life described in the following pages is too much like ours, but why should their daily life and social customs be greatly different from ours? The Aryan migrations to India and to Europe were in large masses, of course taking their social customs, or as the Romans would say, their household gods, with them.

What wonder, then, that the home as Tacitus describes it in the "Wilds of Germany" was substantially what Mueller finds from the very structure of the Sanscrit and European languages it must have been in Bactria, the common cradle of the Aryan race. There can scarcely be a doubt that twenty-five hundred years ago the daily life and social customs in the north of India, which had been under undisputed Aryan control long enough for the Sanscrit language to spring up, come to perfection and finally become obsolete, were more like ours than like those of modern India after the, many—and especially the Mohammedan—conquests and after centuries of oppression and alien rule.

If a thousand English-speaking Aryans should now be placed on some distant island, how much would their social customs and even amusements differ from ours in a hundred years? Only so far as changed climate and surrounding's compelled.

I give as an introduction an outline of the golden, silver, brazen and iron ages, as described by the ancient poets and believed in by all antiquity, as it was in the very depths of the darkness of the iron age that our great light appeared in Northern India. The very denseness of the darkness of the age in which he came makes the clearness of the light more wonderful, and accounts for the joy with which it was received and the rapidity with which it spread.

Not to enter into the niceties of chronological questions, the mission of Buddha may be roughly said to have commenced about five hundred years before the commencement of our era, and with incessant labors and long and repeated journeys to have lasted forty-five years, when at about the age of eighty he died, or, as the Buddhists more truthfully and more beautifully say, entered Nirvana.

HENRY T. NILES. TOLEDO, January 1, 1894.

* * * * *

Since this work was in the hands of the printer I have read the recent work of Bishop Copelston, of Columbo, Ceylon, and it was a source of no small gratification to find him in all material points agreeing with the result of my somewhat extensive investigations as given within, for in Ceylon, if anywhere, we would expect accuracy. Here the great Buddhist development first comes in contact with authentic history during the third century B.C. in the reign of the great Asoka, the discovery of whose rock inscriptions shed such a flood of light on primitive Buddhism, while it still retained enough of its primitive power, as we learn from those inscriptions themselves, to turn that monarch from a course of cruel tyranny, and, as we learn from the history of Ceylon, to induce his son and daughter to abandon royalty and become the first missionaries to that beautiful island.

H.T.N.



INTRODUCTION.

The golden age—when men were brothers all, The golden rule their law and God their king; When no fierce beasts did through the forests roam, Nor poisonous reptiles crawl upon the ground; When trees bore only wholesome, luscious fruits, And thornless roses breathed their sweet perfumes; When sickness, sin and sorrow were unknown, And tears but spoke of joy too deep for words; When painless death but led to higher life, A life that knows no end, in that bright world Whence angels on the ladder Jacob saw, Descending, talk with man as friend to friend— That age of purity and peace had passed, But left a living memory behind, Cherished and handed down from sire to son Through all the scattered peoples of the earth, A living prophecy of what this world, This sad and sinful world, might yet become.

The silver age—an age of faith, not sight— Came next, when reason ruled instead of love; When men as through a glass but darkly saw What to their fathers clearly stood revealed In God's own light of love-illumined truth, Of which the sun that rising paints the east, And whose last rays with glory gild the west, Is but an outbirth. Then were temples reared, And priests 'mid clouds of incense sang His praise Who out of densest darkness called the light, And from His own unbounded fullness made The heavens and earth and all that in them is. Then landmarks were first set, lest men contend For God's free gifts, that all in peace had shared. Then laws were made to govern those whose sires Were laws unto themselves. Then sickness came, And grief and pain attended men from birth to death. But still a silver light lined every cloud, And hope was given to cheer and comfort men.

The brazen age, brilliant but cold, succeeds. This was an age of knowledge, art and war, When the knights-errant of the ancient world, Adventures seeking, roamed with brazen swords Which by a wondrous art—then known, now lost— Were hard as flint, and edged to cut a hair Or cleave in twain a warrior armor-clad And armed with shields adorned by Vulcan's art, Wonder of coming times and theme for bards.[1] Then science searched through nature's heights and depths. Heaven's canopy thick set with stars was mapped, The constellations named, and all the laws searched out That guide their motions, rolling sphere on sphere.[2] Then men by reasonings piled up mountain high Thought to scale heaven, and to dethrone heaven's king, Whose imitators weak, with quips and quirks And ridicule would now destroy all sacred things. This age great Homer and old Hesiod sang, And gods they made of hero, artist, bard.

At length this twilight of the ages fades, And starless night now sinks upon the world— An age of iron, cruel, dark and cold. On Asia first this outer darkness fell, Once seat of paradise, primordial peace, Perennial harmony and perfect love. A despot's will was then a nation's law; An idol's car crushed out poor human lives, And human blood polluted many shrines. Then human speculation made of God A shoreless ocean, distant, waveless, vast, Of truth that sees not and unfeeling love, Whence souls as drops were taken back to fall, Absorbed and lost, when, countless ages passed, They should complete their round as souls of men, Of beasts, of birds and of all creeping things. And, even worse, the cruel iron castes, One caste too holy for another's touch, Had every human aspiration crushed, The common brotherhood of man destroyed, And made all men but Pharisees or slaves. And worst of all—and what could e'en be worse?— Woman, bone of man's bone, flesh of his flesh, The equal partner of a double life, Who in the world's best days stood by his side To lighten every care, and heighten every joy, And in the world's decline still clung to him, She only true when all beside were false, When all were cruel she alone still kind, Light of his hearth and mistress of his home, Sole spot where peace and joy could still be found— Woman herself cast down, despised was made Slave to man's luxury and brutal lust. Then war was rapine, havoc, needless blood, Infants impaled before their mothers' eyes, Women dishonored, mutilated, slain, Parents but spared to see their children die. Then peace was but a faithless, hollow truce, With plots and counter-plots; the dagger's point And poisoned cup instead of open war; And life a savage, grim conspiracy Of mutual murder, treachery and greed. O dark and cruel age! O cruel creeds! O cruel men! O crushed and bleeding hearts, That from the very ground in anguish cry: "Is there no light—no hope—no help—no God?"

[1]See Hesiod's description of the shield of Hercules, the St. George of that ancient age of chivalry.

[2]See the celebrated zodiac of Denderah, given in Landseer's "Sabaean Researches," and in Napoleon's "Egypt."



The Dawn and the Day

or

The Buddha and the Christ.

BOOK I.

Northward from Ganges' stream and India's plains An ancient city crowned a lofty hill, Whose high embattled walls had often rolled The surging, angry tide of battle back. Walled on three sides, but on the north a cliff, At once the city's quarry and its guard, Cut out in galleries, with vaulted roofs[1] Upborne upon cyclopean columns vast, Chiseled with art, their capitals adorned With lions, elephants, and bulls, life size, Once dedicate to many monstrous gods Before the Aryan race as victors came, Then prisons, granaries and magazines, Now only known to bandits and wild beasts. This cliff, extending at each end, bends north, And rises in two mountain-chains that end In two vast snow-capped Himalayan peaks, Between which runs a glittering glacial stream, A mighty moving mass of crystal ice, Crushing the rocks in its resistless course; From which bursts forth a river that had made Of all this valley one great highland lake, Which on one side had burst its bounds and cut In myriad years a channel through the rock, So narrow that a goat might almost leap From cliff to cliff—these cliffs so smooth and steep The eagles scarce could build upon their sides; This yawning chasm so deep one scarce could hear The angry waters roaring far below.

This stream, guided by art, now fed a lake Above the city and behind this cliff, Which, guided thence in channels through the rock, Fed many fountains, sending crystal streams Through every street and down the terraced hill, And through the plain in little silver streams, Spreading the richest verdure far and wide.[2] Here was the seat of King Suddhodana, His royal park, walled by eternal hills, Where trees and shrubs and flowers all native grew; For in its bounds all the four seasons met, From ever-laughing, ever-blooming spring To savage winter with eternal snows. Here stately palms, the banyan's many trunks, Darkening whole acres with its grateful shade, And bamboo groves, with graceful waving plumes, The champak, with its fragrant golden flowers, Asokas, one bright blaze of brilliant bloom, The mohra, yielding food and oil and wine, The sacred sandal and the spreading oak, The mountain-loving fir and spruce and pine, And giant cedars, grandest of them all, Planted in ages past, and thinned and pruned With that high art that hides all trace of art,[3] Were placed to please the eye and show their form In groves, in clumps, in jungles and alone.

Here all a forest seemed; there open groves, With vine-clad trees, vines hanging from each limb, A pendant chain of bloom, with shaded drives And walks, with rustic seats, cool grots and dells, With fountains playing and with babbling brooks, And stately swans sailing on little lakes, While peacocks, rainbow-tinted shrikes, pheasants, Glittering like precious stones, parrots, and birds Of all rich plumage, fly from tree to tree, The whole scene vocal with sweet varied song; And here a widespread lawn bedecked with flowers, With clumps of brilliant roses grown to trees, And fields with dahlias spread,[4] not stiff and prim Like the starched ruffle of an ancient dame, But growing in luxuriance rich and wild, The colors of the evening and the rainbow joined, White, scarlet, yellow, crimson, deep maroon, Blending all colors in one dazzling blaze; There orchards bend beneath their luscious loads; Here vineyards climb the hills thick set with grapes; There rolling pastures spread, where royal mares, High bred, and colts too young for bit or spur, Now quiet feed, then, as at trumpet's call, With lion bounds, tails floating, neck outstretched,[5] Nostrils distended, fleet as the flying wind They skim the plain, and sweep in circles wide— Nature's Olympic, copied, ne'er excelled. Here, deer with dappled fawn bound o'er the grass,[6] And sacred herds, and sheep with skipping lambs; There, great white elephants in quiet nooks; While high on cliffs framed in with living green Goats climb and seem to hang and feed in air— Sweet spot, with all to please and nothing to offend.

Here on a hill the royal palace stood, A gem of art; and near, another hill, Its top crowned by an aged banyan tree, Its sides clad in strange jyotismati grass,[7] By day a sober brown, but in the night Glowing as if the hill were all aflame— Twin wonders to the dwellers in the plain, Their guides and landmarks day and night, This glittering palace and this glowing hill. Within, above the palace rose a tower, Which memory knew but as the ancient tower, Foursquare and high, an altar and a shrine On its broad top, where burned perpetual fire, Emblem of boundless and eternal love And truth that knows no night, no cloud, no change, Long since gone out, with that most ancient faith In one great Father, source of life and light.[8] Still round this ancient tower, strange hopes and fears, And memories handed down from sire to son, Were clustered thick. An army, old men say, Once camped against the city, when strange lights Burst from this tower, blinding their dazzled eyes. They fled amazed, nor dared to look behind. The people bloody war and cruel bondage saw On every side, and they at peace and free, And thought a power to save dwelt in that tower. And now strange prophecies and sayings old Were everywhere rehearsed, that from this hill Should come a king or savior of the world. Even the poor dwellers in the distant plain Looked up; they too had heard that hence should come One quick to hear the poor and strong to save. And who shall dare to chide their simple faith? This humble reverence for the great unknown Brings men near God, and opens unseen worlds, Whence comes all life, and where all power doth dwell.

Morning and evening on this tower the king, Before the rising and the setting sun, Blindly, but in his father's faith, bowed down. Then he would rise and on his kingdom gaze. East, west, hills beyond hills stretched far away, Wooded, terraced, or bleak and bald and bare, Till in dim distance all were leveled lost. One rich and varied carpet spread far south, Of fields, of groves, of busy cities wrought, With mighty rivers seeming silver threads; And to the north the Himalayan chain, Peak beyond peak, a wall of crest and crag, Ice bound, snow capped, backed by intensest blue, Untrod, immense, that, like a crystal wall. In myriad varied tints the glorious light Of rising and of setting sun reflects; His noble city lying at his feet, And his broad park, tinged by the sun's slant rays A thousand softly rich and varied shades.

Still on this scene of grandeur, plenty, peace And ever-varying beauty, he would gaze With sadness. He had heard these prophecies, And felt the unrest in that great world within, Hid from our blinded eyes, yet ever near, The very soul and life of this dead world, Which seers and prophets open-eyed have seen, On which the dying often raptured gaze, And where they live when they are mourned as dead. This world was now astir, foretelling day. "A king shall come, they say, to rule the world, If he will rule; but whence this mighty king? My years decline apace, and yet no son Of mine to rule or light my funeral pile."

One night Queen Maya, sleeping by her lord, Dreamed a strange dream; she dreamed she saw a star Gliding from heaven and resting over her; She dreamed she heard strange music, soft and sweet, So distant "joy and peace" was all she heard. In joy and peace she wakes, and waits to know What this strange dream might mean, and whence it came.

Drums, shells and trumpets sound for joy, not war; The streets are swept and sprinkled with perfumes, And myriad lamps shine from each house and tree, And myriad flags flutter in every breeze, And children crowned with flowers dance in the streets, And all keep universal holiday With shows and games, and laugh and dance and song, For to the gentle queen a son is born, To King Suddhodana the good an heir.

But scarcely had these myriad lamps gone out, The sounds of revelry had scarcely died, When coming from the palace in hot haste, One cried, "Maya, the gentle queen, is dead." Then mirth was changed to sadness, joy to grief, For all had learned to love the gentle queen— But at Siddartha's birth this was foretold.

Among the strangers bringing gifts from far, There came an ancient sage—whence, no one knew— Age-bowed, head like the snow, eyes filmed and white, So deaf the thunder scarcely startled him, Who met them, as they said, three journeys back, And all his talk was of a new-born king, Just born, to rule the world if he would rule. He was so gentle, seemed so wondrous wise, They followed him, he following, he said, A light they could not see; and when encamped, Morn, noon and night devoutly would he pray, And then would talk for hours, as friend to friend, With questionings about this new-born king, Gazing intently at the tent's blank wall, With nods and smiles, as if he saw and heard, While they sit lost in wonder, as one sits Who never saw a telephone, but hears Unanswered questions, laughter at unheard jests, And sees one bid a little box good-by. And when they came before the king, they saw, Laughing and cooing on its mother's knee, Picture of innocence, a sweet young child; He saw a mighty prophet, and bowed down Eight times in reverence to the very ground, And rising said, "Thrice happy house, all hail! This child would rule the world, if he would rule, But he, too good to rule, is born to save; But Maya's work is done, the devas wait." But when they sought for him, the sage was gone, Whence come or whither gone none ever knew. Then gentle Maya understood her dream. The music nearer, clearer sounds; she sleeps. But when the funeral pile was raised for her, Of aloe, sandal, and all fragrant woods, And decked with flowers and rich with rare perfumes, And when the queen was gently laid thereon, As in sweet sleep, and the pile set aflame, The king cried out in anguish; when the sage Again appeared, and gently said, "Weep not! Seek not, O king, the living with the dead! 'Tis but her cast-off garment, not herself, That now dissolves in air. Thy loved one lives, Become thy deva,[9] who was erst thy queen." This said, he vanished, and was no more seen.

Now other hands take up that mother's task. Another breast nurses that sweet young child With growing love; for who can nurse a child, Feel its warm breath, and little dimpled hands, Kiss its soft lips, look in its laughing eyes, Hear its low-cooing love-notes soft and sweet, And not feel something of that miracle, A mother's love—so old yet ever new, Stronger than death, bravest among the brave, Gentle as brave, watchful both night and day, That never changes, never tires nor sleeps. Whence comes this wondrous and undying love? Whence can it come, unless it comes from heaven, Whose life is love—eternal, perfect love!

From babe to boy, from boy to youth he grew, But more in grace and knowledge than in years. At play his joyous laugh rang loud and clear, His foot was fleetest in all boyish games, And strong his arm, and steady nerve and eye, To whirl the quoit and send the arrow home; Yet seeming oft to strive, he'd check his speed And miss his mark to let a comrade win. In fullness of young life he climbed the cliffs Where human foot had never trod before. He led the chase, but when soft-eyed gazelles Or bounding deer, or any harmless thing, Came in the range of his unerring dart, He let them pass; for why, thought he, should men In wantonness make war on innocence?

One day the Prince Siddartha saw the grooms Gathered about a stallion, snowy white, Descended from that great Nisaean stock His fathers brought from Iran's distant plain, Named Kantaka. Some held him fast with chains Till one could mount. He, like a lion snared, Frantic with rage and fear, did fiercely bound. They cut his tender mouth with bloody bit, Beating his foaming sides until the Prince, Sterner than was his wont, bade them desist, While he spoke soothingly, patted his head And stroked his neck, and dropped those galling chains, When Kantaka's fierce flaming eyes grew mild, He quiet stood, by gentleness subdued— Such mighty power hath gentleness and love— And from that day no horse so strong and fleet, So kind and true, easy to check and guide, As Kantaka, Siddartha's noble steed.

To playmates he was gentle as a girl; Yet should the strong presume upon their strength To overbear or wrong those weaker than themselves, His sturdy arm and steady eye checked them, And he would gently say, "Brother, not so; Our strength was given to aid and not oppress." For in an ancient book he found a truth— A book no longer read, a truth forgot, Entombed in iron castes, and buried deep In speculations and in subtle creeds— That men, high, low, rich, poor, are brothers all,[10] Which, pondered much in his heart's fruitful soil, Had taken root as a great living truth That to a mighty doctrine soon would grow, A mighty tree to heal the nations with its leaves— Like some small grain of wheat, appearing dead, In mummy-case three thousand years ago[11] Securely wrapped and sunk in Egypt's tombs, Themselves buried beneath the desert sands, Which now brought forth, and planted in fresh soil, And watered by the dews and rains of heaven, Shoots up and yields a hundred-fold of grain, Until in golden harvests now it waves On myriad acres, many thousand miles From where the single ancient seed had grown.

Thus he grew up with all that heart could wish Or power command; his very life itself, So fresh and young, sound body with sound mind, The living fountain of perpetual joy. Yet he would often sit and sadly think Sad thoughts and deep, and far beyond his years; How sorrow filled the world; how things were shared— One born to waste, another born to want; One for life's cream, others to drain its dregs; One born a master, others abject slaves. And when he asked his masters to explain, When all were brothers, how such things could be, They gave him speculations, fables old, How Brahm first Brahmans made to think for all, And then Kshatriyas, warriors from their birth, Then Sudras, to draw water and hew wood. "But why should one for others think, when all Must answer for themselves? Why brothers fight? And why one born another's slave, when all Might serve and help each other?" he would ask. But they could only answer: "Never doubt, For so the holy Brahmans always taught." Still he must think, and as he thought he sighed, Not for his petty griefs that last an hour, But for the bitter sorrows of the world That crush all men, and last from age to age.

The good old king saw this—saw that the prince, The apple of his eye, dearer than life, Stately in form, supple and strong in limb, Quick to learn every art of peace and war, Displaying and excelling every grace And attribute of his most royal line, Whom all would follow whereso'er he led, So fit to rule the world if he would rule, Thought less of ruling than of saving men. He saw the glory of his ancient house Suspended on an if—if he will rule The empire of the world, and power to crush Those cruel, bloody kings who curse mankind, And power to make a universal peace; If not this high career, with glory crowned, Then seeking truth through folly's devious ways; By self-inflicted torture seeking bliss, And by self-murder seeking higher life; On one foot standing till the other pine, Arms stretched aloft, fingers grown bloodless claws, Or else, impaled on spikes, with festering sores Covered from head to foot, the body wastes With constant anguish and with slow decay.[12] "Can this be wisdom? Can such a life be good That shuns all duties lying in our path— Useless to others, filled with grief and pain? Not so my father's god teaches to live. Rising each morning most exact in time, He bathes the earth and sky with rosy light And fills all nature with new life and joy; The cock's shrill clarion calls us to awake And breathe this life and hear the bursts of song That fill each grove, inhale the rich perfume Of opening flowers, and work while day shall last. Then rising higher, he warms each dank, cold spot, Dispels the sickening vapors, clothes the fields With waving grain, the trees with golden fruit, The vines with grapes; and when 'tis time for rest, Sinks in the west, and with new glory gilds The mountain-tops, the clouds and western sky, And calls all nature to refreshing sleep. If he be God, the useful are like God; If not, God made the sun, who made all men And by his great example teaches them The diligent are wise, the useful good."

Sorely perplexed he called his counselors, Grown gray in serving their beloved king, And said: "Friends of my youth, manhood and age, So wise in counsel and so brave in war, Who never failed in danger or distress, Oppressed with fear, I come to you for aid. You know the prophecies, that from my house Shall come a king, or savior of the world. You saw strange signs precede Siddartha's birth, And saw the ancient sage whom no one knew Fall down before the prince, and hail my house. You heard him tell the queen she soon would die, And saw her sink in death as in sweet sleep; You laid her gently on her funeral pile, And heard my cry of anguish, when the sage Again appeared and bade me not to weep For her as dead who lived and loved me still. We saw the prince grow up to man's estate, So strong and full of manliness and grace, And wise beyond his teachers and his years, And thought in him the prophecies fulfilled, And that with glory he would rule the world And bless all men with universal peace. But now dark shadows fall athwart our hopes. Often in sleep the prince will start and cry As if in pain, 'O world, sad world, I come!' But roused, he'll sometimes sit the livelong day, Forgetting teachers, sports and even food, As if with dreadful visions overwhelmed, Or buried in great thoughts profound and deep. But yet to see our people, riding forth, To their acclaims he answers with such grace And gentle stateliness, my heart would swell As I would hear the people to each other say; 'Who ever saw such grace and grandeur joined?' Yet while he answers gladness with like joy, His eyes seem searching for the sick and old, The poor, and maimed, and blind—all forms of grief, And oft he'd say, tears streaming from his eyes,[13] 'Let us return; my heart can bear no more.' One day we saw beneath a peepul-tree An aged Brahman, wasted with long fasts, Loathsome with self-inflicted ghastly wounds, A rigid skeleton, standing erect, One hand stretched out, the other stretched aloft, His long white beard grown filthy by neglect. Whereat the prince with shuddering horror shook, And cried, 'O world! must I be such for thee?' And once he led the chase of a wild boar In the great forest near the glacier's foot; On Kantaka so fleet he soon outstripped The rest, and in the distance disappeared. But when at night they reached the rendezvous, Siddartha was not there; and through the night They searched, fearing to find their much loved prince A mangled corpse under some towering cliff, But searched in vain, and searched again next day, Till in despair they thought to bring me word The prince was lost, when Kantaka was seen Loose-reined and free, and near Siddartha sat Under a giant cedar's spreading shade. Absorbed in thought, in contemplation lost, Unconscious that a day and night had passed. I cannot reason with such earnestness— I dare not chide such deep and tender love, But much I fear his reason's overthrow Or that he may become like that recluse He shuddered at, and not a mighty king With power to crush the wrong and aid the right. How can we turn his mind from such sad thoughts To life's full joys, the duties of a king, And his great destiny so long foretold?"

The oldest and the wisest answered him: "Most noble king, your thoughts have long been mine. Oft have I seen him lost in musings sad, And overwhelmed with this absorbing love. I know no cure for such corroding thoughts But thoughts less sad, for such absorbing love But stronger love." "But how awake such thoughts?" The king replied. "How kindle such a love? His loves seem but as phosphorescent flames That skim the surface, leaving him heart-whole— All but this deep and all-embracing love That folds within its arms a suffering world."

"Yes, noble king, so roams the antlered deer, Adding each year a branch to his great horns, Until the unseen archer lays him low. So lives our prince; but he may see the day Two laughing eyes shall pierce his inmost soul, And make his whole frame quiver with new fire. The next full moon he reaches man's estate. We all remember fifty years ago When you became a man, the sports and games, The contests of fair women and brave men, In beauty, arts and arms, that filled three days With joy and gladness, music, dance and song. Let us with double splendor now repeat That festival, with prizes that shall draw From all your kingdom and the neighbor states Their fairest women and their bravest men. If any chance shall bring his destined mate, You then shall see love dart from eye to eye, As darts the lightning's flash from cloud to cloud." And this seemed good, and so was ordered done.

The king to all his kingdom couriers sent, And to the neighbor states, inviting all To a great festival and royal games The next full moon, day of Siddartha's birth, And offering varied prizes, rich and rare, To all in feats of strength and speed and skill, And prizes doubly rich and doubly rare To all such maidens fair as should compete In youth and beauty, whencesoe'er they came, The prince to be the judge and give the prize.

Now all was joy and bustle in the streets, And joy and stir in palace and in park, The prince himself joining the joyful throng, Forgetting now the sorrows of the world. Devising and directing new delights Until the park became a fairy scene.

Behind the palace lay a maidan wide For exercise in arms and manly sports, Its sides bordered by gently rising hills, Where at their ease the city's myriads sat Under the shade of high-pruned spreading trees, Fanned by cool breezes from the snow-capped peaks; While north, and next the lake, a stately dome Stood out, on slender, graceful columns raised, With seats, rank above rank, in order placed, The throne above, and near the throne were bowers Of slender lattice-work, with trailing vines, Thick set with flowers of every varied tint, Breathing perfumes, where beauty's champions Might sit, unseen of all yet seeing all.

At length Siddartha's natal day arrives With joy to rich and poor, to old and young—- Not joy that wealth can buy or power command, But real joy, that springs from real love, Love to the good old king and noble prince.

When dawning day tinges with rosy light The snow-capped peaks of Himalaya's chain, The people are astir. In social groups, The old and young, companions, neighbors, friends, Baskets well filled, they choose each vantage-ground, Until each hill a sea of faces shows, A sea of sparkling joy and rippling mirth.

At trumpet-sound all eyes are eager turned Up toward the palace gates, now open wide, From whence a gay procession issues forth, A chorus of musicians coming first, And next the prince mounted on Kantaka; Then all the high-born, youth in rich attire, Mounted on prancing steeds with trappings gay; And then the good old king, in royal state, On his huge elephant, white as the snow, Surrounded by his aged counselors, Some on their chargers, some in litters borne, Their long white beards floating in every breeze; And next, competitors for every prize: Twelve archers, who could pierce the lofty swans Sailing from feeding-grounds by distant seas To summer nests by Thibet's marshy lakes, Or hit the whirring pheasant as it flies— For in this peaceful reign they did not make Men targets for their art, and armor-joints The marks through which to pierce and kill; Then wrestlers, boxers, those who hurl the quoit, And runners fleet, both lithe and light of limb; And then twelve mighty spearmen, who could pierce The fleeing boar or deer or fleet gazelle; Then chariots, three horses yoked to each, The charioteers in Persian tunics clad, Arms bare, legs bare—all were athletes in power, In form and race each an Apollo seemed; Yoked to the first were three Nisaean steeds,[14] Each snowy white, proud stepping, rangy, tall, Chests broad, legs clean and strong, necks arched and high, With foreheads broad, and eyes large, full and mild, A race that oft Olympic prizes won, And whose descendants far from Iran's plains Bore armored knights in battle's deadly shock On many bloody European fields; Then three of ancient Babylonian stock,[15] Blood bay and glossy as rich Tyrian silk— Such horses Israel's sacred prophets saw Bearing their conquerors in triumph home, A race for ages kept distinct and pure, Fabled from Alexander's charger sprung; Then three from distant desert Tartar steppes, Ewe-necked, ill-favored creatures, lank and gaunt, That made the people laugh as they passed by— Who ceased to laugh when they had run the race— Such horses bore the mighty Mongol hosts[16] That with the cyclone's speed swept o'er the earth; Then three, one gray, one bay, one glossy black, Descended from four horses long since brought By love-sick chief from Araby the blest, Seeking with such rare gifts an Indian bride, Whose slender, graceful forms, compact and light, Combined endurance, beauty, strength and speed— A wondrous breed, whose famed descendants bore The Moslem hosts that swept from off the earth Thy mighty power, corrupt, declining Rome, And with each other now alone contend In speed, whose sons cast out, abused and starved, Alone can save from raging whirlwind flames[17] That all-devouring sweep our western plains; Then stately elephants came next in line, With measured step and gently swaying gait, Covered with cloth of gold richly inwrought, Each bearing in a howdah gaily decked A fair competitor for beauty's prize, With merry comrades and some sober friend; The vina, bansuli, sitar and harp Filling the air with sweetest melody, While rippling laughter from each howdah rang, And sweetest odors, as from op'ning flowers, Breathed from their rich apparel as they passed.

And thus they circle round the maidan wide, And as they pass along the people shout, "Long live the king! long live our noble prince!" To all which glad acclaims the prince responds With heartfelt courtesy and royal grace.

When they had nearly reached the palace gate On their return, the king drew to the right With his attendants, while the prince with his Drew to the left, reviewing all the line That passed again down to the judges' seat, Under the king's pavilion near the lake. The prince eagerly watched them as they passed, Noting their brawny limbs and polished arms, The pose and skill of every charioteer, The parts and varied breed of every horse, Aiding his comrades with his deeper skill. But when the queens of beauty passed him by, He was all smiles and gallantry and grace, Until the last, Yasodhara, came near, Whose laugh was clearest of the merry crowd, Whose golden hair imprisoned sunlight seemed, Whose cheek, blending the lily with the rose, Spoke of more northern skies and Aryan blood, Whose rich, not gaudy, robes exquisite taste Had made to suit her so they seemed a part Of her sweet self; whose manner, simple, free, Not bold or shy, whose features—no one saw Her features, for her soul covered her face As with a veil of ever-moving life. When she came near, and her bright eyes met his, He seemed to start; his gallantry was gone, And like an awkward boy he sat and gazed; And her laugh too was hushed, and she passed on, Passed out of sight but never out of mind, The king and all his counselors saw this. "Good king, our deer is struck," Asita said, "If this love cure him not, nothing can cure."

[1]Lieutenant-General Briggs, in his lectures on the aboriginal races of India, says the Hindoos themselves refer the excavation of caves and temples to the period of the aboriginal kings.

[2]The art of irrigation, once practiced on such a mighty scale, now seems practically a lost art but just now being revived on our western plains.

[3]"And, that which all faire workes doth most aggrace, The art, which all that wrought, appeared in no place."

—Faerie Queene, B. 2, Canto 12.

[4]See Miss Gordon Cumming's descriptions of the fields of wild dahlias in Northern India.

[5]By far the finest display of the mettle and blood of high-bred horses I have ever seen has been in the pasture-field, and this description is drawn from life.

[6]Once, coming upon a little prairie in the midst of a great forest, I saw a herd of startled deer bound over the grass, a scene never to be forgotten.

[7]See Miss Gordon Cumming's description of a hill covered with this luminous grass.

[8]There can be no doubt that the fire-worship of the East is the remains of a true but largely emblematic religion.

[9]The difference between the Buddhist idea of a deva and the Christian idea of an attendant angel is scarcely perceptible.

[10]The Brahmans claim that Buddha's great doctrine of universal brotherhood was taken from their sacred books and was not an originality of Buddha, as his followers claim.

[11]The Mediterranean or Egyptian wheat is said to have this origin.

[12]At the time of Buddha's birth there seemed to be no mean between the Chakravartin or absolute monarch and the recluse who had renounced all ordinary duties and enjoyments, and was subjecting himself to all deprivations and sufferings. Buddha taught the middle course of diligence in daily duties and universal love.

[13]I am aware that some Buddhist authors whom Arnold has followed in his "Light of Asia" make Buddha but little better than a stale prisoner, and would have us believe that the glimpses he got of the ills that flesh is heir to were gained in spite of all precautions, as he was occasionally taken out of his rose embowered, damsel filled prison-house, and not as any prince of high intelligence and tender sensibilities who loved his people and mingled freely with them would gain a knowledge of suffering and sorrow; but we are justified in passing all such fancies, not only on account of their intrinsic improbability, but because the great Asvaghosha, who wrote about the beginning of our era, knew nothing of them.

[14]To suppose that the Aryan races when they emigrated to India or Europe left behind them their most valuable possession, the Nisaean horse, is to suppose them lacking in the qualities of thrift and shrewdness which have distinguished their descendants. That the Nisaean horse of the table-lands of Asia was the horse of the armored knights of the middle ages and substantially the Percheron horse of France, I had a curious proof: In Layard's Nineveh is a picture of a Nisaean horse found among the ruins, which would have been taken as a good picture Of a Percheron stallion I once owned, who stood for the picture here drawn of what I regard as his undoubted ancestor.

[15]Marco Polo speaks of the breed of horses here attempted to be described as "excellent, large, strong and swift, said to be of the race of Alexander's Bucephalus."

[16]It is said that the Mongolians in their career of conquest could move an army of 500,000 fifty miles a day, a speed out of the question with all the facilities of modern warfare.

[17]See Bret Harte's beautiful poem, "Sell Patchin," and also an article on the "Horses of the Plains," in The Century, January, 1889.



BOOK II.

She passed along, and then the king and prince With their attendants wheeled in line and moved Down to the royal stand, each to his place.

The trumpets sound, and now the games begin.

But see the scornful curl of Culture's lip At such low sports! Dyspeptic preachers hear Harangue the sleepers on their sinfulness! Hear grave philosophers, so limp and frail They scarce can walk God's earth to breathe his air, Talk of the waste of time! Short-sighted men! God made the body just to fit the mind, Each part exact, no scrimping and no waste— Neglect the body and you cramp the soul.

First brawny wrestlers, shining from the bath, Wary and watchful, quick with arm and eye, After long play clinch close, arms twined, knees locked, Each nerve and muscle strained, and stand as still As if a bronze from Vulcan's fabled shop, Or else by power of magic changed to stone In that supremest moment, when a breath Or feather's weight would tip the balanced scale; And when they fall the shouts from hill to hill Sound like the voices of the mighty deep, As wave on wave breaks on the rock-bound shore.

Then boxers, eye to eye and foot to foot, One arm at guard, the other raised to strike.

The hurlers of the quoit next stand in line, Measure the distance with experienced eye, Adjust the rings, swing them with growing speed, Until at length on very tiptoe poised, Like Mercury just lighted on the earth, With mighty force they whirl them through the air.

And then the spearmen, having for a mark A lion rampant, standing as in life, So distant that it seemed but half life-size, Each vital part marked with a little ring. And when the spears were hurled, six trembling stood Fixed in the beast, piercing each vital part, Leaving the victory in even scale. For these was set far off a lesser mark, Until at length by chance, not lack of skill, The victory so long in doubt was won. And then again the people wildly shout, The prince victor and nobly vanquished praised.

Next runners, lithe and light, glide round the plain, Whose flying feet like Mercury's seemed winged, Their chests expanded, and their swinging arms Like oars to guide and speed their rapid course; And as they passed along the people cheered Each well-known master of the manly art.

Then archers, with broad chests and brawny arms Such as the blacksmith's heavy hammer wields With quick, hard blows that make the anvil ring And myriad sparks from the hot iron fly; A golden eagle on a screen their mark, So distant that it seemed a sparrow's size— "For," said the prince, "let not this joyful day Give anguish to the smallest living thing." They strain their bows until their muscles seem Like knotted cords, the twelve strings twang at once, And the ground trembles as at the swelling tones Of mighty organs or the thunder's roll. Two arrows pierce the eagle, while the rest All pierce the screen. A second mark was set, When lo! high up in air two lines of swans, Having one leader, seek their northern nests, Their white plumes shining in the noonday sun, Calling each other in soft mellow notes. Instant one of the people cries "A mark!" Whereat the thousands shout "A mark! a mark!" One of the archers chose the leader, one the last. Their arrows fly. The last swan left its mates As if sore wounded, while the first came down Like a great eagle swooping for its prey, And fell before the prince, its strong wing pierced, Its bright plumes darkened by its crimson blood. Whereat the people shout, and shout again, Until the hills repeat the mighty sound. The prince gently but sadly raised the bird, Stroked tenderly its plumes, calmed its wild fear, And gave to one to care for and to cure.

And now the people for the chariot-race Grow eager, while beneath the royal stand, By folding doors hid from the public view, The steeds, harnessed and ready, champ their bits And paw the ground, impatient for the start. The charioteers alert, with one strong hand Hold high the reins, the other holds the lash. Timour—a name that since has filled the world, A Tartar chief, whose sons long after swept As with destruction's broom fair India's plains— With northern jargon calmed his eager steeds; Azim, from Cashmere's rugged lovely vale, His prancing Babylonians firmly held; Channa, from Ganges' broad and sacred stream, With bit and word checked his Nisaean three; While Devadatta, cousin to the prince, Soothed his impatient Arabs with such terms As fondest mothers to their children use; "Atair, my pet! Mira, my baby, hush! Regil, my darling child, be still! be still!" With necks high arched, nostrils distended wide, And eager gaze, they stood as those that saw Some distant object in their desert home.

At length the gates open as of themselves, When at the trumpet's sound the steeds dash forth As by one spirit moved, under tight rein, And neck and neck they thunder down the plain, While rising dust-clouds chase the flying wheels. But weight, not lack of nerve or spirit, tells; Azim and Channa urge their steeds in vain, By Tartar and light Arab left behind As the light galley leaves the man-of-war; They sweat and labor ere a mile is gained, While their light rivals pass the royal stand Fresh as at first, just warming to the race.

And now the real race at length begins, A double race, such as the Romans loved. Horses so matched in weight and strength and speed, Drivers so matched in skill that as they pass Azim and Channa seemed a single man. Timour and Devadatta, side by side, Wheel almost touching wheel, dash far ahead.

Azim and Channa, left so far behind, No longer urge a race already lost. The Babylonian and Nisaean steeds, No longer pressed so far beyond their power, With long and even strides sweep smoothly on, Striking the earth as with a single blow, Their hot breath rising in a single cloud. Arab and Tartar with a longer stride And lighter stroke skim lightly o'er the ground. Watching the horses with a master's eye, As Devadatta and Timour four times, Azim and Channa thrice, swept by the stand, The prince saw that another round would test, Not overtax, their powers, and gave the sign, When three loud trumpet-blasts to all proclaimed That running one more round would end the race. These ringing trumpet-calls that brought defeat Or victory so near, startle and rouse. The charioteers more ardent urge their steeds; The steeds are with hot emulation fired; The social multitude now cease to talk— Even age stops short in stories often told; Boys, downy-chinned, in rough-and-tumble sports Like half-grown bears engaged, turn quick and look; And blooming girls, with merry ringing laugh, Romping in gentler games, watching meanwhile With sly and sidelong look the rougher sports, Turn eagerly to see the scene below; While mothers for the time forget their babes, And lovers who had sought out quiet nooks To tell the tale that all the past has told And coming times will tell, stand mute and gaze. The home-stretch soon is reached, and Channa's three By word and lash urged to their topmost speed, The foaming Babylonians left behind, While Devadatta and Timour draw near, A whole round gained, Timour a length ahead. But Devadatta loosens now his reins, Chides his fleet pets, with lash swung high in air Wounds their proud spirits, not their tender flesh. With lion-bounds they pass the Tartar steeds, That with hot rival rage and open mouths, And flaming eyes, and fierce and angry cries, Dash full at Regil's side, but dash in vain. Fear adding speed, the Arabs sweep ahead. Meanwhile the prince springs forward from his seat, And all on tiptoe still and eager stand, So that the rumbling of the chariot-wheels, The tramp of flying feet and drivers' cries, Alone the universal stillness break— As when before the bursting of some fearful storm, Birds, beasts and men stand mute with trembling awe, While heaven's artillery and roaring winds Are in the awful silence only heard. But when the double victory is gained, Drums, shells and trumpets mingle with the shouts From hill to hill re-echoed and renewed— As when, after the morning's threatening bow, Dark, lurid, whirling clouds obscure the day, And forked lightnings dart athwart the sky, And angry winds roll up the boiling sea, And thunder, raging winds and warring waves Join in one mighty and earth shaking roar.

Thus end the games, and the procession forms, The king and elders first, contestants next, And last the prince; each victor laurel-crowned, And after each his prize, while all were given Some choice memorial of the happy day— Cinctures to all athletes to gird the loins And falling just below the knee, the belt Of stoutest leather, joined with silver clasps, The skirt of softest wool or finest silk, Adorned with needlework and decked with gems, Such as the modest Aryans always wore In games intended for the public view, Before the Greeks became degenerate, And savage Rome compelled those noble men Whose only crime was love of liberty, By discipline and numbers overwhelmed, Bravely defending children, wife and home, Naked to fight each other or wild beasts, And called this brutal savagery high sport For them and for their proud degenerate dames, Of whom few were what Caesar's wife should be. The athletes' prizes all were rich and rare, Some costly emblem of their several arts. The archers' prizes all were bows; the first Made from the horns of a great mountain-goat That long had ranged the Himalayan heights, Till some bold hunter climbed his giddy cliffs And brought his unsuspecting victim down. His lofty horns the bowsmith root to root Had firmly joined, and polished, bright, And tipped with finest gold, and made a bow Worthy of Sinhahamu's[1] mighty arm. The other prizes, bows of lesser strength But better suited to their weaker arms. A chariot, the charioteers' first prize,[2] Its slender hubs made strong with brazen bands, The spokes of whitest ivory polished bright, The fellies ebony, with tires of bronze, Each axle's end a brazen tiger's head, The body woven of slender bamboo shoots Intwined with silver wire and decked with gold. A mare and colt of the victorious breed The second prize, more worth in Timour's eyes. Than forty chariots, though each were made Of ebony or ivory or gold, And all the laurel India ever grew. The third, a tunic of soft Cashmere wool, On which, by skillful needles deftly wrought, The race itself as if in life stood forth. The fourth, a belt to gird the laggard's loins And whip to stimulate his laggard steeds.

And thus arrayed they moved once round the course, Then to the palace, as a fitter place For beauty's contest than the open plain; The singers chanting a triumphal hymn, While many instruments, deep toned and shrill, And all the multitude, the chorus swell.

This day his mission ceased to press the prince, And he forgot the sorrows of the world, So deep and earnest seemed the general joy. Even those with grinning skeletons at home In secret closets locked from public view, And care and sorrow rankling at their hearts, Joined in the general laugh and swelled the shouts, And seemed full happy though they only seemed. But through the games, while all was noisy mirth, He felt a new, strange feeling at his heart, And ever and anon he stole a glance At beauty's rose-embowered hiding-place, To catch a glimpse of those two laughing eyes, So penetrating yet so soft and mild. And at the royal banquet spread for all It chanced Yasodhara sat next the prince— An accident by older heads designed— And the few words that such constraint allowed Were music to his ears and touched his heart; And when her eyes met his her rosy blush Told what her maiden modesty would hide. And at the dance, when her soft hands touched his The music seemed to quicken, time to speed; But when she bowed and passed to other hands, Winding the mystic measure of the dance,[3] The music seemed to slacken, time to halt, Or drag his limping moments lingering on. At length, after the dance, the beauties passed Before the prince, and each received her prize. So rich and rare that each thought hers the first, A treasure to be kept and shown with pride, And handed down to children yet unborn. But when Yasodhara before him stood, The prizes all were gone; but from his neck He took a golden chain thick set with gems, And clasped it round her slender waist, and said: "Take this, and keep it for the giver's sake."

And from the prince they passed before the king. The proud and stately he would greet with grace, The timid cheer with kind and gracious words. But when Yasodhara bowed low and passed, He started, and his color went and came As if oppressed with sudden inward pain. Asita, oldest of his counselors, Sprang to his side and asked: "What ails the king?" "Nothing, my friend, nothing," the king replied, "But the sharp probing of an ancient wound. You know how my sweet queen was loved of all— But how her life was woven into mine, Filling my inmost soul, none e'er can know. My bitter anguish words can never tell, As that sweet life was gently breathed away. Time only strengthens this enduring love, And she seems nearer me as I grow old. Often in stillest night's most silent hour, When the sly nibbling of a timid mouse In the deep stillness sounds almost as loud As builders' hammers in the busy day, My Maya as in life stands by my side. A halo round her head, as she would say: 'A little while, and you shall have your own.' Often in deepest sleep she seems to steal Into that inmost chamber of my soul Vacant for her, and nestle to my heart, Breathing a peace my waking hours know not. And when I wake, and turn to clasp my love My sinking heart finds but her vacant place. Since that sad day that stole her from my arms I've seen a generation of sweet girls Grow up to womanhood, but none like her! Hut that bright vision that just flitted by Seemed so like her it made me cringe and start. O dear Asita, little worth is life, With all its tears and partings, woes and pains, If when its short and fitful fever ends There is no after-life, where death and pain, And sundered ties, and crushed and bleeding hearts, And sad and last farewells are never known."

Such was the old and such the new-born love; The new quick bursting into sudden flame, Warming the soul to active consciousness That man alone is but a severed part Of one full, rounded, perfect, living whole; The old a steady but undying flame, A living longing for the loved and lost; But each a real hunger of the soul For what gave paradise its highest bliss, And what in this poor fallen world of ours Gives glimpses of its high and happy life.

O love! how beautiful! how pure! how sweet! Life of the angels that surround God's throne! But when corrupt, Pandora's box itself, Whence spring all human ills and woes and crimes, The very fire that lights the flames of hell.

The festival is past. The crowds have gone, The diligent to their accustomed round Of works and days, works to each day assigned, The thoughtless and the thriftless multitude To meet their tasks haphazard as they come, But all the same old story to repeat Of cares and sorrows sweetened by some joys.

Three days the sweet Yasodhara remained, For her long journey taking needful rest. But when the rosy dawn next tinged the east And lit the mountain-tops and filled the park With a great burst of rich and varied song, The good old king bade the sweet girl farewell, Imprinting on her brow a loving kiss, While welling up from tender memories Big tear-drops trickled down his furrowed cheeks. And as her train, escorted by the prince And noble youth, wound slowly down the hill, The rising sun with glory gilds the city That like a diadem circled its brow, While giant shadows stretch across the plain; And when they reach the plain they halt for rest Deep in a garden's cooling shade, where flowers That fill the air with grateful fragrance hang By ripening fruits, and where all seems at rest Save two young hearts and tiny tireless birds That dart from flower to newer to suck their sweets, And even the brook that babbled down the hill Now murmurs dreamily as if asleep. Sweet spot! sweet hour! how quick its moments fly! How soon the cooling winds and sinking sun And bustling stir of preparation tells 'Tis time for her to go; and when they part, The gentle pressure of the hand, one kiss— A kiss not given yet not resisted—tells A tale of love that words are poor to tell. And when she goes how lonely seems her way Through groves, through fields, through busy haunts of men; And as he climbs the hill and often stops To watch her lessening train until at length Her elephant seems but a moving speck, Proud Kantaka, pawing and neighing, asks As plain as men could ever ask in, words: "What makes my master choose this laggard pace?"

At length she climbs those rocky, rugged hills. That guarded well the loveliest spot on earth Until the Moguls centuries after came, Like swarms of locusts swept before the wind, Or ravening wolves, to conquer fair Cashmere.[4] And when she reached the top, before her lay, As on a map spread out, her native land, By lofty mountains walled on every side, From winds, from wars, and from the world shut out; The same great snow-capped mountains north and east In silent, glittering, awful grandeur stand, And west the same bold, rugged, cliff-crowned hills. That filled her eyes with wonder when a child. Below the snow a belt of deepest green; Below this belt of green great rolling hills, Checkered with orchards, vineyards, pastures, fields, The vale beneath peaceful as sleeping babe, The city nestling round the shining lake, And near the park and palace, her sweet home.

O noble, peaceful, beautiful Cashmere! Well named the garden of eternal spring! But yet, with home and all its joys so near. She often turned and strained her eager eyes To catch one parting glimpse of that sweet spot Where more than half of her young heart was left.

At length their horns, whose mocking echoes Rolled from hill to hill, were answered from below, While from the park a gay procession comes, Increasing as it moves, to welcome her, Light of the palace, the people's idol, home.

The prince's thoughts by day and dreams by night Meanwhile were filled with sweet Yasodhara, And this bright vision ever hovering near Hid from his eyes those grim and ghastly forms, Night-loving and light-shunning brood of sin, That ever haunt poor fallen human lives, And from the darkened corners of the soul Are quick to sting each pleasure with sharp pain, To pour some bitter in life's sweetest cup, And shadow with despair its brightest hopes— Made him forget how sorrow fills the world, How strength is used to crush and not to raise, How creeds are bandages to blind men's eyes, Lest they should see and walk in duty's path That leads to peace on earth and joy in heaven, And even made him for the time forget His noble mission to restore and save.

He sought her for his bride, but waited long, For princes cannot wed like common folk— Friends called, a feast prepared, some bridal gifts, Some tears at parting and some solemn vows, Rice scattered, slippers thrown with noisy mirth, And common folk are joined till death shall part. Till death shall part! O faithless, cruel thought! Death ne'er shall part souls joined by holy love, Who through life's trials, joys and cares Have to each other clung, faithful till death, Tender and true in sickness and in health, Bearing each other's burdens, sharing griefs, Lightening each care and heightening every joy. Such life is but a transient honeymoon, A feeble foretaste of eternal joys. But princes when they love, though all approve, Must wait on councils, embassies and forms. But how the coach of state lumbers and lags With messages of love whose own light wings Glide through all bars, outstrip all fleetest things— No bird so light, no thought so fleet as they.

But while the prince chafed at the long delay, The sweet Yasodhara began to feel The bitter pangs of unrequited love. But her young hands, busy with others' wants, And her young heart, busy with others' woes, With acts of kindness filled the lagging hours, Best of all medicines for aching hearts. Yet often she would seek a quiet nook Deep in the park, where giant trees cross arms, Making high gothic arches, and a shade That noonday's fiercest rays could scarcely pierce, And there alone with her sad heart communed: "Yes! I have kept it for the giver's sake, But he has quite forgot his love, his gift, and me. How bright these jewels seemed warmed by his love, But now how dull, how icy and how dead!" But soon the soft-eyed antelopes and fawns And fleet gazelles came near and licked her hands; And birds of every rich and varied plume Gathered around and filled the air with song; And even timid pheasants brought their broods, For her sweet loving life had here restored The peace and harmony of paradise; And as they shared her bounty she was soothed By their mute confidence and perfect trust.

But though time seems to lag, yet still it moves, Resistless as the ocean's swelling tide, Bearing its mighty freight of human lives With all their joys and sorrows, hopes and fears, Onward, forever onward, to life's goal. At length the embassy is sent, and now, Just as the last faint rays of rosy light Fade from the topmost Himalayan peaks, And tired nature sinks to quiet rest, A horseman dashes through the silent streets Bearing the waiting prince the welcome word That one short journey of a single day Divides him from the sweet Yasodhara; And light-winged rumor spreads the joyful news, And ere the dawn had danced from mountain-top O'er hill and vale and plain to the sweet notes Of nature's rich and varied orchestra, And dried the pearly tears that night had wept, The prince led forth his train to meet his bride, Wondering that Kantaka, always so free, So eager and so fleet, should seem to lag. And in that fragrant garden's cooling shade, Where they had parted, now again they meet, And there we leave them reverently alone, For art can never paint nor words describe The peace and rest and rapture of that scene.

Meanwhile the city rings with busy stir. The streets are swept and sprinkled with perfumes, And when the evening shades had veiled the earth, And heaven's blue vault was set with myriad stars, The promised signal from the watchtower sounds, And myriad lamps shine from each house and tree, And merry children strew their way with flowers, And all come forth to greet Siddartha's bride, And welcome her, their second Maya, home. And at the palace gate the good old king Receives her with such loving tenderness, As fondest mother, sick with hope deferred, Waiting and watching for an absent child, At length receives him in her open arms.

[1]Sinhahamu was an ancestor, said to be the grandfather, of our prince, whose bow, like that of Ulysses, no one else could bend. See notes 24 and 35 to Book Second of Arnold's "Light of Asia."

[2]Any one who has read that remarkable work, "Ben Bur," and every one who has not should, will recognize my obligations to General Wallace.

[3]One may be satisfied with the antiquity of the dance, practically as we have it, from lines 187-8, Book VI. of the Odyssey:

"Joyful they see applauding princes gaze When stately in the dance they swim the harmonious maze."

[4]I am aware I place Kapilavasta nearer the Vale of Cashmere than most, but as two such writers as Beal and Rhys Davids differ 30 yojanas, or 180 miles in its location, and as no remains have yet been identified at all corresponding to the grandeur of the ancient city as described by all Buddhist writers, I felt free to indulge my fancy. Perhaps these ruins may yet be found by some chance traveler in some unexplored jungle.



BOOK III.

And now his cup with every blessing filled Full to the brim, to overflowing full, What more has life to give or heart to wish? Stately in form, with every princely grace, A very master of all manly arts, His gentle manners making all his friends, His young blood bounding on in healthful flow, His broad domains rich in all earth can yield, Guarded by nature and his people's love, And now that deepest of all wants supplied, The want of one to share each inmost thought, Whose sympathy can soothe each inmost smart, Whose presence, care and loving touch can make The palace or the humblest cottage home, His life seemed rounded, perfect, full, complete. And they were happy as the days glide on, And when at night, locked in each other's arms, They sink to rest, heart beating close to heart, Their thoughts all innocence and trust and love, It almost seemed as if remorseless Time Had backward rolled his tide, and brought again The golden age, with all its peace and joy, And our first parents, ere the tempter came, Were taking sweet repose in paradise. But as one night they slept, a troubled dream Disturbed the prince. He dreamed he saw one come, As young and fair as sweet Yasodhara, But clad in widow's weeds, and in her arms A lifeless child, crying: "Most mighty prince! O bring me back my husband and my child!" But he could only say "Alas! poor soul!" And started out of sleep he cried "Alas!" Which waked the sweet Yasodhara, who asked, "What ails my love?" "Only a troubled dream," The prince replied, but still she felt him tremble, And kissed and stroked his troubled brow, And soothed him into quiet sleep again. And then once more he dreamed—a pleasing dream. He dreamed he heard strange music, soft and sweet; He only caught its burden: "Peace, be still!" And then he thought he saw far off a light, And there a place where all was peace and rest, And waking sighed to find it all a dream.

One day this happy couple, side by side, Rode forth alone, Yasodhara unveiled— "For why," said she, "should those whose thoughts are pure Like guilty things hide from their fellow-men?"— Rode through the crowded streets, their only guard The people's love, strongest and best of guards; For many arms would spring to their defense, While some grim tyrant, at whose stern command A million swords would from their scabbards leap, Cringes in terror behind bolts and bars, Starts at each sound, and fears some hidden mine May into atoms blow his stately towers, Or that some hand unseen may strike him down, And thinks that poison lurks in every cup, While thousands are in loathsome dungeons thrust Or pine in exile for a look or word. And as they pass along from street to street A sea of happy faces lines their way, Their joyful greetings answered by the prince. No face once seen, no name once heard, forgot, While sweet Yasodhara was wreathed in smiles, The kind expression of her gentle heart, When from a little cottage by the way, The people making room for him to pass, There came an aged man, so very old That time had ceased to register his years; His step was firm, his eye, though faded, mild, And childhood's sweet expression on his face. The prince stopped short before him, bending low, And gently asked: "What would my father have? Speak freely—what I can, I freely give." "Most noble prince, I need no charity, For my kind neighbors give me all unasked, And my poor cottage where my fathers dwelt, And where my children and their mother died, Is kept as clean as when sweet Gunga lived; And young and old cheer up my lonely hours, And ask me much of other times and men. For when your father's father was a child, I was a man, as young and strong as you, And my sweet Gunga your companion's age. But O the mystery of life explain! Why are we born to tread this little round, To live, to love, to suffer, sorrow, die? Why do the young like field-flowers bloom to fade? Why are the strong like the mown grass cut down? Why am I left as if by death forgot, Left here alone, a leafless, fruitless trunk? Is death the end, or what comes after death? Often when deepest sleep shuts out the world, The dead still seem to live, while life fades out; And when I sit alone and long for light The veil seems lifted, and I seem to see A world of life and light and peace and rest, No sickness, sin or sorrow, pain or death, No helpless infancy or hopeless age. But we poor Sudras cannot understand— Yet from my earliest memory I've heard That from this hill one day should burst a light, Not for the Brahmans only, but for all. And when you were a child I saw a sage Bow down before you, calling you that light. O noble, mighty prince! let your light shine, That men no longer grope in dark despair!"

He spoke, and sank exhausted on the ground. They gently raised him, but his life was fled. The prince gave one a well-filled purse and said: "Let his pile neither lack for sandal-wood Or any emblem of a life well spent." And when fit time had passed they bore him thence And laid him on that couch where all sleep well, Half hid in flowers by loving children brought, A smile still lingering on his still, cold lips, As if they just had tasted Gunga's kiss, Soon to be kissed by eager whirling flames.

Just then two stately Brahmans proudly passed— Passed on the other side, gathering their robes To shun pollution from the common touch, And passing said: "The prince with Sudras talks As friend to friend—but wisdom comes with years."

Silent and thoughtful then they homeward turned, The prince deep musing on the old man's words; "'The veil is lifted, and I seem to see A world of life and light and peace and rest.' O if that veil would only lift for me The mystery of life would be explained." As they passed on through unfrequented streets, Seeking to shun the busy, thoughtless throng, Those other words like duty's bugle-call Still ringing in his ears: "Let your light shine, That men no longer grope in dark despair"— The old sad thoughts, long checked by passing joys, Rolling and surging, swept his troubled soul— As pent-up waters, having burst their dams, Sweep down the valleys and o'erwhelm the plains.

Just then an aged, angry voice cried out: "O help! they've stolen my jewels and my gold!" And from a wretched hovel by the way An old man came, hated and shunned by all, Whose life was spent in hoarding unused gold, Grinding the poor, devouring widows' homes; Ill fed, ill clad, from eagerness to save, His sunken eyes glittering with rage and greed. And when the prince enquired what troubled him: "Trouble enough," he said, "my sons have fled Because I would not waste in dainty fare And rich apparel all my life has saved, And taken all my jewels, all my gold. Would that they both lay dead before my face! O precious jewels! O beloved gold!" The prince, helpless to soothe, hopeless to cure This rust and canker of the soul, passed on, His heart with all-embracing pity filled. "O deepening mystery of life!" he cried, "Why do such souls in human bodies dwell— Fitter for ravening wolves or greedy swine! Just at death's door cursing his flesh and blood For thievish greed inherited from him. Is this old age, or swinish greed grown old? O how unlike that other life just fled! His youth's companions, wife and children, dead, Yet filled with love for all, by all beloved, With his whole heart yearning for others' good, With his last breath bewailing others' woes." "My best beloved," said sweet Yasodhara, Her bright eyes filled with sympathetic tears, Her whole soul yearning for his inward peace, "Brood not too much on life's dark mystery— Behind the darkest clouds the sun still shines." "But," said the prince, "the many blindly grope In sorrow, fear and ignorance profound, While their proud teachers, with their heads erect, Stalk boldly on, blind leaders of the blind. Come care, come fasting, woe and pain for me, And even exile from my own sweet home, All would I welcome could I give them light." "But would you leave your home, leave me, leave all, And even leave our unborn pledge of love, The living blending of our inmost souls, That now within me stirs to bid you pause?" "Only for love of you and him and all! O hard necessity! O bitter cup! But would you have me like a coward shun The path of duty, though beset with thorns— Thorns that must pierce your tender feet and mine?" Piercing the question as the sharpest sword; Their love, their joys, tempted to say him nay. But soon she conquered all and calmly said: "My love, my life, where duty plainly calls I bid you go, though my poor heart must bleed, And though my eyes weep bitter scalding tears."

Their hearts too full for words, too full for tears, Gently he pressed her hand and they passed home; And in the presence of this dark unknown A deep and all-pervading tenderness Guides every act and tempers every tone— As in the chamber of the sick and loved The step is light, the voice is soft and low. But soon their days with varied duties filled, Their nights with sweet repose, glide smoothly on, Until this shadow seems to lift and fade— As when the sun bursts through the passing storm, Gilding the glittering raindrops as they fall, And paints the bow of hope on passing clouds. Yet still the old sad thoughts sometimes return, The burden of a duty unperformed, The earnest yearning for a clearer light. The thought that hour by hour and day by day The helpless multitudes grope blindly on, Clouded his joys and often banished sleep.

One day in this sad mood he thought to see His people as they are in daily life, And not in holiday attire to meet their prince. In merchant's dress, his charioteer his clerk, The prince and Channa passed unknown, and saw The crowded streets alive with busy hum, Traders cross-legged, with their varied wares, The wordy war to cheapen or enhance, One rushing on to clear the streets for wains With huge stone wheels, by slow strong oxen drawn; Palanquin-bearers droning out "Hu, hu, ho, ho," While keeping step and praising him they bear; The housewives from the fountain water bring In balanced water-jars, their black-eyed babes Athwart their hips, their busy tongues meanwhile Engaged in gossip of the little things That make the daily round of life to them; The skillful weaver at his clumsy loom; The miller at his millstones grinding meal; The armorer, linking his shirts of mail; The money-changer at his heartless trade; The gaping, eager crowd gathered to watch Snake-charmers, that can make their deadly charge Dance harmless to the drone of beaded gourds; Sword-players, keeping many knives in air; Jugglers, and those that dance on ropes swung high: And all this varied work and busy idleness As in a panorama passing by.

While they were passing through these varied scenes, The prince, whose ears were tuned to life's sad notes, Whose eyes were quick to catch its deepest shades, Found sorrow, pain and want, disease and death, Were woven in its very warp and woof. A tiger, springing from a sheltering bush, Had snatched a merchant's comrade from his side; A deadly cobra, hidden by the path, Had stung to death a widow's only son; A breath of jungle-wind a youth's blood chilled, Or filled a strong man's bones with piercing pain; A household widowed by a careless step; The quick cross-lightning from an angry cloud Struck down a bridegroom bringing home his bride— All this and more he heard, and much he saw: A young man, stricken in life's early prime, Shuffled along, dragging one palsied limb, While one limp arm hung useless by his side; A dwarf sold little knickknacks by the way, His body scarcely in the human form, To which long arms and legs seemed loosely hung, His noble head thrust forward on his breast, Whose pale, sad face as plainly told as words That life had neither health nor hope for him; An old man tottering from a hovel came, Frail, haggard, palsied, leaning on a staff, Whose eyes, dull, glazed and meaningless, proclaim The body lingers when the mind has fled; One seized with sudden hot distemper of the blood, Writhing with anguish, by the wayside sunk. The purple plague-spot on his pallid cheek, Cold drops of perspiration on his brow, With wildly rolling eyes and livid lips, Gasping for breath and feebly asking help— But ere the prince could aid, death gave relief.

At length they passed the city's outer gate And down a stream, now spread in shining pools, Now leaping in cascades, now dashing on, A line of foam along its rocky bed, Bordered by giant trees with densest shade. Here, day by day, the city bring their dead; Here, day by day, they build the funeral-piles; Here lamentations daily fill the air; Here hissing flames each day taste human flesh, And friendly watchmen guard the smoldering pile Till friends can cull the relics from the dust. And here, just finished, rose a noble pile By stately Brahmans for a Brahman built Of fragrant woods, and drenched with fragrant oils, Loading the air with every sweet perfume That India's forests or her fields can yield; Above, a couch of sacred cusa-grass, On which no dreams disturb the sleeper's rest. And now the sound of music reaches them, Far off at first, solemn and sad and slow, Rising and swelling as it nearer comes, Until a long procession comes in view. Four Brahmans first, bearing in bowls the fire No more to burn on one deserted hearth, Then stately Brahmans on their shoulders bore A noble brother of their sacred caste, In manhood's bloom and early prime cut down. Then Brahman youth, bearing a little child Half hid in flowers, and as in seeming sleep. Then other Brahmans in a litter bore One young and fair, in early womanhood, Her youthful beauty joined with matron grace, In bridal dress adorned with costly gems— The very face the prince had dreaming seen, The very child she carried in her arms. Then many more, uncovered, four by four, The aged first, then those in manhood's prime, And then the young with many acolytes Chanting in unison their sacred hymns, Accompanied by many instruments, Both wind and string, in solemn symphony; And at respectful distance other castes, Afraid to touch a Brahman's sacred robes Or even mingle with his grief their tears. And when they reached the fragrant funeral-pile, Weeping they placed their dead on their last couch, The child within its father's nerveless arms; And when all funeral rites had been performed, The widow circled thrice the funeral-pile, Distributing her gifts with lavish hand, Bidding her friends a long and last farewell— Then stopped, and raised her tearless eyes and said: "Farewell, a long farewell, to life and friends! Farewell! O earth and air and sacred sun! Nanda, my lord, Udra, my child, I come!" Then pale but calm, with fixed ecstatic gaze And steady steps she mounts the funeral-pile, Crying, "They beckon me! I come! I come!" Then sunk as if the silver cord were loosed As still as death upon her silent dead. Instant the flames from the four corners leaped, Mingling in one devouring, eager blaze. No groan, no cry, only the crackling flames, The wailing notes of many instruments, And solemn chant by many voices raised, "Perfect is she who follows thus her lord." O dark and cruel creeds, O perfect love, Fitter for heaven than this sad world of ours!

1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse