THE LIGHT OF ASIA
By Sir Edwin Arnold
This volume is dutifully inscribed to the Sovereign, Grand Master, and Companions of The Most Exalted Order of the Star of India by The Author.
Book The First
The Scripture of the Saviour of the World, Lord Buddha—Prince Siddartha styled on earth In Earth and Heavens and Hells Incomparable, All-honoured, Wisest, Best, most Pitiful; The Teacher of Nirvana and the Law.
Then came he to be born again for men.
Below the highest sphere four Regents sit Who rule our world, and under them are zones Nearer, but high, where saintliest spirits dead Wait thrice ten thousand years, then live again; And on Lord Buddha, waiting in that sky, Came for our sakes the five sure signs of birth So that the Devas knew the signs, and said "Buddha will go again to help the World." "Yea!" spake He, "now I go to help the World. This last of many times; for birth and death End hence for me and those who learn my Law. I will go down among the Sakyas, Under the southward snows of Himalay, Where pious people live and a just King."
That night the wife of King Suddhodana, Maya the Queen, asleep beside her Lord, Dreamed a strange dream; dreamed that a star from heaven— Splendid, six-rayed, in colour rosy-pearl, Whereof the token was an Elephant Six-tusked and whiter than Vahuka's milk— Shot through the void and, shining into her, Entered her womb upon the right. Awaked, Bliss beyond mortal mother's filled her breast, And over half the earth a lovely light Forewent the morn. The strong hills shook; the waves Sank lulled; all flowers that blow by day came forth As 't were high noon; down to the farthest hells Passed the Queen's joy, as when warm sunshine thrills Wood-glooms to gold, and into all the deeps A tender whisper pierced. "Oh ye," it said, "The dead that are to live, the live who die, Uprise, and hear, and hope! Buddha is come!" Whereat in Limbos numberless much peace Spread, and the world's heart throbbed, and a wind blew With unknown freshness over lands and seas. And when the morning dawned, and this was told, The grey dream-readers said "The dream is good! The Crab is in conjunction with the Sun; The Queen shall bear a boy, a holy child Of wondrous wisdom, profiting all flesh, Who shall deliver men from ignorance, Or rule the world, if he will deign to rule."
In this wise was the holy Buddha born.
Queen Maya stood at noon, her days fulfilled, Under a Palsa in the Palace-grounds, A stately trunk, straight as a temple-shaft, With crown of glossy leaves and fragrant blooms; And, knowing the time some—for all things knew— The conscious tree bent down its boughs to make A bower above Queen Maya's majesty, And Earth put forth a thousand sudden flowers To spread a couch, while, ready for the bath, The rock hard by gave out a limpid stream Of crystal flow. So brought she forth her child Pangless—he having on his perfect form The marks, thirty and two, of blessed birth; Of which the great news to the Palace came. But when they brought the painted palanquin To fetch him home, the bearers of the poles Were the four Regents of the Earth, come down From Mount Sumeru—they who write men's deeds On brazen plates—the Angel of the East, Whose hosts are clad in silver robes, and bear Targets of pearl: the Angel of the South, Whose horsemen, the Kumbhandas, ride blue steeds, With sapphire shields: the Angel of the West, By Nagas followed, riding steeds blood-red, With coral shields: the Angel of the North, Environed by his Yakshas, all in gold, On yellow horses, bearing shields of gold. These, with their pomp invisible, came down And took the poles, in caste and outward garb Like bearers, yet most mighty gods; and gods Walked free with men that day, though men knew not For Heaven was filled with gladness for Earth's sake, Knowing Lord Buddha thus was come again.
But King Suddhodana wist not of this; The portents troubled, till his dream-readers Augured a Prince of earthly dominance, A Chakravartin, such as rise to rule Once in each thousand years; seven gifts he has The Chakra-ratna, disc divine; the gem; The horse, the Aswa-ratna, that proud steed Which tramps the clouds; a snow-white elephant, The Hasti-ratna, born to bear his King; The crafty Minister, the General Unconquered, and the wife of peerless grace, The Istri-ratna, lovelier than the Dawn. For which gifts looking with this wondrous boy, The King gave order that his town should keep High festival; therefore the ways were swept, Rose-odours sprinkled in the street, the trees Were hung with lamps and flags, while merry crowds Gaped on the sword-players and posturers, The jugglers, charmers, swingers, rope-walkers, The nautch-girls in their spangled skirts and bells That chime light laughter round their restless feet; The masquers wrapped in skins of bear and deer. The tiger-tamers, wrestlers, quail-fighters, Beaters of drum and twanglers of the wire, Who made the people happy by command. Moreover from afar came merchant-men, Bringing, on tidings of this birth, rich gifts In golden trays; goat-shawls, and nard and jade, Turkises, "evening-sky" tint, woven webs— So fine twelve folds hide not a modest face— Waist-cloths sewn thick with pearls, and sandalwood; Homage from tribute cities; so they called Their Prince Svarthasiddh, "All-Prospering," Briefer, Siddartha.
'Mongst the strangers came A grey-haired saint, Asita, one whose ears, Long closed to earthly things, caught heavenly sounds, And heard at prayer beneath his peepul-tree The Devas singing songs at Buddha's birth. Wondrous in lore he was by age and fasts; Him, drawing nigh, seeming so reverend, The King saluted, and Queen Maya made To lay her babe before such holy feet; But when he saw the Prince the old man cried "Ah, Queen, not so!" and thereupon he touched Eight times the dust, laid his waste visage there, Saying, "O Babe! I worship! Thou art He! I see the rosy light, the foot-sole marks, The soft curled tendril of the Swastika, The sacred primal signs thirty and two, The eighty lesser tokens. Thou art Buddh, And thou wilt preach the Law and save all flesh Who learn the Law, though I shall never hear, Dying too soon, who lately longed to die; Howbeit I have seen Thee. Know, O King! This is that Blossom on our human tree Which opens once in many myriad years— But opened, fills the world with Wisdom's scent And Love's dropped honey; from thy royal root A Heavenly Lotus springs: Ah, happy House! Yet not all-happy, for a sword must pierce Thy bowels for this boy—whilst thou, sweet Queen! Dear to all gods and men for this great birth, Henceforth art grown too sacred for more woe, And life is woe, therefore in seven days Painless thou shalt attain the close of pain."
Which fell: for on the seventh evening Queen Maya smiling slept, and waked no more, Passing content to Trayastrinshas-Heaven, Where countless Devas worship her and wait Attendant on that radiant Motherhead. But for the Babe they found a foster-nurse, Princess Mahaprajapati—her breast Nourished with noble milk the lips of Him Whose lips comfort the Worlds.
When th' eighth year passed The careful King bethought to teach his son All that a Prince should learn, for still he shunned The too vast presage of those miracles, The glories and the sufferings of a Buddh. So, in full council of his Ministers, "Who is the wisest man, great sirs," he asked, "To teach my Prince that which a Prince should know?" Whereto gave answer each with instant voice "King! Viswamitra is the wisest one, The farthest-seen in Scriptures, and the best In learning, and the manual arts, and all." Thus Viswamitra came and heard commands; And, on a day found fortunate, the Prince Took up his slate of ox-red sandal-wood, All-beautified by gems around the rim, And sprinkled smooth with dust of emery, These took he, and his writing-stick, and stood With eyes bent down before the Sage, who said, "Child, write this Scripture, speaking slow the verse 'Gayatri' named, which only High-born hear:—
"Om, tatsaviturvarenyam Bhargo devasya dhimahi Dhiyo yo na prachodayat."
"Acharya, I write," meekly replied The Prince, and quickly on the dust he drew— Not in one script, but many characters The sacred verse; Nagri and Dakshin, Ni, Mangal, Parusha, Yava, Tirthi, Uk, Darad, Sikhyani, Mana, Madhyachar, The pictured writings and the speech of signs, Tokens of cave-men and the sea-peoples, Of those who worship snakes beneath the earth, And those who flame adore and the sun's orb, The Magians and the dwellers on the mounds; Of all the nations all strange scripts he traced One after other with his writing-stick. Reading the master's verse in every tongue; And Viswamitra said, "It is enough, Let us to numbers.
"After me repeat Your numeration till we reach the Lakh, One, two, three, four, to ten, and then by tens To hundreds, thousands." After him the child Named digits, decads, centuries; nor paused, The round Lakh reached, but softly murmured on "Then comes the koti, nahut, ninnahut, Khamba, viskhamba, abab, attata, To kumuds, gundhikas, and utpalas, By pundarikas unto padumas, Which last is how you count the utmost grains Of Hastagiri ground to finest dust; But beyond that a numeration is, The Katha, used to count the stars of night; The Koti-Katha, for the ocean drops; Ingga, the calculus of circulars; Sarvanikchepa, by the which you deal With all the sands of Gunga, till we come To Antah-Kalpas, where the unit is The sands of ten crore Gungas. If one seeks More comprehensive scale, th' arithmic mounts By the Asankya, which is the tale Of all the drops that in ten thousand years Would fall on all the worlds by daily rain; Thence unto Maha Kalpas, by the which The Gods compute their future and their past."
"'Tis good," the Sage rejoined, "Most noble Prince, If these thou know'st, needs it that I should teach The mensuration of the lineal?" Humbly the boy replied, "Acharya!" "Be pleased to hear me. Paramanus ten A parasukshma make; ten of those build The trasarene, and seven trasarenes One mote's-length floating in the beam, seven motes The whisker-point of mouse, and ten of these One likhya; likhyas ten a yuka, ten Yukas a heart of barley, which is held Seven times a wasp-waist; so unto the grain Of mung and mustard and the barley-corn, Whereof ten give the finger joint, twelve joints The span, wherefrom we reach the cubit, staff, Bow-length, lance-length; while twenty lengths of lance Mete what is named a 'breath,' which is to say Such space as man may stride with lungs once filled, Whereof a gow is forty, four times that A yojana; and, Master! if it please, I shall recite how many sun-motes lie From end to end within a yojana." Thereat, with instant skill, the little Prince Pronounced the total of the atoms true. But Viswamitra heard it on his face Prostrate before the boy; "For thou," he cried, "Art Teacher of thy teachers—thou, not I, Art Guru. Oh, I worship thee, sweet Prince! That comest to my school only to show Thou knowest all without the books, and know'st Fair reverence besides."
Which reverence Lord Buddha kept to all his schoolmasters, Albeit beyond their learning taught; in speech Right gentle, yet so wise; princely of mien, Yet softly-mannered; modest, deferent, And tender-hearted, though of fearless blood; No bolder horseman in the youthful band E'er rode in gay chase of the shy gazelles; No keener driver of the chariot In mimic contest scoured the Palace-courts; Yet in mid-play the boy would ofttimes pause, Letting the deer pass free; would ofttimes yield His half-won race because the labouring steeds Fetched painful breath; or if his princely mates Saddened to lose, or if some wistful dream Swept o'er his thoughts. And ever with the years Waxed this compassionateness of our Lord, Even as a great tree grows from two soft leaves To spread its shade afar; but hardly yet Knew the young child of sorrow, pain, or tears, Save as strange names for things not felt by kings, Nor ever to be felt. But it befell In the Royal garden on a day of spring, A flock of wild swans passed, voyaging north To their nest-places on Himala's breast. Calling in love-notes down their snowy line The bright birds flew, by fond love piloted; And Devadatta, cousin of the Prince, Pointed his bow, and loosed a wilful shaft Which found the wide wing of the foremost swan Broad-spread to glide upon the free blue road, So that it fell, the bitter arrow fixed, Bright scarlet blood-gouts staining the pure plumes. Which seeing, Prince Siddartha took the bird Tenderly up, rested it in his lap Sitting with knees crossed, as Lord Buddha sits And, soothing with a touch the wild thing's fright, Composed its ruffled vans, calmed its quick heart, Caressed it into peace with light kind palms As soft as plantain-leaves an hour unrolled; And while the left hand held, the right hand drew The cruel steel forth from the wound and laid Cool leaves and healing honey on the smart. Yet all so little knew the boy of pain That curiously into his wrist he pressed The arrow's barb, and winced to feel it sting, And turned with tears to soothe his bird again.
Then some one came who said, "My Prince hath shot A swan, which fell among the roses here, He bids me pray you send it. Will you send?" "Nay," quoth Siddartha, "if the bird were dead To send it to the slayer might be well, But the swan lives; my cousin hath but killed The god-like speed which throbbed in this white wing." And Devadatta answered, "The wild thing, Living or dead, is his who fetched it down; 'T was no man's in the clouds, but fall'n 't is mine, Give me my prize, fair Cousin." Then our Lord Laid the swan's neck beside his own smooth cheek And gravely spake, "Say no! the bird is mine, The first of myriad things which shall be mine By right of mercy and love's lordliness. For now I know, by what within me stirs, That I shall teach compassion unto men And be a speechless world's interpreter, Abating this accursed flood of woe, Not man's alone; but, if the Prince disputes, Let him submit this matter to the wise And we will wait their word." So was it done; In full divan the business had debate, And many thought this thing and many that, Till there arose an unknown priest who said, "If life be aught, the saviour of a life Owns more the living thing than be can own Who sought to slay—the slayer spoils and wastes, The cherisher sustains, give him the bird:" Which judgment all found just; but when the King Sought out the sage for honour, he was gone; And some one saw a hooded snake glide forth,— The gods come ofttimes thus! So our Lord Buddh Began his works of mercy.
Yet not more Knew he as yet of grief than that one bird's, Which, being healed, went joyous to its kind. But on another day the King said, "Come, Sweet son! and see the pleasaunce of the spring, And how the fruitful earth is wooed to yield Its riches to the reaper; how my realm— Which shall be thine when the pile flames for me— Feeds all its mouths and keeps the King's chest filled. Fair is the season with new leaves, bright blooms, Green grass, and cries of plough-time." So they rode Into a lane of wells and gardens, where, All up and down the rich red loam, the steers Strained their strong shoulders in the creaking yoke Dragging the ploughs; the fat soil rose and rolled In smooth dark waves back from the plough; who drove Planted both feet upon the leaping share To make the furrow deep; among the palms The tinkle of the rippling water rang, And where it ran the glad earth 'broidered it With balsams and the spears of lemon-grass. Elsewhere were sowers who went forth to sow; And all the jungle laughed with nesting-songs, And all the thickets rustled with small life Of lizard, bee, beetle, and creeping things Pleased at the spring-time. In the mango-sprays The sun-birds flashed; alone at his green forge Toiled the loud coppersmith; bee-eaters hawked Chasing the purple butterflies; beneath, Striped squirrels raced, the mynas perked and picked, The nine brown sisters chattered in the thorn, The pied fish-tiger hung above the pool, The egrets stalked among the buffaloes, The kites sailed circles in the golden air; About the painted temple peacocks flew, The blue doves cooed from every well, far off The village drums beat for some marriage-feast; All things spoke peace and plenty, and the Prince Saw and rejoiced. But, looking deep, he saw The thorns which grow upon this rose of life How the sweat peasant sweated for his wage, Toiling for leave to live; and how he urged The great-eyed oxen through the flaming hours, Goading their velvet flanks: then marked he, too, How lizard fed on ant, and snake on him, And kite on both; and how the fish-hawk robbed The fish-tiger of that which it had seized; The shrike chasing the bulbul, which did chase The jewelled butterflies; till everywhere Each slew a slayer and in turn was slain, Life living upon death. So the fair show Veiled one vast, savage, grim conspiracy Of mutual murder, from the worm to man, Who himself kills his fellow; seeing which— The hungry ploughman and his labouring kine, Their dewlaps blistered with the bitter yoke, The rage to live which makes all living strife— The Prince Siddartha sighed. "In this," he said, "That happy earth they brought me forth to see? How salt with sweat the peasant's bread! how hard The oxen's service! in the brake how fierce The war of weak and strong! i' th' air what plots! No refuge e'en in water. Go aside A space, and let me muse on what ye show." So saying, the good Lord Buddha seated him Under a jambu-tree, with ankles crossed— As holy statues sit—and first began To meditate this deep disease of life, What its far source and whence its remedy. So vast a pity filled him, such wide love For living things, such passion to heal pain, That by their stress his princely spirit passed To ecstasy, and, purged from mortal taint Of sense and self, the boy attained thereat Dhyana, first step of "the path."
There flew High overhead that hour five holy ones, Whose free wings faltered as they passed the tree. "What power superior draws us from our flight?" They asked, for spirits feel all force divine, And know the sacred presence of the pure. Then, looking downward, they beheld the Buddh Crowned with a rose-hued aureole, intent On thoughts to save; while from the grove a voice Cried, "Rishis! this is He shall help the world, Descend and worship." So the Bright Ones came And sang a song of praise, folding their wings, Then journeyed on, taking good news to Gods.
But certain from the King seeking the Prince Found him still musing, though the noon was past, And the sun hastened to the western hills Yet, while all shadows moved, the jambu-tree's Stayed in one quarter, overspreading him, Lest the sloped rays should strike that sacred head; And he who saw this sight heard a voice say, Amid the blossoms of the rose-apple, "Let be the King's son! till the shadow goes Forth from his heart my shadow will not shift."
Book The Second
Now, when our Lord was come to eighteen years, The King commanded that there should be built Three stately houses, one of hewn square beams With cedar lining, warm for winter days; One of veined marbles, cool for summer heat; And one of burned bricks, with blue tiles bedecked, Pleasant at seed-time, when the champaks bud— Subha, Suramma, Ramma, were their names. Delicious gardens round about them bloomed, Streams wandered wild and musky thickets stretched, With many a bright pavilion and fair lawn In midst of which Siddartha strayed at will, Some new delight provided every hour; And happy hours he knew, for life was rich, With youthful blood at quickest; yet still came The shadows of his meditation back, As the lake's silver dulls with driving clouds.
Which the King marking, called his Ministers: "Bethink ye, sirs I how the old Rishi spake," He said, "and what my dream-readers foretold. This boy, more dear to me than mine heart's blood, Shall be of universal dominance, Trampling the neck of all his enemies, A King of kings—and this is in my heart;— Or he shall tread the sad and lowly path Of self-denial and of pious pains, Gaining who knows what good, when all is lost Worth keeping; and to this his wistful eyes Do still incline amid my palaces. But ye are sage, and ye will counsel me; How may his feet be turned to that proud road Where they should walk, and all fair signs come true Which gave him Earth to rule, if he would rule?"
The eldest answered, "Maharaja! love Will cure these thin distempers; weave the spell Of woman's wiles about his idle heart. What knows this noble boy of beauty yet, Eyes that make heaven forgot, and lips of balm? Find him soft wives and pretty playfellows; The thoughts ye cannot stay with brazen chains A girl's hair lightly binds."
And all thought good, But the King answered, "if we seek him wives, Love chooseth ofttimes with another eye; And if we bid range Beauty's garden round, To pluck what blossom pleases, he will smile And sweetly shun the joy he knows not of." Then said another, "Roams the barasingh Until the fated arrow flies; for him, As for less lordly spirits, some one charms, Some face will seem a Paradise, some form Fairer than pale Dawn when she wakes the world. This do, my King! Command a festival Where the realm's maids shall be competitors In youth and grace, and sports that Sakyas use. Let the Prince give the prizes to the fair, And, when the lovely victors pass his seat, There shall be those who mark if one or two Change the fixed sadness of his tender cheek; So we may choose for Love with Love's own eyes, And cheat his Highness into happiness." This thing seemed good; wherefore upon a day The criers bade the young and beautiful Pass to the palace, for 't was in command To hold a court of pleasure, and the Prince Would give the prizes, something rich for all, The richest for the fairest judged. So flocked Kapilavastu's maidens to the gate, Each with her dark hair newly smoothed and bound, Eyelashes lustred with the soorma-stick, Fresh-bathed and scented; all in shawls and cloths Of gayest; slender hands and feet new-stained With crimson, and the tilka-spots stamped bright. Fair show it was of all those Indian girls Slow-pacing past the throne with large black eyes Fixed on the ground, for when they saw the Prince More than the awe of Majesty made beat Their fluttering hearts, he sate so passionless, Gentle, but so beyond them. Each maid took With down-dropped lids her gift, afraid to gaze; And if the people hailed some lovelier one Beyond her rivals worthy royal smiles, She stood like a scared antelope to touch The gracious hand, then fled to join her mates Trembling at favour, so divine he seemed, So high and saint-like and above her world. Thus filed they, one bright maid after another, The city's flowers, and all this beauteous march Was ending and the prizes spent, when last Came young Yasodhara, and they that stood Nearest Siddartha saw the princely boy Start, as the radiant girl approached. A form Of heavenly mould; a gait like Parvati's; the Eyes like a hind's in love-time, face so fair Words cannot paint its spell; and she alone Gazed full-folding her palms across her breasts On the boy's gaze, her stately neck unbent. "Is there a gift for me?" she asked, and smiled. "The gifts are gone," the Prince replied, "yet take This for amends, dear sister, of whose grace Our happy city boasts;" therewith he loosed The emerald necklet from his throat, and clasped Its green beads round her dark and silk-soft waist; And their eyes mixed, and from the look sprang love.
Long after—when enlightenment was full— Lord Buddha—being prayed why thus his heart Took fire at first glance of the Sakya girl, Answered, "We were not strangers, as to us And all it seemed; in ages long gone by A hunter's son, playing with forest girls By Yamun's spring, where Nandadevi stands, Sate umpire while they raced beneath the firs Like hares at eve that run their playful rings; One with flower-stars crowned he, one with long plumes Plucked from eyed pheasant and the junglecock, One with fir-apples; but who ran the last Came first for him, and unto her the boy Gave a tame fawn and his heart's love beside. And in the wood they lived many glad years, And in the wood they undivided died. Lo! as hid seed shoots after rainless years, So good and evil, pains and pleasures, hates And loves, and all dead deeds, come forth again Bearing bright leaves or dark, sweet fruit or sour. Thus I was he and she Yasodhara; And while the wheel of birth and death turns round, That which hath been must be between us two."
But they who watched the Prince at prize-giving Saw and heard all, and told the careful King How sate Sidddrtha heedless till there passed Great Suprabuddha's child, Yasodhara; And how—at sudden sight of her—he changed, And how she gazed on him and he on her, And of the jewel-gift, and what beside Passed in their speaking glance.
The fond King smiled: "Look! we have found a lure; take counsel now To fetch therewith our falcon from the clouds. Let messengers be sent to ask the maid In marriage for my son." But it was law With Sakyas, when any asked a maid Of noble house, fair and desirable, He must make good his skill in martial arts Against all suitors who should challenge it; Nor might this custom break itself for kings. Therefore her father spake: "Say to the King, The child is sought by princes far and near; If thy most gentle son can bend the bow, Sway sword, and back a horse better than they, Best would he be in all and best to us But how shall this be, with his cloistered ways?" Then the King's heart was sore, for now the Prince Begged sweet Yasodhara for wife—in vain, With Devadatta foremost at the bow, Ardjuna master of all fiery steeds, And Nanda chief in sword-play; but the Prince Laughed low and said, "These things, too, I have learned; Make proclamation that thy son will meet All comers at their chosen games. I think I shall not lose my love for such as these." So 't was given forth that on the seventh day The Prince Siddartha summoned whoso would To match with him in feats of manliness, The victor's crown to be Yasodhara.
Therefore, upon the seventh day, there went The Sakya lords and town and country round Unto the maidan; and the maid went too Amid her kinsfolk, carried as a bride, With music, and with litters gaily dight, And gold-horned oxen, flower-caparisoned. Whom Devadatta claimed, of royal line, And Nanda and Ardjuna, noble both, The flower of all youths there, till the Prince came Riding his white horse Kantaka, which neighed, Astonished at this great strange world without Also Siddartha gazed with wondering eyes On all those people born beneath the throne, Otherwise housed than kings, otherwise fed, And yet so like—perchance—in joys and griefs. But when the Prince saw sweet Yasodhara, Brightly he smiled, and drew his silken rein, Leaped to the earth from Kantaka's broad back, And cried, "He is not worthy of this pearl Who is not worthiest; let my rivals prove If I have dared too much in seeking her." Then Nanda challenged for the arrow-test And set a brazen drum six gows away, Ardjuna six and Devadatta eight; But Prince Siddartha bade them set his drum Ten gows from off the line, until it seemed A cowry-shell for target. Then they loosed, And Nanda pierced his drum, Ardjuna his, And Devadatta drove a well-aimed shaft Through both sides of his mark, so that the crowd Marvelled and cried; and sweet Yasodhara Dropped the gold sari o'er her fearful eyes, Lest she should see her Prince's arrow fail. But he, taking their bow of lacquered cane, With sinews bound, and strung with silver wire, Which none but stalwart arms could draw a span, Thrummed it—low laughing—drew the twisted string Till the horns kissed, and the thick belly snapped "That is for play, not love," he said; "hath none A bow more fit for Sakya lords to use?" And one said, "There is Sinhahanu's bow, Kept in the temple since we know not when, Which none can string, nor draw if it be strung." "Fetch me," he cried, "that weapon of a man!" They brought the ancient bow, wrought of black steel, Laid with gold tendrils on its branching curves Like bison-horns; and twice Siddartha tried Its strength across his knee, then spake "Shoot now With this, my cousins!" but they could not bring The stubborn arms a hand's-breadth nigher use; Then the Prince, lightly leaning, bent the bow, Slipped home the eye upon the notch, and twanged Sharply the cord, which, like an eagle's wing Thrilling the air, sang forth so clear and loud That feeble folk at home that day inquired "What is this sound?" and people answered them, "It is the sound of Sinhahanu's bow, Which the King's son has strung and goes to shoot;" Then fitting fair a shaft, he drew and loosed, And the keen arrow clove the sky, and drave Right through that farthest drum, nor stayed its flight, But skimmed the plain beyond, past reach of eye.
Then Devadatta challenged with the sword, And clove a Talas-tree six fingers thick; Ardjuna seven; and Nanda cut through nine; But two such stems together grew, and both Siddartha's blade shred at one flashing stroke, Keen, but so smooth that the straight trunks upstood, And Nanda cried, "His edge turned!" and the maid Trembled anew seeing the trees erect, Until the Devas of the air, who watched, Blew light breaths from the south, and both green crowns Crashed in the sand, clean-felled.
Then brought they steeds, High-mettled, nobly-bred, and three times scoured Around the maidan, but white Kantaka Left even the fleetest far behind—so swift, That ere the foam fell from his mouth to earth Twenty spear-lengths he flew; but Nanda said, "We too might win with such as Kantaka; Bring an unbroken horse, and let men see Who best can back him." So the syces brought A stallion dark as night, led by three chains, Fierce-eyed, with nostrils wide and tossing mane, Unshod, unsaddled, for no rider yet Had crossed him. Three times each young Sakya Sprang to his mighty back, but the hot steed Furiously reared, and flung them to the plain In dust and shame; only Ardjuna held His seat awhile, and, bidding loose the chains, Lashed the black flank, and shook the bit, and held The proud jaws fast with grasp of master-hand, So that in storms of wrath and rage and fear The savage stallion circled once the plain Half-tamed; but sudden turned with naked teeth, Gripped by the foot Ardjuna, tore him down, And would have slain him, but the grooms ran in, Fettering the maddened beast. Then all men cried, "Let not Siddartha meddle with this Bhut, Whose liver is a tempest, and his blood Red flame;" but the Prince said, "Let go the chains, Give me his forelock only," which he held With quiet grasp, and, speaking some low word, Laid his right palm across the stallion's eyes, And drew it gently down the angry face, And all along the neck and panting flanks, Till men astonished saw the night-black horse Sink his fierce crest and stand subdued and meek, As though he knew our Lord and worshipped him. Nor stirred he while Siddartha mounted, then Went soberly to touch of knee and rein Before all eyes, so that the people said, "Strive no more, for Siddartha is the best."
And all the suitors answered "He is best!" And Suprabuddha, father of the maid, Said, "It was in our hearts to find thee best, Being dearest, yet what magic taught thee more Of manhood 'mid thy rose-bowers and thy dreams Than war and chase and world's work bring to these? But wear, fair Prince, the treasure thou halt won." Then at a word the lovely Indian girl Rose from her place above the throng, and took A crown of mogra-flowers and lightly drew The veil of black and gold across her brow, Proud pacing past the youths, until she came To where Siddartha stood in grace divine, New lighted from the night-dark steed, which bent Its strong neck meekly underneath his arm. Before the Prince lowly she bowed, and bared Her face celestial beaming with glad love; Then on his neck she hung the fragrant wreath, And on his breast she laid her perfect head, And stooped to touch his feet with proud glad eyes, Saying, "Dear Prince, behold me, who am thine!" And all the throng rejoiced, seeing them pass Hand fast in hand, and heart beating with heart, The veil of black and gold drawn close again.
Long after—when enlightenment was come— They prayed Lord Buddha touching all, and why She wore this black and gold, and stepped so proud. And the World-honoured answered, "Unto me This was unknown, albeit it seemed half known; For while the wheel of birth and death turns round, Past things and thoughts, and buried lives come back. I now remember, myriad rains ago, What time I roamed Himala's hanging woods, A tiger, with my striped and hungry kind; I, who am Buddh, couched in the kusa grass Gazing with green blinked eyes upon the herds Which pastured near and nearer to their death Round my day-lair; or underneath the stars I roamed for prey, savage, insatiable, Sniffing the paths for track of man and deer. Amid the beasts that were my fellows then, Met in deep jungle or by reedy jheel, A tigress, comeliest of the forest, set The males at war; her hide was lit with gold, Black-broidered like the veil Yasodhara Wore for me; hot the strife waged in that wood With tooth and claw, while underneath a neem The fair beast watched us bleed, thus fiercely wooed. And I remember, at the end she came Snarling past this and that torn forest-lord Which I had conquered, and with fawning jaws Licked my quick-heaving flank, and with me went Into the wild with proud steps, amorously. The wheel of birth and death turns low and high."
Therefore the maid was given unto the Prince A willing spoil; and when the stars were good— Mesha, the Red Ram, being Lord of heaven— The marriage feast was kept, as Sakyas use, The golden gadi set, the carpet spread, The wedding garlands hung, the arm-threads tied, The sweet cake broke, the rice and attar thrown, The two straws floated on the reddened milk, Which, coming close, betokened "love till death;" The seven steps taken thrice around the fire, The gifts bestowed on holy men, the alms And temple offerings made, the mantras sung, The garments of the bride and bridegroom tied. Then the grey father spake: "Worshipful Prince, She that was ours henceforth is only thine; Be good to her, who hath her life in thee." Wherewith they brought home sweet Yasodhara, With songs and trumpets, to the Prince's arms, And love was all in all.
Yet not to love Alone trusted the King; love's prison-house Stately and beautiful he bade them build, So that in all the earth no marvel was Like Vishramvan, the Prince's pleasure-place. Midway in those wide palace-grounds there rose A verdant hill whose base Rohini bathed, Murmuring adown from Himalay's broad feet, To bear its tribute into Gunga's waves. Southward a growth of tamarind trees and sal, Thick set with pale sky-coloured ganthi flowers, Shut out the world, save if the city's hum Came on the wind no harsher than when bees Hum out of sight in thickets. Northward soared The stainless ramps of huge Hamala's wall, Ranged in white ranks against the blue-untrod Infinite, wonderful—whose uplands vast, And lifted universe of crest and crag, Shoulder and shelf, green slope and icy horn, Riven ravine, and splintered precipice Led climbing thought higher and higher, until It seemed to stand in heaven and speak with gods. Beneath the snows dark forests spread, sharp laced With leaping cataracts and veiled with clouds Lower grew rose-oaks and the great fir groves Where echoed pheasant's call and panther's cry Clatter of wild sheep on the stones, and scream Of circling eagles: under these the plain Gleamed like a praying-carpet at the foot Of those divinest altars. 'Fronting this The builders set the bright pavilion up, 'Fair-planted on the terraced hill, with towers On either flank and pillared cloisters round. Its beams were carved with stories of old time— Radha and Krishna and the sylvan girls— Sita and Hanuman and Draupadi; And on the middle porch God Ganesha, With disc and hook—to bring wisdom and wealth— Propitious sate, wreathing his sidelong trunk. By winding ways of garden and of court The inner gate was reached, of marble wrought, White with pink veins; the lintel lazuli, The threshold alabaster, and the doors Sandalwood, cut in pictured panelling; Whereby to lofty halls and shadowy bowers Passed the delighted foot, on stately stairs, Through latticed galleries, 'neath painted roofs And clustering columns, where cool fountains—fringed With lotus and nelumbo—danced, and fish Gleamed through their crystal, scarlet, gold, and blue. Great-eyed gazelles in sunny alcoves browsed The blown red roses; birds of rainbow wing Fluttered among the palms; doves, green and grey, Built their safe nests on gilded cornices; Over the shining pavements peacocks drew The splendours of their trains, sedately watched By milk-white herons and the small house-owls. The plum-necked parrots swung from fruit to fruit; The yellow sunbirds whirred from bloom to bloom, The timid lizards on the lattice basked Fearless, the squirrels ran to feed from hand, For all was peace: the shy black snake, that gives Fortune to households, sunned his sleepy coils Under the moon-flowers, where the musk-deer played, And brown-eyed monkeys chattered to the crows. And all this house of love was peopled fair With sweet attendance, so that in each part With lovely sights were gentle faces found, Soft speech and willing service, each one glad To gladden, pleased at pleasure, proud to obey; Till life glided beguiled, like a smooth stream Banked by perpetual flowers, Yasodhara Queen of the enchanting Court.
But innermost, Beyond the richness of those hundred halls, A secret chamber lurked, where skill had spent All lovely fantasies to lull the mind. The entrance of it was a cloistered square— Roofed by the sky, and in the midst a tank— Of milky marble built, and laid with slabs Of milk-white marble; bordered round the tank And on the steps, and all along the frieze With tender inlaid work of agate-stones. Cool as to tread in summer-time on snows It was to loiter there; the sunbeams dropped Their gold, and, passing into porch and niche, Softened to shadows, silvery, pale, and dim, As if the very Day paused and grew Eve. In love and silence at that bower's gate; For there beyond the gate the chamber was, Beautiful, sweet; a wonder of the world! Soft light from perfumed lamps through windows fell Of nakre and stained stars of lucent film On golden cloths outspread, and silken beds, And heavy splendour of the purdah's fringe, Lifted to take only the loveliest in. Here, whether it was night or day none knew, For always streamed that softened light, more bright Than sunrise, but as tender as the eve's; And always breathed sweet airs, more joy-giving Than morning's, but as cool as midnight's breath; And night and day lutes sighed, and night and day Delicious foods were spread, and dewy fruits, Sherbets new chilled with snows of Himalay, And sweetmeats made of subtle daintiness, With sweet tree-milk in its own ivory cup. And night and day served there a chosen band Of nautch girls, cup-bearers, and cymballers, Delicate, dark-browed ministers of love, Who fanned the sleeping eyes of the happy Prince, And when he waked, led back his thoughts to bliss With music whispering through the blooms, and charm Of amorous songs and dreamy dances, linked By chime of ankle-bells and wave of arms And silver vina-strings; while essences Of musk and champak and the blue haze spread From burning spices soothed his soul again To drowse by sweet Yasodhara; and thus Siddartha lived forgetting.
Furthermore, The King commanded that within those walls No mention should be made of death or age, Sorrow, or pain, or sickness. If one drooped In the lovely Court—her dark glance dim, her feet Faint in the dance—the guiltless criminal Passed forth an exile from that Paradise, Lest he should see and suffer at her woe. Bright-eyed intendants watched to execute Sentence on such as spake of the harsh world Without, where aches and plagues were, tears and fears, And wail of mourners, and grim fume of pyres. 'T was treason if a thread of silver strayed In tress of singing-girl or nautch-dancer; And every dawn the dying rose was plucked, The dead leaves hid, all evil sights removed For said the King, "If he shall pass his youth Far from such things as move to wistfulness, And brooding on the empty eggs of thought, The shadow of this fate, too vast for man, May fade, belike, and I shall see him grow To that great stature of fair sovereignty When he shall rule all lands—if he will rule— The King of kings and glory of his time."
Wherefore, around that pleasant prison house Where love was gaoler and delights its bars, But far removed from sight—the King bade build A massive wall, and in the wall a gate With brazen folding-doors, which but to roll Back on their hinges asked a hundred arms; Also the noise of that prodigious gate Opening was heard full half a yojana. And inside this another gate he made, And yet within another—through the three Must one pass if he quit that pleasure-house. Three mighty gates there were, bolted and barred, And over each was set a faithful watch; And the King's order said, "Suffer no man To pass the gates, though he should be the Prince This on your lives—even though it be my son."
Book The Third
In which calm home of happy life and love Ligged our Lord Buddha, knowing not of woe, Nor want, nor pain, nor plague, nor age, nor death, Save as when sleepers roam dim seas in dreams, And land awearied on the shores of day, Bringing strange merchandise from that black voyage. Thus ofttimes when he lay with gentle head Lulled on the dark breasts of Yasodhara, Her fond hands fanning slow his sleeping lids, He would start up and cry, "My world! Oh, world! I hear! I know! I come!" And she would ask, "What ails my Lord?" with large eyes terrorstruck; For at such times the pity in his look Was awful, and his visage like a god's. Then would he smile again to stay her tears, And bid the vinas sound; but once they set A stringed gourd on the sill, there where the wind Could linger o'er its notes and play at will— Wild music makes the wind on silver strings— And those who lay around heard only that; But Prince Siddartha heard the Devas play, And to his ears they sang such words as these:—
We are the voices of the wandering wind, Which moan for rest and rest can never find; Lo! as the wind is so is mortal life, A moan, a sigh, a sob, a storm, a strife.
Wherefore and whence we are ye cannot know, Nor where life springs nor whither life doth go; We are as ye are, ghosts from the inane, What pleasure have we of our changeful pain?
What pleasure hast thou of thy changeless bliss? Nay, if love lasted, there were joy in this; But life's way is the wind's way, all these things Are but brief voices breathed on shifting strings.
O Maya's son! because we roam the earth Moan we upon these strings; we make no mirth, So many woes we see in many lands, So many streaming eyes and wringing hands.
Yet mock we while we wail, for, could they know, This life they cling to is but empty show; 'Twere all as well to bid a cloud to stand, Or hold a running river with the hand.
But thou that art to save, thine hour is nigh! The sad world waileth in its misery, The blind world stumbleth on its round of pain; Rise, Maya's child! wake! slumber not again!
We are the voices of the wandering wind Wander thou, too, O Prince, thy rest to find; Leave love for love of lovers, for woe's sake Quit state for sorrow, and deliverance make.
So sigh we, passing o'er the silver strings, To thee who know'st not yet of earthly things; So say we; mocking, as we pass away, These lovely shadows wherewith thou dost play.
Thereafter it befell he sate at eve Amid his beauteous Court, holding the hand Of sweet Yasodhara, and some maid told— With breaks of music when her rich voice dropped— An ancient tale to speed the hour of dusk, Of love, and of a magic horse, and lands Wonderful, distant, where pale peoples dwelled And where the sun at night sank into seas. Then spake he, sighing, "Chitra brings me back. The wind's song in the strings with that fair tale. Give her, Yasodhara, thy pearl for thanks. But thou, my pearl! is there so wide a world? Is there a land which sees the great sun roll Into the waves, and are there hearts like ours, Countless, unknown, not happy—it may be— Whom we might succour if we knew of them? Ofttimes I marvel, as the Lord of day Treads from the east his kingly road of gold, Who first on the world's edge hath hailed his beam, The children of the morning; oftentimes, Even in thine arms and on thy breasts, bright wife, Sore have I panted, at the sun's decline, To pass with him into that crimson west And see the peoples of the evening. There must be many we should love—how else? Now have I in this hour an ache, at last, Thy soft lips cannot kiss away: oh, girl! O Chitra! you that know of fairyland! Where tether they that swift steed of the tale? My palace for one day upon his back, To ride and ride and see the spread of the earth! Nay, if I had yon callow vulture's plumes— The carrion heir of wider realms than mine— How would I stretch for topmost Himalay, Light where the rose-gleam lingers on those snows, And strain my gaze with searching what is round! Why have I never seen and never sought? Tell me what lies beyond our brazen gates."
Then one replied, "The city first, fair Prince! The temples, and the gardens, and the groves, And then the fields, and afterwards fresh fields, With nullahs, maidans, jungle, koss on koss; And next King Bimbasara's realm, and then The vast flat world, with crores on crores of folk." "Good," said Siddartha, "let the word be sent That Channa yoke my chariot—at noon Tomorrow I shall ride and see beyond."
Whereof they told the King: "Our Lord, thy son, Wills that his chariot be yoked at noon, That he may ride abroad and see mankind."
"Yea!" spake the careful King, "'tis time he see! But let the criers go about and bid My city deck itself, so there be met No noisome sight; and let none blind or maimed, None that is sick or stricken deep in years, No leper, and no feeble folk come forth." Therefore the stones were swept, and up and down The water-carriers sprinkled all the streets From spirting skins, the housewives scattered fresh Red powder on their thresholds, strung new wreaths, And trimmed the tulsi-bush before their doors. The paintings on the walls were heightened up With liberal brush, the trees set thick with flags, The idols gilded; in the four-went ways Suryadeva and the great gods shone 'Mid shrines of leaves; so that the city seemed A capital of some enchanted land. Also the criers passed, with drum and gong, Proclaiming loudly, "Ho! all citizens, The King commands that there be seen today No evil sight: let no one blind or maimed, None that is sick or stricken deep in years, No leper, and no feeble folk go forth. Let none, too, burn his dead nor bring them out Till nightfall. Thus Suddhodana commands."
So all was comely and the houses trim Throughout Kapilavastu, while the Prince Came forth in painted car, which two steers drew, Snow-white, with swinging dewlaps and huge humps Wrinkled against the carved and lacquered yoke. Goodly it was to mark the people's joy Greeting their Prince; and glad. Siddartha waxed At sight of all those liege and friendly folk Bright-clad and laughing as if life were good. "Fair is the world," he said, "it likes me well! And light and kind these men that are not kings, And sweet my sisters here, who toil and tend; What have I done for these to make them thus? Why, if I love them, should those children know? I pray take up yon pretty Sakya boy Who flung us flowers, and let him ride with me. How good it is to reign in realms like this! How simple pleasure is, if these be pleased Because I come abroad! How many things I need not if such little households hold Enough to make our city full of smiles! Drive, Channa! through the gates, and let me see More of this gracious world I have not known."
So passed they through the gates, a joyous crowd Thronging about the wheels, whereof some ran Before the oxen, throwing wreaths, some stroked Their silken flanks, some brought them rice and cakes, All crying, "Jai! jai! for our noble Prince!" Thus all the path was kept with gladsome looks And filled with fair sights—for the King's word was That such should be—when midway in the road, Slow tottering from the hovel where he hid, Crept forth a wretch in rags, haggard and foul, An old, old man, whose shrivelled skin, suntanned, Clung like a beast's hide to his fleshless bones. Bent was his back with load of many days, His eyepits red with rust of ancient tears, His dim orbs blear with rheum, his toothless jaws Wagging with palsy and the fright to see So many and such joy. One skinny hand Clutched a worn staff to prop his quavering limbs, And one was pressed upon the ridge of ribs Whence came in gasps the heavy painful breath. "Alms!" moaned he, "give, good people! for I die Tomorrow or the next day!" then the cough Choked him, but still he stretched his palm, and stood Blinking, and groaning 'mid his spasms, "Alms!" Then those around had wrenched his feeble feet Aside, and thrust him from the road again, Saying, "The Prince! dost see? get to thy lair!" But that Siddartha cried, "Let be! let be! Channa! what thing is this who seems a man, Yet surely only seems, being so bowed, So miserable, so horrible, so sad? Are men born sometimes thus? What meaneth he Moaning 'tomorrow or next day I die?' Finds he no food that so his bones jut forth? What woe hath happened to this piteous one?" Then answer made the charioteer, "Sweet Prince! This is no other than an aged man. Some fourscore years ago his back was straight, His eye bright, and his body goodly: now The thievish years have sucked his sap away, Pillaged his strength and filched his will and wit; His lamp has lost its oil, the wick burns black; What life he keeps is one poor lingering spark Which flickers for the finish: such is age; Why should your Highness heed?" Then spake the Prince "But shall this come to others, or to all, Or is it rare that one should be as he?" "Most noble," answered Channa, "even as he, Will all these grow if they shall live so long." "But," quoth the Prince, "if I shall live as long Shall I be thus; and if Yasodhara Live fourscore years, is this old age for her, Jalini, little Hasta, Gautami, And Gunga, and the others?" "Yea, great Sir!" The charioteer replied. Then spake the Prince "Turn back, and drive me to my house again! I have seen that I did not think to see."
Which pondering, to his beauteous Court returned Wistful Siddartha, sad of mien and mood; Nor tasted he the white cakes nor the fruits Spread for the evening feast, nor once looked up While the best palace-dancers strove to charm Nor spake—save one sad thing—when wofully Yasodhara sank to his feet and wept, Sighing, "Hath not my Lord comfort in me?" "Ah, Sweet!" he said, "such comfort that my soul Aches, thinking it must end, for it will end, And we shall both grow old, Yasodhara! Loveless, unlovely, weak, and old, and bowed. Nay, though we locked up love and life with lips So close that night and day our breaths grew one Time would thrust in between to filch away My passion and thy grace, as black Night steals The rose-gleams from you peak, which fade to grey And are not seen to fade. This have I found, And all my heart is darkened with its dread, And all my heart is fixed to think how Love Might save its sweetness from the slayer, Time, Who makes men old." So through that night he sate Sleepless, uncomforted.
And all that night The King Suddhodana dreamed troublous dreams. The first fear of his vision was a flag Broad, glorious, glistening with a golden sun, The mark of Indra; but a strong wind blew, Rending its folds divine, and dashing it Into the dust; whereat a concourse came Of shadowy Ones, who took the spoiled silk up And bore it eastward from the city gates. The second fear was ten huge elephants, With silver tusks and feet that shook the earth, Trampling the southern road in mighty march; And he who sate upon the foremost beast Was the King's son—the others followed him. The third fear of the vision was a car, Shining with blinding light, which four steeds drew, Snorting white smoke and champing fiery foam; And in the car the Prince Siddhartha sate. The fourth fear was a wheel which turned and turned, With nave of burning gold and jewelled spokes, And strange things written on the binding tire, Which seemed both fire and music as it whirled. The fifth fear was a mighty drum, set down Midway between the city and the hills, On which the Prince beat with an iron mace, So that the sound pealed like a thunderstorm, Rolling around the sky and far away. The sixth fear was a tower, which rose and rose High o'er the city till its stately head Shone crowned with clouds, and on the top the Prince Stood, scattering from both hands, this way and that, Gems of most lovely light, as if it rained Jacynths and rubies; and the whole world came, Striving to seize those treasures as they fell Towards the four quarters. But the seventh fear was A noise of wailing, and behold six men Who wept and gnashed their teeth, and laid their palms Upon their mouths, walking disconsolate.
These seven fears made the vision of his sleep, But none of all his wisest dream-readers Could tell their meaning. Then the King was wroth, Saying, "There cometh evil to my house, And none of ye have wit to help me know What the great gods portend sending me this." So in the city men went sorrowful Because the King had dreamed seven signs of fear Which none could read; but to the gate there came An aged man, in robe of deer-skin clad, By guise a hermit, known to none; he cried, "Bring me before the King, for I can read The vision of his sleep"; who, when he heard The sevenfold mysteries of the midnight dream, Bowed reverent and said: "O Maharaj! I hail this favoured House, whence shall arise A wider-reaching splendour than the sun's! Lo! all these seven fears are seven joys, Whereof the first, where thou didst see a flag— Broad, glorious, gilt with Indra's badge—cast down And carried out, did signify the end Of old faiths and beginning of the new, For there is change with gods not less than men, And as the days pass kalpas pass at length. The ten great elephants that shook the earth The ten great gifts of wisdom signify, In strength whereof the Prince shall quit his state And shake the world with passage of the Truth. The four flame-breathing horses of the car Are those four fearless virtues which shall bring Thy son from doubt and gloom to gladsome light; The wheel that turned with nave of burning gold Was that most precious Wheel of perfect Law Which he shall turn in sight of all the world. The mighty drum whereon the Prince did beat, Till the sound filled all lands, doth signify The thunder of the preaching of the Word Which he shall preach; the tower that grew to heaven The growing of the Gospel of this Buddh Sets forth; and those rare jewels scattered thence The untold treasures are of that good Law To gods and men dear and desirable. Such is the interpretation of the tower; But for those six men weeping with shut mouths, They are the six chief teachers whom thy son Shall, with bright truth and speech unanswerable, Convince of foolishness. O King! rejoice; The fortune of my Lord the Prince is more Than kingdoms, and his hermit-rags will be Beyond fine cloths of gold. This was thy dream! And in seven nights and days these things shall fall." So spake the holy man, and lowly made The eight prostrations, touching thrice the ground; Then turned and passed; but when the King bade send
A rich gift after him, the messengers Brought word, "We came to where he entered in At Chandra's temple, but within was none Save a grey owl which fluttered from the shrine." The gods come sometimes thus.
But the sad King Marvelled, and gave command that new delights Be compassed to enthrall Siddartha's heart Amid those dancers of his pleasure-house, Also he set at all the brazen doors A doubled guard.
Yet who shall shut out Fate?
For once again the spirit of the Prince Was moved to see this world beyond his gates, This life of man, so pleasant if its waves Ran not to waste and woful finishing In Time's dry sands. "I pray you let me view Our city as it is," such was his prayer To King Suddhodana. "Your Majesty In tender heed hath warned the folk before To put away ill things and common sights, And make their faces glad to gladden me, And all the causeways gay; yet have I learned This is not daily life, and if I stand Nearest, my father, to the realm and thee, Fain would I know the people and the streets, Their simple usual ways, and workday deeds, And lives which those men live who are not kings. Give me good leave, dear Lord, to pass unknown Beyond my happy gardens; I shall come The more contented to their peace again, Or wiser, father, if not well content. Therefore, I pray thee, let me go at will Tomorrow, with my servants, through the streets." And the King said, among his Ministers "Belike this second flight may mend the first. Note how the falcon starts at every sight New from his hood, but what a quiet eye Cometh of freedom; let my son see all, And bid them bring me tidings of his mind."
Thus on the morrow, when the noon was come, The Prince and Channa passed beyond the gates, Which opened to the signet of the King, Yet knew not they who rolled the great doors back It was the King's son in that merchant's robe, And in the clerkly dress his charioteer. Forth fared they by the common way afoot, Mingling with all the Sakya citizens, Seeing the glad and sad things of the town: The painted streets alive with hum of noon, The traders cross-legged 'mid their spice and grain, The buyers with their money in the cloth, The war of words to cheapen this or that, The shout to clear the road, the huge stone wheels, The strong slow oxen and their rustling loads, The singing bearers with the palanquins, The broad-necked hamals sweating in the sun, The housewives bearing water from the well With balanced chatties, and athwart their hips The black-eyed babes; the fly-swarmed sweetmeat shops, The weaver at his loom, the cotton-bow Twangling, the millstones grinding meal, the dogs Prowling for orts, the skilful armourer With tong and hammer linking shirts of mail, The blacksmith with a mattock and a spear Reddening together in his coals, the school Where round their Guru, in a grave half-moon, The Sakya children sang the mantra through, And learned the greater and the lesser gods; The dyers stretching waistcloths in the sun Wet from the vats—orange, and rose, and green; The soldiers clanking past with swords and shields, The camel-drivers rocking on the humps, The Brahman proud, the martial Kshatriya, The humble toiling Sudra; here a throng Gathered to watch some chattering snake-tamer Wind round his wrist the living jewellery Of asp and nag, or charm the hooded death To angry dance with drone of beaded gourd; There a long line of drums and horns, which went, With steeds gay painted and silk canopies, To bring the young bride home; and here a wife Stealing with cakes and garlands to the god To pray her husband's safe return from trade, Or beg a boy next birth; hard by the booths Where the sweat potters beat the noisy brass For lamps and lotas; thence, by temple walls And gateways, to the river and the bridge Under the city walls.
These had they passed When from the roadside moaned a mournful voice, "Help, masters! lift me to my feet; oh, help! Or I shall die before I reach my house!" A stricken wretch it was, whose quivering frame, Caught by some deadly plague, lay in the dust Writhing, with fiery purple blotches specked; The chill sweat beaded on his brow, his mouth Was dragged awry with twichings of sore pain, The wild eyes swam with inward agony. Gasping, he clutched the grass to rise, and rose Half-way, then sank, with quaking feeble limbs And scream of terror, crying, "Ah, the pain! Good people, help!" whereon Siddartha ran, Lifted the woful man with tender hands, With sweet looks laid the sick head on his knee, And while his soft touch comforted the wretch, Asked: "Brother, what is ill with thee? what harm Hath fallen? wherefore canst thou not arise? Why is it, Channa, that he pants and moans, And gasps to speak and sighs so pitiful?" Then spake the charioteer: "Great Prince! this man Is smitten with some pest; his elements Are all confounded; in his veins the blood, Which ran a wholesome river, leaps and boils A fiery flood; his heart, which kept good time, Beats like an ill-played drum-skin, quick and slow; His sinews slacken like a bow-string slipped; The strength is gone from ham, and loin, and neck, And all the grace and joy of manhood fled; This is a sick man with the fit upon him. See how be plucks and plucks to seize his grief, And rolls his bloodshot orbs and grinds his teeth, And draws his breath as if 'twere choking smoke. Lo! now he would be dead, but shall not die Until the plague hath had its work in him, Killing the nerves which die before the life; Then, when his strings have cracked with agony And all his bones are empty of the sense To ache, the plague will quit and light elsewhere. Oh, sir! it is not good to hold him so! The harm may pass, and strike thee, even thee." But spake the Prince, still comforting the man, "And are there others, are there many thus? Or might it be to me as now with him?" "Great Lord!" answered the charioteer, "this comes In many forms to all men; griefs and wounds, Sickness and tetters, palsies, leprosies, Hot fevers, watery wastings, issues, blains Befall all flesh and enter everywhere." "Come such ills unobserved?" the Prince inquired. And Channa said: "Like the sly snake they come That stings unseen; like the striped murderer, Who waits to spring from the Karunda bush, Hiding beside the jungle path; or like The lightning, striking these and sparing those, As chance may send."
"Then all men live in fear?" "So live they, Prince!"
"And none can say, 'I sleep Happy and whole tonight, and so shall wake'?" "None say it."
"And the end of many aches, Which come unseen, and will come when they come, Is this, a broken body and sad mind, And so old age?"
"Yea, if men last as long."
"But if they cannot bear their agonies, Or if they will not bear, and seek a term; Or if they bear, and be, as this man is, Too weak except for groans, and so still live, And growing old, grow older, then what end?"
"They die, Prince."
"Yea, at the last comes death, In whatsoever way, whatever hour. Some few grow old, most suffer and fall sick, But all must die—behold, where comes the Dead!"
Then did Siddartha raise his eyes, and see Fast pacing towards the river brink a band Of wailing people, foremost one who swung An earthen bowl with lighted coals, behind The kinsmen shorn, with mourning marks, ungirt, Crying aloud, "O Rama, Rama, hear! Call upon Rama, brothers"; next the bier, Knit of four poles with bamboos interlaced, Whereon lay, stark and stiff, feet foremost, lean, Chapfallen, sightless, hollow-flanked, a-grin, Sprinkled with red and yellow dust—the Dead, Whom at the four-went ways they turned head first, And crying "Rama, Rama!" carried on To where a pile was reared beside the stream; Thereon they laid him, building fuel up— Good sleep hath one that slumbers on that bed! He shall not wake for cold albeit he lies Naked to all the airs—for soon they set The red flame to the corners four, which crept, And licked, and flickered, finding out his flesh And feeding on it with swift hissing tongues, And crackle of parched skin, and snap of joint; Till the fat smoke thinned and the ashes sank Scarlet and grey, with here and there a bone White midst the grey—the total of the man.
Then spake the Prince, "Is this the end which comes To all who live?"
"This is the end that comes To all," quoth Channa; "he upon the pyre— Whose remnants are so petty that the crows Caw hungrily, then quit the fruitless feast— Ate, drank, laughed, loved, and lived, and liked life well. Then came—who knows?—some gust of junglewind, A stumble on the path, a taint in the tank, A snake's nip, half a span of angry steel, A chill, a fishbone, or a falling tile, And life was over and the man is dead. No appetites, no pleasures, and no pains Hath such; the kiss upon his lips is nought, The fire-scorch nought; he smelleth not his flesh A-roast, nor yet the sandal and the spice They burn; the taste is emptied from his mouth, The hearing of his ears is clogged, the sight Is blinded in his eyes; those whom he loved Wail desolate, for even that must go, The body, which was lamp unto the life, Or worms will have a horrid feast of it. Here is the common destiny of flesh. The high and low, the good and bad, must die, And then, 't is taught, begin anew and live Somewhere, somehow,—who knows?—and so again The pangs, the parting, and the lighted pile— Such is man's round."
But lo! Siddartha turned Eyes gleaming with divine tears to the sky, Eyes lit with heavenly pity to the earth; From sky to earth he looked, from earth to sky, As if his spirit sought in lonely flight Some far-off vision, linking this and that, Lost, past, but searchable, but seen, but known. Then cried he, while his lifted countenance Glowed with the burning passion of a love Unspeakable, the ardour of a hope Boundless, insatiate: "Oh! suffering world, Oh! known and unknown of my common flesh, Caught in this common net of death and woe, And life which binds to both! I see, I feel The vastness of the agony of earth, The vainness of its joys, the mockery Of all its best, the anguish of its worst; Since pleasures end in pain, and youth in age, And love in loss, and life in hateful death, And death in unknown lives, which will but yoke Men to their wheel again to whirl the round Of false delights and woes that are not false. Me too this lure hath cheated, so it seemed Lovely to live, and life a sunlit stream For ever flowing in a changeless peace; Whereas the foolish ripple of the flood Dances so lightly down by bloom and lawn Only to pour its crystal quicklier Into the foul salt sea. The veil is rent Which blinded me! I am as all these men Who cry upon their gods and are not heard Or are not heeded—yet there must be aid! For them and me and all there must be help! Perchance the gods have need of help themselves Being so feeble that when sad lips cry They cannot save! I would not let one cry Whom I could save! How can it be that Brahm Would make a world and keep it miserable, Since, if all-powerful, he leaves it so, He is not good, and if not powerful, He is not God?—Channa! lead home again! It is enough I mine eyes have seen enough!"
Which when the King heard, at the gates he set A triple guard, and bade no man should pass By day or night, issuing or entering in, Until the days were numbered of that dream.
Book The Fourth
But when the days were numbered, then befell The parting of our Lord—which was to be— Whereby came wailing in the Golden Home, Woe to the King and sorrow o'er the land, But for all flesh deliverance, and that Law Which whoso hears, the same shall make him free.
Softly the Indian night sinks on the plains At full moon in the month of Chaitra Shud, When mangoes redden and the asoka buds Sweeten the breeze, and Rama's birthday comes, And all the fields are glad and all the towns. Softly that night fell over Vishramvan, Fragrant with blooms and jewelled thick with stars, And cool with mountain airs sighing adown From snow-flats on Himala high-outspread; For the moon swung above the eastern peaks, Climbing the spangled vault, and lighting clear Robini's ripples and the hills and plains, And all the sleeping land, and near at hand Silvering those roof-tops of the pleasure-house, Where nothing stirred nor sign of watching was, Save at the outer gates, whose warders cried Mudra, the watchword, and the countersign Angana, and the watch-drums beat a round; Whereat the earth lay still, except for call Of prowling jackals, and the ceaseless trill Of crickets on the garden grounds.
Within— Where the moon glittered through the laceworked stone, Lighting the walls of pearl-shell and the floors Paved with veined marble—softly fell her beams On such rare company of Indian girls, It seemed some chamber sweet in Paradise Where Devis rested. All the chosen ones Of Prince Siddartha's pleasure-home were there, The brightest and most faithful of the Court, Each form so lovely in the peace of sleep, That you had said "This is the pearl of all!" Save that beside her or beyond her lay Fairer and fairer, till the pleasured gaze Roamed o'er that feast of beauty as it roams From gem to gem in some great goldsmith-work, Caught by each colour till the next is seen. With careless grace they lay, their soft brown limbs Part hidden, part revealed; their glossy hair Bound back with gold or flowers, or flowing loose In black waves down the shapely nape and neck. Lulled into pleasant dreams by happy toils, They slept, no wearier than jewelled birds Which sing and love all day, then under wing Fold head till morn bids sing and love again. Lamps of chased silver swinging from the roof In silver chains, and fed with perfumed oils, Made with the moonbeams tender lights and shades, Whereby were seen the perfect lines of grace, The bosom's placid heave, the soft stained palms Drooping or clasped, the faces fair and dark, The great arched brows, the parted lips, the teeth Like pearls a merchant picks to make a string, The satin-lidded eyes, with lashes dropped Sweeping the delicate cheeks, the rounded wrists The smooth small feet with bells and bangles decked, Tinkling low music where some sleeper moved, Breaking her smiling dream of some new dance Praised by the Prince, some magic ring to find, Some fairy love-gift. Here one lay full-length, Her vina by her cheek, and in its strings The little fingers still all interlaced As when the last notes of her light song played Those radiant eyes to sleep and sealed her own. Another slumbered folding in her arms A desert-antelope, its slender head Buried with back-sloped horns between her breasts Soft nestling; it was eating—when both drowsed— Red roses, and her loosening hand still held A rose half-mumbled, while a rose-leaf curled Between the deer's lips. Here two friends had dozed Together, wearing mogra-buds, which bound Their sister-sweetness in a starry chain, Linking them limb to limb and heart to heart, One pillowed on the blossoms, one on her. Another, ere she slept, was stringing stones To make a necklet—agate, onyx, sard, Coral, and moonstone—round her wrist it gleamed A coil of splendid colour, while she held, Unthreaded yet, the bead to close it up Green turkis, carved with golden gods and scripts. Lulled by the cadence of the garden stream, Thus lay they on the clustered carpets, each A girlish rose with shut leaves, waiting dawn To open and make daylight beautiful. This was the antechamber of the Prince; But at the purdah's fringe the sweetest slept— Gunga and Gotami—chief ministers In that still house of love.
The purdah hung, Crimson and blue, with broidered threads of gold, Across a portal carved in sandal-wood, Whence by three steps the way was to the bower Of inmost splendour, and the marriage-couch Set on a dais soft with silver cloths, Where the foot fell as though it trod on piles Of neem-blooms. All the walls, were plates of pearl, Cut shapely from the shells of Lanka's wave; And o'er the alabaster roof there ran Rich inlayings of lotus and of bird, Wrought in skilled work of lazulite and jade, Jacynth and jasper; woven round the dome, And down the sides, and all about the frames Wherein were set the fretted lattices, Through which there breathed, with moonlight and cool airs, Scents from the shell-flowers and the jasmine sprays; Not bringing thither grace or tenderness Sweeter than shed from those fair presences Within the place—the beauteous Sakya Prince, And hers, the stately, bright Yasodhara.
Half risen from her soft nest at his side, The chuddah fallen to her waist, her brow Laid in both palms, the lovely Princess leaned With heaving bosom and fast falling tears. Thrice with her lips she touched Siddartha's hand, And at the third kiss moaned: "Awake, my Lord! Give me the comfort of thy speech!" Then he— "What is with thee, O my life?" but still She moaned anew before the words would come; Then spake: "'Alas, my Prince! I sank to sleep Most happy, for the babe I bear of thee Quickened this eve, and at my heart there beat That double pulse of life and joy and love Whose happy music lulled me, but—aho!— In slumber I beheld three sights of dread, With thought whereof my heart is throbbing yet. I saw a white bull with wide branching horns, A lord of pastures, pacing through the streets, Bearing upon his front a gem which shone As if some star had dropped to glitter there, Or like the kantha-stone the great Snake keeps To make bright daylight underneath the earth. Slow through the streets toward the gates he paced, And none could stay him, though there came a voice From Indra's temple, 'If ye stay him not, The glory of the city goeth forth. Yet none could stay him. Then I wept aloud, And locked my arms about his neck, and strove, And bade them bar the gates; but that ox-king Bellowed, and, lightly tossing free his crest, Broke from my clasp, and bursting through the bars, Trampled the warders down and passed away. The neat strange dream was this: Four Presences Splendid with shining eyes, so beautiful They seemed the Regents of the Earth who dwell On Mount Sumeru, lighting from the sky With retinue of countless heavenly ones, Swift swept unto our city, where I saw The golden flag of Indra on the gate Flutter and fall; and lo! there rose instead A glorious banner, all the folds whereof Rippled with flashing fire of rubies sewn Thick on the silver threads, the rays wherefrom Set forth new words and weighty sentences Whose message made all living creatures glad; And from the east the wind of sunrise blew With tender waft, opening those jewelled scrolls So that all flesh might read; and wondrous blooms Plucked in what clime I know not-fell in showers, Coloured as none are coloured in our groves."
Then spake the Prince: "All this, my Lotus-flower! Was good to see."
"Ay, Lord," the Princess said, "Save that it ended with a voice of fear Crying, 'The time is nigh! the time is nigh!' Thereat the third dream came; for when I sought Thy side, sweet Lord! ah, on our bed there lay An unpressed pillow and an empty robe— Nothing of thee but those!—-nothing of thee, Who art my life and light, my king, my world! And sleeping still I rose, and sleeping saw Thy belt of pearls, tied here below my breasts, Change to a stinging snake; my ankle-rings Fall off, my golden bangles part and fall; The jasmines in my hair wither to dust; While this our bridal-couch sank to the ground, And something rent the crimson purdah down; Then far away I heard the white bull low, And far away the embroidered banner flap, And once again that cry, 'The time is come!' But with that cry—which shakes my spirit still— I woke! O Prince! what may such visions mean Except I die, or—worse than any death— Thou shouldst forsake me or be taken?"
Sweet As the last smile of sunset was the look Siddartha bent upon his weeping wife. "Comfort thee, dear!" he said, "if comfort lives In changeless love; for though thy dreams may be Shadows of things to come, and though the gods Are shaken in their seats, and though the world Stands nigh, perchance, to know some way of help, Yet, whatsoever fall to thee and me, Be sure I loved and love Yasodhara. Thou knowest how I muse these many moons, Seeking to save the sad earth I have seen; And when the time comes, that which will be will. But if my soul yearns sore for souls unknown, And if I grieve for griefs which are not mine, Judge how my high-winged thoughts must hover here O'er all these lives that share and sweeten mine So dear! and thine the dearest, gentlest, best, And nearest. Ah, thou mother of my babe! Whose body mixed with mine for this fair hope, When most my spirit wanders, ranging round The lands and seas—as full of ruth for men As the far-flying dove is full of ruth For her twin nestlings—ever it has come Home with glad wing and passionate plumes to thee, Who art the sweetness of my kind best seen, The utmost of their good, the tenderest Of all their tenderness, mine most of all. Therefore, whatever after this betide, Bethink thee of that lordly bull which lowed, That jewelled banner in thy dreams which waved Its folds departing, and of this be sure, Always I loved and always love thee well, And what I sought for all sought most for thee. But thou, take comfort; and, if sorrow falls, Take comfort still in deeming there may be A way of peace on earth by woes of ours; And have with this embrace what faithful love Can think of thanks or frame for benison— Too little, seeing love's strong self is weak— Yet kiss me on the mouth, and drink these words From heart to heart therewith, that thou mayst know— What others will not—that I loved thee most Because I loved so well all living souls. Now, Princess! rest, for I will rise and watch."
Then in her tears she slept, but sleeping sighed— As if that vision passed again—"The time! The time is come!" Whereat Siddartha turned, And, lo! the moon shone by the Crab! the stars In that same silver order long foretold Stood ranged to say: "This is the night!—choose thou The way of greatness or the way of good To reign a King of kings, or wander lone, Crownless and homeless, that the world be helped." Moreover, with the whispers of the gloom Came to his ears again that warning song, As when the Devas spoke upon the wind: And surely gods were round about the place Watching our Lord, who watched the shining stars.
"I will depart," he spake; "the hour is come! Thy tender lips, dear sleeper, summon me To that which saves the earth but sunders us; And in the silence of yon sky I read My fated message flashing. Unto this Came I, and unto this all nights and days Have led me; for I will not have that crown Which may be mine: I lay aside those realms Which wait the gleaming of my naked sword My chariot shall not roll with bloody wheels From victory to victory, till earth Wears the red record of my name. I choose To tread its paths with patient, stainless feet, Making its dust my bed, its loneliest wastes My dwelling, and its meanest things my mates: Clad in no prouder garb than outcasts wear, Fed with no meats save what the charitable Give of their will, sheltered by no more pomp Than the dim cave lends or the jungle-bush, This will I do because the woful cry Of life and all flesh living cometh up Into my ears, and all my soul is full Of pity for the sickness of this world; Which I will heal, if healing may be found By uttermost renouncing and strong strife. For which of all the great and lesser gods Have power or pity? Who hath seen them—who? What have they wrought to help their worshippers? How hath it steaded man to pray, and pay Tithes of the corn and oil, to chant the charms, To slay the shrieking sacrifice, to rear The stately fane, to feed the priests, and call On Vishnu, Shiva, Surya, who save None—not the worthiest—from the griefs that teach Those litanies of flattery and fear Ascending day by day, like wasted smoke? Hath any of my brothers 'scaped thereby The aches of life, the stings of love and loss, The fiery fever and the ague-shake, The slow, dull sinking into withered age, The horrible dark death—and what beyond Waits—till the whirling wheel comes up again, And new lives bring new sorrows to be borne, New generations for the new desires Which have their end in the old mockeries? Hath any of my tender sisters found Fruit of the fast or harvest of the hymn, Or bought one pang the less at bearing-time For white curds offered and trim tulsi-leaves? Nay; it may be some of the gods are good And evil some, but all in action weak; Both pitiful and pitiless, and both As men are—bound upon this wheel of change, Knowing the former and the after lives. For so our scriptures truly seem to teach, That—once, and wheresoe'er, and whence begun— Life runs its rounds of living, climbing up From mote, and gnat, and worm, reptile, and fish, Bird and shagged beast, man, demon, Deva, God, To clod and mote again; so are we kin To all that is; and thus, if one might save Man from his curse, the whole wide world should share The lightened horror of this ignorance Whose shadow is chill fear, and cruelty Its bitter pastime. Yea, if one might save! And means must be! There must be refuge!"
"Men Perished in winter-winds till one smote fire From flint-stones coldly hiding what they held, The red spark treasured from the kindling sun. They gorged on flesh like wolves, till one sowed corn, Which grew a weed, yet makes the life of man; They mowed and babbled till some tongue struck speech, And patient fingers framed the lettered sound. What good gift have my brothers but it came From search and strife and loving sacrifice? If one, then, being great and fortunate, Rich, dowered with health and ease, from birth designed To rule—if he would rule—a King of kings; If one, not tired with life's long day, but glad I' the freshness of its morning, one not cloyed With love's delicious feasts, but hungry still; If one not worn and wrinkled, sadly sage, But joyous in the glory and the grace That mix with evils here, and free to choose Earth's loveliest at his will: one even as I, Who ache not, lack not, grieve not, save with griefs Which are not mine, except as I am man;— If such a one, having so much to give, Gave all, laying it down for love of men. And thenceforth spent himself to search for truth, Wringing the secret of deliverance forth, Whether it lurk in hells or hide in heavens, Or hover, unrevealed, nigh unto all: Surely at last, far off, sometime, somewhere, The veil would lift for his deep-searching eyes, The road would open for his painful feet, That should be won for which he lost the world, And Death might find him conqueror of death. This will I do, who have a realm to lose, Because I love my realm, because my heart Beats with each throb of all the hearts that ache, Known and unknown, these that are mine and those Which shall be mine, a thousand million more Saved by this sacrifice I offer now. Oh, summoning stars! Oh, mournful earth For thee and thine I lay aside my youth, My throne, my joys, my golden days, my nights, My happy palace—and thine arms, sweet Queen! Harder to put aside than all the rest! Yet thee, too, I shall save, saving this earth; And that which stirs within thy tender womb, My child, the hidden blossom of our loves, Whom if I wait to bless my mind will fail. Wife! child! father! and people! ye must share A little while the anguish of this hour That light may break and all flesh learn the Law. Now am I fixed, and now I will depart, Never to come again till what I seek Be found—if fervent search and strife avail."
So with his brow he touched her feet, and bent The farewell of fond eyes, unutterable, Upon her sleeping face, still wet with tears; And thrice around the bed in reverence, As though it were an altar, softly stepped With clasped hands laid upon his beating heart, "For never," spake he, "lie I there again!" And thrice he made to go, but thrice came back, So strong her beauty was, so large his love Then, o'er his head drawing his cloth, he turned And raised the purdah's edge.
There drooped, close-hushed, In such sealed sleep as water-lilies know, The lovely garden of his Indian girls; Those twin dark-petalled lotus-buds of all— Gunga and Gotami—on either side, And those, their silk-leaved sisterhood, beyond. "Pleasant ye are to me, sweet friends!" he said, "And dear to leave; yet if I leave ye not What else will come to all of us save eld Without assuage and death without avail? Lo! as ye lie asleep so must ye lie A-dead; and when the rose dies where are gone Its scent and splendour? when the lamp is drained Whither is fled the flame? Press heavy, Night! Upon their down-dropped lids and seal their lips, That no tear stay me and no faithful voice. For all the brighter that these made my life, The bitterer it is that they and I, And all, should live as trees do—so much spring, Such and such rains and frosts, such wintertimes, And then dead leaves, with maybe spring again, Or axe-stroke at the root. This will not I, Whose life here was a god's!—this would not I, Though all my days were godlike, while men moan Under their darkness. Therefore farewell, friends! While life is good to give, I give, and go To seek deliverance and that unknown Light!"
Then, lightly treading where those sleepers lay, Into the night Siddartha passed: its eyes, The watchful stars, looked love on him: its breath, The wandering wind, kissed his robe's fluttered fringe; The garden-blossoms, folded for the dawn, Opened their velvet hearts to waft him scents From pink and purple censers: o'er the land, From Himalay unto the Indian Sea, A tremor spread, as if earth's soul beneath Stirred with an unknown hope; and holy books— Which tell the story of our Lord—say, too, That rich celestial musics thrilled the air From hosts on hosts of shining ones, who thronged Eastward and westward, making bright the night Northward and southward, making glad the ground. Also those four dread Regents of the Earth, Descending at the doorway, two by two,— With their bright legions of Invisibles In arms of sapphire, silver, gold, and pearl— Watched with joined hands the Indian Prince, who stood, His tearful eyes raised to the stars, and lips Close-set with purpose of prodigious love.
Then strode he forth into the gloom and cried, "Channa, awake! and bring out Kantaka!"
"What would my Lord?" the charioteer replied— Slow-rising from his place beside the gate "To ride at night when all the ways are dark?"
"Speak low," Siddartha said, "and bring my horse, For now the hour is come when I should quit This golden prison where my heart lives caged To find the truth; which henceforth I will seek, For all men's sake, until the truth be found."
"Alas! dear Prince," answered the charioteer, "Spake then for nought those wise and holy men Who cast the stars and bade us wait the time When King Suddhodana's great son should rule Realms upon realms, and be a Lord of lords? Wilt thou ride hence and let the rich world slip Out of thy grasp, to hold a beggar's bowl? Wilt thou go forth into the friendless waste That hast this Paradise of pleasures here?"
The Prince made answer: "Unto this I came, And not for thrones: the kingdom that I crave Is more than many realms, and all things pass To change and death. Bring me forth Kantaka!"
"Most honored," spake again the charioteer,
"Bethink thee of their woe whose bliss thou art— How shalt thou help them, first undoing them?"
Siddartha answered: "Friend, that love is false Which clings to love for selfish sweets of love; But I, who love these more than joys of mine— Yea, more than joy of theirs—depart to save Them and all flesh, if utmost love avail. Go, bring me Kantaka!"
Then Channa said, "Master, I go!" and forthwith, mournfully, Unto the stall he passed, and from the rack Took down the silver bit and bridle-chains, Breast-cord and curb, and knitted fast the straps, And linked the hooks, and led out Kantaka Whom tethering to the ring, he combed and dressed, Stroking the snowy coat to silken gloss; Next on the steed he laid the numdah square, Fitted the saddle-cloth across, and set The saddle fair, drew tight the jewelled girths, Buckled the breech-bands and the martingale, And made fall both the stirrups of worked gold. Then over all he cast a golden net, With tassels of seed-pearl and silken strings, And led the great horse to the palace door, Where stood the Prince; but when he saw his Lord, Right glad he waxed and joyously he neighed, Spreading his scarlet nostrils; and the books Write, "Surely all had heard Kantaka's neigh, And that strong trampling of his iron heels, Save that the Devas laid their unseen wings Over their ears and kept the sleepers deaf."
Fondly Siddartha drew the proud head down, Patted the shining neck, and said, "Be still, White Kantaka! be still, and bear me now The farthest journey ever rider rode; For this night take I horse to find the truth, And where my quest will end yet know I not, Save that it shall not end until I find. Therefore tonight, good steed, be fierce and bold! Let nothing stay thee, though a thousand blades Deny the road! let neither wall nor moat Forbid our flight! Look! if I touch thy flank And cry, 'On, Kantaka! I let whirlwinds lag Behind thy course! Be fire and air, my horse! To stead thy Lord, so shalt thou share with him The greatness of this deed which helps the world; For therefore ride I, not for men alone, But for all things which, speechless, share our pain And have no hope, nor wit to ask for hope. Now, therefore, bear thy master valorously!"
Then to the saddle lightly leaping, he Touched the arched crest, and Kantaka sprang forth With armed hoofs sparkling on the stones and ring Of champing bit; but none did hear that sound, For that the Suddha Devas, gathering near, Plucked the red mohra-flowers and strewed them thick Under his tread, while hands invisible Muffled the ringing bit and bridle chains. Moreover, it is written when they came Upon the pavement near the inner gates, The Yakshas of the air laid magic cloths Under the stallion's feet, so that he went Softly and still.
But when they reached the gate Of tripled brass—which hardly fivescore men Served to unbar and open—lo! the doors Rolled back all silently, though one might hear In daytime two koss off the thunderous roar Of those grim hinges and unwieldy plates.
Also the middle and the outer gates Unfolded each their monstrous portals thus In silence as Siddartha and his steed Drew near; while underneath their shadow lay. Silent as dead men, all those chosen guards— The lance and sword let fall, the shields unbraced, Captains and soldiers—for there came a wind, Drowsier than blows o'er Malwa's fields of sleep Before the Prince's path, which, being breathed, Lulled every sense aswoon: and so he passed Free from the palace.
When the morning star Stood half a spear's length from the eastern rim, And o'er the earth the breath of morning sighed Rippling Anoma's wave, the border-stream, Then drew he rein, and leaped to earth and kissed White Kantaka betwixt the ears, and spake Full sweet to Channa: "This which thou hast done Shall bring thee good and bring all creatures good. Be sure I love thee always for thy love. Lead back my horse and take my crest-pearl here, My princely robes, which henceforth stead me not, My jewelled sword-belt and my sword, and these The long locks by its bright edge severed thus From off my brows. Give the King all, and say Siddartha prays forget him till he come Ten times a prince, with royal wisdom won From lonely searchings and the strife for light; Where, if I conquer, lo! all earth is mine— Mine by chief service!—tell him—mine by love! Since there is hope for man only in man, And none hath sought for this as I will seek, Who cast away my world to save my world."
Book the Fifth
Round Rajagriha five fair hills arose, Guarding King Bimbasara's sylvan town; Baibhara, green with lemon-grass and palms; Bipulla, at whose foot thin Sarsuti Steals with warm ripple; shadowy Tapovan, Whose steaming pools mirror black rocks, which ooze Sovereign earth-butter from their rugged roofs; South-east the vulture-peak Sailagiri; And eastward Ratnagiri, hill of gems. A winding track, paven with footworn slabs, Leads thee by safflower fields and bamboo tufts Under dark mangoes and the jujube-trees, Past milk-white veins of rock and jasper crags, Low cliff and flats of jungle-flowers, to where The shoulder of that mountain, sloping west, O'erhangs a cave with wild figs canopied. Lo! thou who comest thither, bare thy feet And bow thy head! for all this spacious earth Hath not a spot more dear and hallowed. Here Lord Buddha sate the scorching summers through, The driving rains, the chilly dawns and eves; Wearing for all men's sakes the yellow robe, Eating in beggar's guise the scanty meal Chance-gathered from the charitable; at night Crouched on the grass, homeless, alone; while yelped The sleepless jackals round his cave, or coughs Of famished tiger from the thicket broke. By day and night here dwelt the World-honoured, Subduing that fair body born for bliss With fast and frequent watch and search intense Of silent meditation, so prolonged That ofttimes while he mused—as motionless As the fixed rock his seat—the squirrel leaped Upon his knee, the timid quail led forth Her brood between his feet, and blue doves pecked The rice-grains from the bowl beside his hand.