EVERYMAN'S LIBRARY EDITED BY ERNEST RHYS
POETRY AND THE DRAMA
KALIDASA TRANSLATIONS OF SHAKUNTALA & OTHER WORKS
BY ARTHUR W. RYDER
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KALIDASA—HIS LIFE AND WRITINGS
Kalidasa probably lived in the fifth century of the Christian era. This date, approximate as it is, must yet be given with considerable hesitation, and is by no means certain. No truly biographical data are preserved about the author, who nevertheless enjoyed a great popularity during his life, and whom the Hindus have ever regarded as the greatest of Sanskrit poets. We are thus confronted with one of the remarkable problems of literary history. For our ignorance is not due to neglect of Kalidasa's writings on the part of his countrymen, but to their strange blindness in regard to the interest and importance of historic fact. No European nation can compare with India in critical devotion to its own literature. During a period to be reckoned not by centuries but by millenniums, there has been in India an unbroken line of savants unselfishly dedicated to the perpetuation and exegesis of the native masterpieces. Editions, recensions, commentaries abound; poets have sought the exact phrase of appreciation for their predecessors: yet when we seek to reconstruct the life of their greatest poet, we have no materials except certain tantalising legends, and such data as we can gather from the writings of a man who hardly mentions himself.
One of these legends deserves to be recounted for its intrinsic interest, although it contains, so far as we can see, no grain of historic truth, and although it places Kalidasa in Benares, five hundred miles distant from the only city in which we certainly know that he spent a part of his life. According to this account, Kalidasa was a Brahman's child. At the age of six months he was left an orphan and was adopted by an ox-driver. He grew to manhood without formal education, yet with remarkable beauty and grace of manner. Now it happened that the Princess of Benares was a blue-stocking, who rejected one suitor after another, among them her father's counsellor, because they failed to reach her standard as scholars and poets. The rejected counsellor planned a cruel revenge. He took the handsome ox-driver from the street, gave him the garments of a savant and a retinue of learned doctors, then introduced him to the princess, after warning him that he was under no circumstances to open his lips. The princess was struck with his beauty and smitten to the depths of her pedantic soul by his obstinate silence, which seemed to her, as indeed it was, an evidence of profound wisdom. She desired to marry Kalidasa, and together they went to the temple. But no sooner was the ceremony performed than Kalidasa perceived an image of a bull. His early training was too much for him; the secret came out, and the bride was furious. But she relented in response to Kalidasa's entreaties, and advised him to pray for learning and poetry to the goddess Kali. The prayer was granted; education and poetical power descended miraculously to dwell with the young ox-driver, who in gratitude assumed the name Kalidasa, servant of Kali. Feeling that he owed this happy change in his very nature to his princess, he swore that he would ever treat her as his teacher, with profound respect but without familiarity. This was more than the lady had bargained for; her anger burst forth anew, and she cursed Kalidasa to meet his death at the hands of a woman. At a later date, the story continues, this curse was fulfilled. A certain king had written a half-stanza of verse, and had offered a large reward to any poet who could worthily complete it. Kalidasa completed the stanza without difficulty; but a woman whom he loved discovered his lines, and greedy of the reward herself, killed him.
Another legend represents Kalidasa as engaging in a pilgrimage to a shrine of Vishnu in Southern India, in company with two other famous writers, Bhavabhuti and Dandin. Yet another pictures Bhavabhuti as a contemporary of Kalidasa, and jealous of the less austere poet's reputation. These stories must be untrue, for it is certain that the three authors were not contemporary, yet they show a true instinct in the belief that genius seeks genius, and is rarely isolated.
This instinctive belief has been at work with the stories which connect Kalidasa with King Vikramaditya and the literary figures of his court. It has doubtless enlarged, perhaps partly falsified the facts; yet we cannot doubt that there is truth in this tradition, late though it be, and impossible though it may ever be to separate the actual from the fanciful. Here then we are on firmer ground.
King Vikramaditya ruled in the city of Ujjain, in West-central India. He was mighty both in war and in peace, winning especial glory by a decisive victory over the barbarians who pressed into India through the northern passes. Though it has not proved possible to identify this monarch with any of the known rulers, there can be no doubt that he existed and had the character attributed to him. The name Vikramaditya—Sun of Valour—is probably not a proper name, but a title like Pharaoh or Tsar. No doubt Kalidasa intended to pay a tribute to his patron, the Sun of Valour, in the very title of his play, Urvashi won by Valour.
King Vikramaditya was a great patron of learning and of poetry. Ujjain during his reign was the most brilliant capital in the world, nor has it to this day lost all the lustre shed upon it by that splendid court. Among the eminent men gathered there, nine were particularly distinguished, and these nine are known as the "nine gems." Some of the nine gems were poets, others represented science—astronomy, medicine, lexicography. It is quite true that the details of this late tradition concerning the nine gems are open to suspicion, yet the central fact is not doubtful: that there was at this time and place a great quickening of the human mind, an artistic impulse creating works that cannot perish. Ujjain in the days of Vikramaditya stands worthily beside Athens, Rome, Florence, and London in their great centuries. Here is the substantial fact behind Max Mueller's often ridiculed theory of the renaissance of Sanskrit literature. It is quite false to suppose, as some appear to do, that this theory has been invalidated by the discovery of certain literary products which antedate Kalidasa. It might even be said that those rare and happy centuries that see a man as great as Homer or Vergil or Kalidasa or Shakespeare partake in that one man of a renaissance.
It is interesting to observe that the centuries of intellectual darkness in Europe have sometimes coincided with centuries of light in India. The Vedas were composed for the most part before Homer; Kalidasa and his contemporaries lived while Rome was tottering under barbarian assault.
To the scanty and uncertain data of late traditions may be added some information about Kalidasa's life gathered from his own writings. He mentions his own name only in the prologues to his three plays, and here with a modesty that is charming indeed, yet tantalising. One wishes for a portion of the communicativeness that characterises some of the Indian poets. He speaks in the first person only once, in the verses introductory to his epic poem The Dynasty of Raghu. Here also we feel his modesty, and here once more we are balked of details as to his life.
We know from Kalidasa's writings that he spent at least a part of his life in the city of Ujjain. He refers to Ujjain more than once, and in a manner hardly possible to one who did not know and love the city. Especially in his poem The Cloud-Messenger does he dwell upon the city's charms, and even bids the cloud make a detour in his long journey lest he should miss making its acquaintance.
We learn further that Kalidasa travelled widely in India. The fourth canto of The Dynasty of Raghu describes a tour about the whole of India and even into regions which are beyond the borders of a narrowly measured India. It is hard to believe that Kalidasa had not himself made such a "grand tour"; so much of truth there may be in the tradition which sends him on a pilgrimage to Southern India. The thirteenth canto of the same epic and The Cloud-Messenger also describe long journeys over India, for the most part through regions far from Ujjain. It is the mountains which impress him most deeply. His works are full of the Himalayas. Apart from his earliest drama and the slight poem called The Seasons, there is not one of them which is not fairly redolent of mountains. One, The Birth of the War-god, might be said to be all mountains. Nor was it only Himalayan grandeur and sublimity which attracted him; for, as a Hindu critic has acutely observed, he is the only Sanskrit poet who has described a certain flower that grows in Kashmir. The sea interested him less. To him, as to most Hindus, the ocean was a beautiful, terrible barrier, not a highway to adventure. The "sea-belted earth" of which Kalidasa speaks means to him the mainland of India.
Another conclusion that may be certainly drawn from Kalidasa's writing is this, that he was a man of sound and rather extensive education. He was not indeed a prodigy of learning, like Bhavabhuti in his own country or Milton in England, yet no man could write as he did without hard and intelligent study. To begin with, he had a minutely accurate knowledge of the Sanskrit language, at a time when Sanskrit was to some extent an artificial tongue. Somewhat too much stress is often laid upon this point, as if the writers of the classical period in India were composing in a foreign language. Every writer, especially every poet, composing in any language, writes in what may be called a strange idiom; that is, he does not write as he talks. Yet it is true that the gap between written language and vernacular was wider in Kalidasa's day than it has often been. The Hindus themselves regard twelve years' study as requisite for the mastery of the "chief of all sciences, the science of grammar." That Kalidasa had mastered this science his works bear abundant witness.
He likewise mastered the works on rhetoric and dramatic theory—subjects which Hindu savants have treated with great, if sometimes hair-splitting, ingenuity. The profound and subtle systems of philosophy were also possessed by Kalidasa, and he had some knowledge of astronomy and law.
But it was not only in written books that Kalidasa was deeply read. Rarely has a man walked our earth who observed the phenomena of living nature as accurately as he, though his accuracy was of course that of the poet, not that of the scientist. Much is lost to us who grow up among other animals and plants; yet we can appreciate his "bee-black hair," his ashoka-tree that "sheds his blossoms in a rain of tears," his river wearing a sombre veil of mist:
Although her reeds seem hands that clutch the dress To hide her charms;
his picture of the day-blooming water-lily at sunset:
The water-lily closes, but With wonderful reluctancy; As if it troubled her to shut Her door of welcome to the bee.
The religion of any great poet is always a matter of interest, especially the religion of a Hindu poet; for the Hindus have ever been a deeply and creatively religious people. So far as we can judge, Kalidasa moved among the jarring sects with sympathy for all, fanaticism for none. The dedicatory prayers that introduce his dramas are addressed to Shiva. This is hardly more than a convention, for Shiva is the patron of literature. If one of his epics, The Birth of the War-god, is distinctively Shivaistic, the other, The Dynasty of Raghu, is no less Vishnuite in tendency. If the hymn to Vishnu in The Dynasty of Raghu is an expression of Vedantic monism, the hymn to Brahma in The Birth of the War-god gives equally clear expression to the rival dualism of the Sankhya system. Nor are the Yoga doctrine and Buddhism left without sympathetic mention. We are therefore justified in concluding that Kalidasa was, in matters of religion, what William James would call "healthy-minded," emphatically not a "sick soul."
There are certain other impressions of Kalidasa's life and personality which gradually become convictions in the mind of one who reads and re-reads his poetry, though they are less easily susceptible of exact proof. One feels certain that he was physically handsome, and the handsome Hindu is a wonderfully fine type of manhood. One knows that he possessed a fascination for women, as they in turn fascinated him. One knows that children loved him. One becomes convinced that he never suffered any morbid, soul-shaking experience such as besetting religious doubt brings with it, or the pangs of despised love; that on the contrary he moved among men and women with a serene and godlike tread, neither self-indulgent nor ascetic, with mind and senses ever alert to every form of beauty. We know that his poetry was popular while he lived, and we cannot doubt that his personality was equally attractive, though it is probable that no contemporary knew the full measure of his greatness. For his nature was one of singular balance, equally at home in a splendid court and on a lonely mountain, with men of high and of low degree. Such men are never fully appreciated during life. They continue to grow after they are dead.
Kalidasa left seven works which have come down to us: three dramas, two epics, one elegiac poem, and one descriptive poem. Many other works, including even an astronomical treatise, have been attributed to him; they are certainly not his. Perhaps there was more than one author who bore the name Kalidasa; perhaps certain later writers were more concerned for their work than for personal fame. On the other hand, there is no reason to doubt that the seven recognised works are in truth from Kalidasa's hand. The only one concerning which there is reasonable room for suspicion is the short poem descriptive of the seasons, and this is fortunately the least important of the seven. Nor is there evidence to show that any considerable poem has been lost, unless it be true that the concluding cantos of one of the epics have perished. We are thus in a fortunate position in reading Kalidasa: we have substantially all that he wrote, and run no risk of ascribing to him any considerable work from another hand.
Of these seven works, four are poetry throughout; the three dramas, like all Sanskrit dramas, are written in prose, with a generous mingling of lyric and descriptive stanzas. The poetry, even in the epics, is stanzaic; no part of it can fairly be compared to English blank verse. Classical Sanskrit verse, so far as structure is concerned, has much in common with familiar Greek and Latin forms: it makes no systematic use of rhyme; it depends for its rhythm not upon accent, but upon quantity. The natural medium of translation into English seems to me to be the rhymed stanza; in the present work the rhymed stanza has been used, with a consistency perhaps too rigid, wherever the original is in verse.
Kalidasa's three dramas bear the names: Malavika and Agnimitra, Urvashi, and Shakuntala. The two epics are The Dynasty of Raghu and The Birth of the War-god. The elegiac poem is called The Cloud-Messenger, and the descriptive poem is entitled The Seasons. It may be well to state briefly the more salient features of the Sanskrit genres to which these works belong.
The drama proved in India, as in other countries, a congenial form to many of the most eminent poets. The Indian drama has a marked individuality, but stands nearer to the modern European theatre than to that of ancient Greece; for the plays, with a very few exceptions, have no religious significance, and deal with love between man and woman. Although tragic elements may be present, a tragic ending is forbidden. Indeed, nothing regarded as disagreeable, such as fighting or even kissing, is permitted on the stage; here Europe may perhaps learn a lesson in taste. Stage properties were few and simple, while particular care was lavished on the music. The female parts were played by women. The plays very rarely have long monologues, even the inevitable prologue being divided between two speakers, but a Hindu audience was tolerant of lyrical digression.
It may be said, though the statement needs qualification in both directions, that the Indian dramas have less action and less individuality in the characters, but more poetical charm than the dramas of modern Europe.
On the whole, Kalidasa was remarkably faithful to the ingenious but somewhat over-elaborate conventions of Indian dramaturgy. His first play, the Malavika and Agnimitra, is entirely conventional in plot. The Shakuntala is transfigured by the character of the heroine. The Urvashi, in spite of detail beauty, marks a distinct decline.
The Dynasty of Raghu and The Birth of the War-god belong to a species of composition which it is not easy to name accurately. The Hindu name kavya has been rendered by artificial epic, epopee savante, Kunstgedicht. It is best perhaps to use the term epic, and to qualify the term by explanation.
The kavyas differ widely from the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, epics which resemble the Iliad and Odyssey less in outward form than in their character as truly national poems. The kavya is a narrative poem written in a sophisticated age by a learned poet, who possesses all the resources of an elaborate rhetoric and metric. The subject is drawn from time-honoured mythology. The poem is divided into cantos, written not in blank verse but in stanzas. Several stanza-forms are commonly employed in the same poem, though not in the same canto, except that the concluding verses of a canto are not infrequently written in a metre of more compass than the remainder.
I have called The Cloud-Messenger an elegiac poem, though it would not perhaps meet the test of a rigid definition. The Hindus class it with The Dynasty of Raghu and The Birth of the War-god as a kavya, but this classification simply evidences their embarrassment. In fact, Kalidasa created in The Cloud-Messenger a new genre. No further explanation is needed here, as the entire poem is translated below.
The short descriptive poem called The Seasons has abundant analogues in other literatures, and requires no comment.
It is not possible to fix the chronology of Kalidasa's writings, yet we are not wholly in the dark. Malavika and Agnimitra was certainly his first drama, almost certainly his first work. It is a reasonable conjecture, though nothing more, that Urvashi was written late, when the poet's powers were waning. The introductory stanzas of The Dynasty of Raghu suggest that this epic was written before The Birth of the War-god, though the inference is far from certain. Again, it is reasonable to assume that the great works on which Kalidasa's fame chiefly rests—Shakuntala, The Cloud-Messenger, The Dynasty of Raghu, the first eight cantos of The Birth of the War-god—were composed when he was in the prime of manhood. But as to the succession of these four works we can do little but guess.
Kalidasa's glory depends primarily upon the quality of his work, yet would be much diminished if he had failed in bulk and variety. In India, more than would be the case in Europe, the extent of his writing is an indication of originality and power; for the poets of the classical period underwent an education that encouraged an exaggerated fastidiousness, and they wrote for a public meticulously critical. Thus the great Bhavabhuti spent his life in constructing three dramas; mighty spirit though he was, he yet suffers from the very scrupulosity of his labour. In this matter, as in others, Kalidasa preserves his intellectual balance and his spiritual initiative: what greatness of soul is required for this, every one knows who has ever had the misfortune to differ in opinion from an intellectual clique.
Le nom de Kalidasa domine la poesie indienne et la resume brillamment. Le drame, l'epopee savante, l'elegie attestent aujourd'hui encore la puissance et la souplesse de ce magnifique genie; seul entre les disciples de Sarasvati [the goddess of eloquence], il a eu le bonheur de produire un chef-d'oeuvre vraiment classique, ou l'Inde s'admire et ou l'humanite se reconnait. Les applaudissements qui saluerent la naissance de Cakuntala a Ujjayini ont apres de longs siecles eclate d'un bout du monde a l'autre, quand William Jones l'eut revelee a l'Occident. Kalidasa a marque sa place dans cette pleiade etincelante ou chaque nom resume une periode de l'esprit humain. La serie de ces noms forme l'histoire, ou plutot elle est l'histoire meme.
It is hardly possible to say anything true about Kalidasa's achievement which is not already contained in this appreciation. Yet one loves to expand the praise, even though realising that the critic is by his very nature a fool. Here there shall at any rate be none of that cold-blooded criticism which imagines itself set above a world-author to appraise and judge, but a generous tribute of affectionate admiration.
The best proof of a poet's greatness is the inability of men to live without him; in other words, his power to win and hold through centuries the love and admiration of his own people, especially when that people has shown itself capable of high intellectual and spiritual achievement.
For something like fifteen hundred years, Kalidasa has been more widely read in India than any other author who wrote in Sanskrit. There have also been many attempts to express in words the secret of his abiding power: such attempts can never be wholly successful, yet they are not without considerable interest. Thus Bana, a celebrated novelist of the seventh century, has the following lines in some stanzas of poetical criticism which he prefixes to a historical romance:
Where find a soul that does not thrill In Kalidasa's verse to meet The smooth, inevitable lines Like blossom-clusters, honey-sweet?
A later writer, speaking of Kalidasa and another poet, is more laconic in this alliterative line: Bhaso hasah, Kalidaso vilasah—Bhasa is mirth, Kalidasa is grace.
These two critics see Kalidasa's grace, his sweetness, his delicate taste, without doing justice to the massive quality without which his poetry could not have survived.
Though Kalidasa has not been as widely appreciated in Europe as he deserves, he is the only Sanskrit poet who can properly be said to have been appreciated at all. Here he must struggle with the truly Himalayan barrier of language. Since there will never be many Europeans, even among the cultivated, who will find it possible to study the intricate Sanskrit language, there remains only one means of presentation. None knows the cruel inadequacy of poetical translation like the translator. He understands better than others can, the significance of the position which Kalidasa has won in Europe. When Sir William Jones first translated the Shakuntala in 1789, his work was enthusiastically received in Europe, and most warmly, as was fitting, by the greatest living poet of Europe. Since that day, as is testified by new translations and by reprints of the old, there have been many thousands who have read at least one of Kalidasa's works; other thousands have seen it on the stage in Europe and America.
How explain a reputation that maintains itself indefinitely and that conquers a new continent after a lapse of thirteen hundred years? None can explain it, yet certain contributory causes can be named.
No other poet in any land has sung of happy love between man and woman as Kalidasa sang. Every one of his works is a love-poem, however much more it may be. Yet the theme is so infinitely varied that the reader never wearies. If one were to doubt from a study of European literature, comparing the ancient classics with modern works, whether romantic love be the expression of a natural instinct, be not rather a morbid survival of decaying chivalry, he has only to turn to India's independently growing literature to find the question settled. Kalidasa's love-poetry rings as true in our ears as it did in his countrymen's ears fifteen hundred years ago.
It is of love eventually happy, though often struggling for a time against external obstacles, that Kalidasa writes. There is nowhere in his works a trace of that not quite healthy feeling that sometimes assumes the name "modern love." If it were not so, his poetry could hardly have survived; for happy love, blessed with children, is surely the more fundamental thing. In his drama Urvashi he is ready to change and greatly injure a tragic story, given him by long tradition, in order that a loving pair may not be permanently separated. One apparent exception there is—the story of Rama and Sita in The Dynasty of Raghu. In this case it must be remembered that Rama is an incarnation of Vishnu, and the story of a mighty god incarnate is not to be lightly tampered with.
It is perhaps an inevitable consequence of Kalidasa's subject that his women appeal more strongly to a modern reader than his men. The man is the more variable phenomenon, and though manly virtues are the same in all countries and centuries, the emphasis has been variously laid. But the true woman seems timeless, universal. I know of no poet, unless it be Shakespeare, who has given the world a group of heroines so individual yet so universal; heroines as true, as tender, as brave as are Indumati, Sita, Parvati, the Yaksha's bride, and Shakuntala.
Kalidasa could not understand women without understanding children. It would be difficult to find anywhere lovelier pictures of childhood than those in which our poet presents the little Bharata, Ayus, Raghu, Kumara. It is a fact worth noticing that Kalidasa's children are all boys. Beautiful as his women are, he never does more than glance at a little girl.
Another pervading note of Kalidasa's writing is his love of external nature. No doubt it is easier for a Hindu, with his almost instinctive belief in reincarnation, to feel that all life, from plant to god, is truly one; yet none, even among the Hindus, has expressed this feeling with such convincing beauty as has Kalidasa. It is hardly true to say that he personifies rivers and mountains and trees; to him they have a conscious individuality as truly and as certainly as animals or men or gods. Fully to appreciate Kalidasa's poetry one must have spent some weeks at least among wild mountains and forests untouched by man; there the conviction grows that trees and flowers are indeed individuals, fully conscious of a personal life and happy in that life. The return to urban surroundings makes the vision fade; yet the memory remains, like a great love or a glimpse of mystic insight, as an intuitive conviction of a higher truth.
Kalidasa's knowledge of nature is not only sympathetic, it is also minutely accurate. Not only are the snows and windy music of the Himalayas, the mighty current of the sacred Ganges, his possession; his too are smaller streams and trees and every littlest flower. It is delightful to imagine a meeting between Kalidasa and Darwin. They would have understood each other perfectly; for in each the same kind of imagination worked with the same wealth of observed fact.
I have already hinted at the wonderful balance in Kalidasa's character, by virtue of which he found himself equally at home in a palace and in a wilderness. I know not with whom to compare him in this; even Shakespeare, for all his magical insight into natural beauty, is primarily a poet of the human heart. That can hardly be said of Kalidasa, nor can it be said that he is primarily a poet of natural beauty. The two characters unite in him, it might almost be said, chemically. The matter which I am clumsily endeavouring to make plain is beautifully epitomised in The Cloud-Messenger. The former half is a description of external nature, yet interwoven with human feeling; the latter half is a picture of a human heart, yet the picture is framed in natural beauty. So exquisitely is the thing done that none can say which half is superior. Of those who read this perfect poem in the original text, some are more moved by the one, some by the other. Kalidasa understood in the fifth century what Europe did not learn until the nineteenth, and even now comprehends only imperfectly: that the world was not made for man, that man reaches his full stature only as he realises the dignity and worth of life that is not human.
That Kalidasa seized this truth is a magnificent tribute to his intellectual power, a quality quite as necessary to great poetry as perfection of form. Poetical fluency is not rare; intellectual grasp is not very uncommon: but the combination has not been found perhaps more than a dozen times since the world began. Because he possessed this harmonious combination, Kalidasa ranks not with Anacreon and Horace and Shelley, but with Sophocles, Vergil, Milton.
He would doubtless have been somewhat bewildered by Wordsworth's gospel of nature. "The world is too much with us," we can fancy him repeating. "How can the world, the beautiful human world, be too much with us? How can sympathy with one form of life do other than vivify our sympathy with other forms of life?"
It remains to say what can be said in a foreign language of Kalidasa's style. We have seen that he had a formal and systematic education; in this respect he is rather to be compared with Milton and Tennyson than with Shakespeare or Burns. He was completely master of his learning. In an age and a country which reprobated carelessness but were tolerant of pedantry, he held the scales with a wonderfully even hand, never heedless and never indulging in the elaborate trifling with Sanskrit diction which repels the reader from much of Indian literature. It is true that some western critics have spoken of his disfiguring conceits and puerile plays on words. One can only wonder whether these critics have ever read Elizabethan literature; for Kalidasa's style is far less obnoxious to such condemnation than Shakespeare's. That he had a rich and glowing imagination, "excelling in metaphor," as the Hindus themselves affirm, is indeed true; that he may, both in youth and age, have written lines which would not have passed his scrutiny in the vigour of manhood, it is not worth while to deny: yet the total effect left by his poetry is one of extraordinary sureness and delicacy of taste. This is scarcely a matter for argument; a reader can do no more than state his own subjective impression, though he is glad to find that impression confirmed by the unanimous authority of fifty generations of Hindus, surely the most competent judges on such a point.
Analysis of Kalidasa's writings might easily be continued, but analysis can never explain life. The only real criticism is subjective. We know that Kalidasa is a very great poet, because the world has not been able to leave him alone.
ARTHUR W. RYDER.
On Kalidasa's life and writings may be consulted A.A. Macdonell's History of Sanskrit Literature (1900); the same author's article "Kalidasa" in the eleventh edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1910); and Sylvain Levi's Le Theatre Indien (1890).
The more important translations in English are the following: of the Shakuntala, by Sir William Jones (1789) and Monier Williams (fifth edition, 1887); of the Urvashi, by H.H. Wilson (in his Select Specimens of the Theatre of the Hindus, third edition, 1871); of The Dynasty of Raghu, by P. de Lacy Johnstone (1902); of The Birth of The War-god (cantos one to seven), by Ralph T.H. Griffith (second edition, 1879); of The Cloud-Messenger, by H.H. Wilson (1813).
There is an inexpensive reprint of Jones's Shakuntala and Wilson's Cloud-Messenger in one volume in the Camelot Series.
An ancient heathen poet, loving more God's creatures, and His women, and His flowers Than we who boast of consecrated powers; Still lavishing his unexhausted store
Of love's deep, simple wisdom, healing o'er The world's old sorrows, India's griefs and ours; That healing love he found in palace towers, On mountain, plain, and dark, sea-belted shore,
In songs of holy Raghu's kingly line Or sweet Shakuntala in pious grove, In hearts that met where starry jasmines twine
Or hearts that from long, lovelorn absence strove Together. Still his words of wisdom shine: All's well with man, when man and woman love.
Willst du die Bluete des fruehen, die Fruechte des spaeteren Jahres, Willst du, was reizt und entzueckt, Willst du, was saettigt und naehrt, Willst du den Hummel, die erde mit Einem Namen begreifen, Nenn' ich, Sakuntala, dich, und dann ist alles gesagt.
GOETHE. * * * * *
[Footnote 1: These verses are translated on pp. 123, 124.]
[Footnote 2: The passage will be found on pp. 190-192.]
[Footnote 3: This matter is more fully discussed in the introduction to my translation of The Little Clay Cart (1905).]
[Footnote 4: Levi, Le Theatre Indien, p. 163.]
* * * * *
INTRODUCTION: KALIDASA—HIS LIFE AND WRITINGS
THE STORY OF SHAKUNTALA
THE TWO MINOR DRAMAS— I. Malavika and Agnimitra II. Urvashi
THE DYNASTY OF RAGHU
THE BIRTH OF THE WAR-GOD
* * * * *
A PLAY IN SEVEN ACTS
BHARATA, nicknamed All-tamer, his son.
MADHAVYA, a clown, his companion.
RAIVATAKA, a door-keeper.
BHADRASENA, a general.
KARABHAKA, a servant.
PARVATAYANA, a chamberlain.
SOMARATA, a chaplain.
SHARADVATA } his pupils.
DURVASAS, an irascible sage.
The chief of police.
SUCHAKA } } policemen. JANUKA }
SHAKUNTALA, foster-child of Kanva.
ANUSUVA } } her friends. PRIYAMVADA }
KASHYAPA, father of the gods.
ADITI, mother of the gods.
MATALI, charioteer of heaven's king.
GALAVA, a pupil in heaven.
MISHRAKESHI, a heavenly nymph.
Stage-director and actress (in the prologue), hermits and hermit-women, two court poets, palace attendants, invisible fairies.
The first four acts pass in Kanva's forest hermitage; acts five and six in the king's palace; act seven on a heavenly mountain. The time is perhaps seven years.
BENEDICTION UPON THE AUDIENCE
Eight forms has Shiva, lord of all and king: And these are water, first created thing; And fire, which speeds the sacrifice begun; The priest; and time's dividers, moon and sun; The all-embracing ether, path of sound; The earth, wherein all seeds of life are found; And air, the breath of life: may he draw near, Revealed in these, and bless those gathered here.
The stage-director. Enough of this! (Turning toward the dressing-room.) Madam, if you are ready, pray come here. (Enter an actress.)
Actress. Here I am, sir. What am I to do?
Director. Our audience is very discriminating, and we are to offer them a new play, called Shakuntala and the ring of recognition, written by the famous Kalidasa. Every member of the cast must be on his mettle.
Actress. Your arrangements are perfect. Nothing will go wrong.
Director (smiling). To tell the truth, madam,
Until the wise are satisfied, I cannot feel that skill is shown; The best-trained mind requires support, And does not trust itself alone.
Actress. True. What shall we do first?
Director. First, you must sing something to please the ears of the audience.
Actress. What season of the year shall I sing about? Director. Why, sing about the pleasant summer which has just begun. For at this time of year
A mid-day plunge will temper heat; The breeze is rich with forest flowers; To slumber in the shade is sweet; And charming are the twilight hours.
The siris-blossoms fair, With pollen laden, Are plucked to deck her hair By many a maiden, But gently; flowers like these Are kissed by eager bees.
Director. Well done! The whole theatre is captivated by your song, and sits as if painted. What play shall we give them to keep their good-will?
Actress. Why, you just told me we were to give a new play called Shakuntala and the ring.
Director. Thank you for reminding me. For the moment I had quite forgotten.
Your charming song had carried me away As the deer enticed the hero of our play.
(Enter, in a chariot, pursuing a deer, KING DUSHYANTA, bow and arrow in hand; and a charioteer.)
Charioteer (Looking at the king and the deer). Your Majesty,
I see you hunt the spotted deer With shafts to end his race, As though God Shiva should appear In his immortal chase.
King. Charioteer, the deer has led us a long chase. And even now
His neck in beauty bends As backward looks he sends At my pursuing car That threatens death from far. Fear shrinks to half the body small; See how he fears the arrow's fall!
The path he takes is strewed With blades of grass half-chewed From jaws wide with the stress Of fevered weariness. He leaps so often and so high, He does not seem to run, but fly.
(In surprise.) Pursue as I may, I can hardly keep him in sight.
Charioteer. Your Majesty, I have been holding the horses back because the ground was rough. This checked us and gave the deer a lead. Now we are on level ground, and you will easily overtake him.
King. Then let the reins hang loose.
Charioteer. Yes, your Majesty. (He counterfeits rapid motion.) Look, your Majesty!
The lines hang loose; the steeds unreined Dart forward with a will. Their ears are pricked; their necks are strained; Their plumes lie straight and still. They leave the rising dust behind; They seem to float upon the wind.
King (joyfully). See! The horses are gaining on the deer.
As onward and onward the chariot flies, The small flashes large to my dizzy eyes. What is cleft in twain, seems to blur and mate; What is crooked in nature, seems to be straight. Things at my side in an instant appear Distant, and things in the distance, near.
A voice behind the scenes. O King, this deer belongs to the hermitage, and must not be killed.
Charioteer (listening and looking). Your Majesty, here are two hermits, come to save the deer at the moment when your arrow was about to fall.
King (hastily). Stop the chariot.
Charioteer. Yes, your Majesty. (He does so. Enter a hermit with his pupil.)
Hermit (lifting his hand). O King, this deer belongs to the hermitage.
Why should his tender form expire, As blossoms perish in the fire? How could that gentle life endure The deadly arrow, sharp and sure?
Restore your arrow to the quiver; To you were weapons lent The broken-hearted to deliver, Not strike the innocent.
King (bowing low). It is done. (He does so.)
Hermit (joyfully). A deed worthy of you, scion of Puru's race, and shining example of kings. May you beget a son to rule earth and heaven.
King (bowing low). I am thankful for a Brahman's blessing.
The two hermits. O King, we are on our way to gather firewood. Here, along the bank of the Malini, you may see the hermitage of Father Kanva, over which Shakuntala presides, so to speak, as guardian deity. Unless other deities prevent, pray enter here and receive a welcome. Besides,
Beholding pious hermit-rites Preserved from fearful harm, Perceive the profit of the scars On your protecting arm.
King. Is the hermit father there?
The two hermits. No, he has left his daughter to welcome guests, and has just gone to Somatirtha, to avert an evil fate that threatens her.
King. Well, I will see her. She shall feel my devotion, and report it to the sage.
The two hermits. Then we will go on our way. (Exit hermit with pupil.)
King. Charioteer, drive on. A sight of the pious hermitage will purify us.
Charioteer. Yes, your Majesty. (He counterfeits motion again.)
King (looking about). One would know, without being told, that this is the precinct of a pious grove.
Charioteer. How so? King. Do you not see? Why, here
Are rice-grains, dropped from bills of parrot chicks Beneath the trees; and pounding-stones where sticks A little almond-oil; and trustful deer That do not run away as we draw near; And river-paths that are besprinkled yet From trickling hermit-garments, clean and wet.
The roots of trees are washed by many a stream That breezes ruffle; and the flowers' red gleam Is dimmed by pious smoke; and fearless fawns Move softly on the close-cropped forest lawns.
Charioteer. It is all true.
King (after a little). We must not disturb the hermitage. Stop here while I dismount.
Charioteer. I am holding the reins. Dismount, your Majesty.
King (dismounts and looks at himself). One should wear modest garments on entering a hermitage. Take these jewels and the bow. (He gives them to the charioteer.) Before I return from my visit to the hermits, have the horses' backs wet down.
Charioteer. Yes, your Majesty. (Exit.)
King (walking and looking about). The hermitage! Well, I will enter. (As he does so, he feels a throbbing in his arm.)
A tranquil spot! Why should I thrill? Love cannot enter there— Yet to inevitable things Doors open everywhere.
A voice behind the scenes. This way, girls!
King (listening). I think I hear some one to the right of the grove. I must find out. (He walks and looks about.) Ah, here are hermit-girls, with watering-pots just big enough for them to handle. They are coming in this direction to water the young trees. They are charming!
The city maids, for all their pains, Seem not so sweet and good; Our garden blossoms yield to these Flower-children of the wood.
I will draw back into the shade and wait for them. (He stands, gazing toward them. Enter SHAKUNTALA, as described, and her two friends.)
First friend. It seems to me, dear, that Father Kanva cares more for the hermitage trees than he does for you. You are delicate as a jasmine blossom, yet he tells you to fill the trenches about the trees.
Shakuntala. Oh, it isn't Father's bidding so much. I feel like a real sister to them. (She waters the trees.)
Priyamvada. Shakuntala, we have watered the trees that blossom in the summer-time. Now let's sprinkle those whose flowering-time is past. That will be a better deed, because we shall not be working for a reward.
Shakuntala. What a pretty idea! (She does so.)
King (to himself). And this is Kanva's daughter, Shakuntala. (In surprise.) The good Father does wrong to make her wear the hermit's dress of bark.
The sage who yokes her artless charm With pious pain and grief, Would try to cut the toughest vine With a soft, blue lotus-leaf.
Well, I will step behind a tree and see how she acts with her friends. (He conceals himself.)
Shakuntala. Oh, Anusuya! Priyamvada has fastened this bark dress so tight that it hurts. Please loosen it. (ANUSUYA does so.)
Priyamvada (laughing). You had better blame your own budding charms for that.
King. She is quite right.
Beneath the barken dress Upon the shoulder tied, In maiden loveliness Her young breast seems to hide,
As when a flower amid The leaves by autumn tossed— Pale, withered leaves—lies hid, And half its grace is lost.
Yet in truth the bark dress is not an enemy to her beauty. It serves as an added ornament. For
The meanest vesture glows On beauty that enchants: The lotus lovelier shows Amid dull water-plants;
The moon in added splendour Shines for its spot of dark; Yet more the maiden slender Charms in her dress of bark.
Shakuntala (looking ahead). Oh, girls, that mango-tree is trying to tell me something with his branches that move in the wind like fingers. I must go and see him. (She does so.)
Priyamvada. There, Shakuntala, stand right where you are a minute.
Priyamvada. When I see you there, it looks as if a vine were clinging to the mango-tree.
Shakuntala. I see why they call you the flatterer.
King. But the flattery is true.
Her arms are tender shoots; her lips Are blossoms red and warm; Bewitching youth begins to flower In beauty on her form.
Anusuya. Oh, Shakuntala! Here is the jasmine-vine that you named Light of the Grove. She has chosen the mango-tree as her husband.
Shakuntala (approaches and looks at it, joyfully). What a pretty pair they make. The jasmine shows her youth in her fresh flowers, and the mango-tree shows his strength in his ripening fruit. (She stands gazing at them.)
Priyamvada (smiling). Anusuya, do you know why Shakuntala looks so hard at the Light of the Grove?
Anusuya. No. Why?
Priyamvada. She is thinking how the Light of the Grove has found a good tree, and hoping that she will meet a fine lover.
Shakuntala. That's what you want for yourself. (She tips her watering-pot.)
Anusuya. Look, Shakuntala! Here is the spring-creeper that Father Kanva tended with his own hands—just as he did you. You are forgetting her.
Shakuntala. I'd forget myself sooner. (She goes to the creeper and looks at it, joyfully.) Wonderful! Wonderful! Priyamvada, I have something pleasant to tell you.
Priyamvada. What is it, dear?
Shakuntala. It is out of season, but the spring-creeper is covered with buds down to the very root.
The two friends (running up). Really?
Shakuntala. Of course. Can't you see?
Priyamvada (looking at it joyfully). And I have something pleasant to tell you. You are to be married soon.
Shakuntala (snappishly). You know that's just what you want for yourself.
Priyamvada. I'm not teasing. I really heard Father Kanva say that this flowering vine was to be a symbol of your coming happiness.
Anusuya. Priyamvada, that is why Shakuntala waters the spring-creeper so lovingly.
Shakuntala. She is my sister. Why shouldn't I give her water? (She tips her watering-pot.)
King. May I hope that she is the hermit's daughter by a mother of a different caste? But it must be so.
Surely, she may become a warrior's bride; Else, why these longings in an honest mind? The motions of a blameless heart decide Of right and wrong, when reason leaves us blind.
Yet I will learn the whole truth.
Shakuntala (excitedly). Oh, oh! A bee has left the jasmine-vine and is flying into my face. (She shows herself annoyed by the bee.)
As the bee about her flies, Swiftly her bewitching eyes Turn to watch his flight. She is practising to-day Coquetry and glances' play Not from love, but fright.
Eager bee, you lightly skim O'er the eyelid's trembling rim Toward the cheek aquiver. Gently buzzing round her cheek, Whispering in her ear, you seek Secrets to deliver.
While her hands that way and this Strike at you, you steal a kiss, Love's all, honeymaker. I know nothing but her name, Not her caste, nor whence she came— You, my rival, take her.
Shakuntala. Oh, girls! Save me from this dreadful bee!
The two friends (smiling). Who are we, that we should save you? Call upon Dushyanta. For pious groves are in the protection of the king.
King. A good opportunity to present myself. Have no—(He checks himself. Aside.) No, they would see that I am the king. I prefer to appear as a guest.
Shakuntala. He doesn't leave me alone! I am going to run away. (She takes a step and looks about.) Oh, dear! Oh, dear! He is following me. Please save me.
King (hastening forward). Ah!
A king of Puru's mighty line Chastises shameless churls; What insolent is he who baits These artless hermit-girls?
(The girls are a little flurried on seeing the king.)
Anusuya. It is nothing very dreadful, sir. But our friend (indicating SHAKUNTALA) was teased and frightened by a bee.
King (to SHAKUNTALA). I hope these pious days are happy ones.
(SHAKUNTALA's eyes drop in embarrassment.)
Anusuya. Yes, now that we receive such a distinguished guest.
Priyamvada. Welcome, sir. Go to the cottage, Shakuntala, and bring fruit. This water will do to wash the feet.
King. Your courteous words are enough to make me feel at home.
Anusuya. Then, sir, pray sit down and rest on this shady bench.
King. You, too, are surely wearied by your pious task. Pray be seated a moment.
Priyamvada (aside to SHAKUNTALA). My dear, we must be polite to our guest. Shall we sit down? (The three girls sit.)
Shakuntala (to herself). Oh, why do I have such feelings when I see this man? They seem wrong in a hermitage.
King (looking at the girls). It is delightful to see your friendship. For you are all young and beautiful.
Priyamvada (aside to ANUSUYA). Who is he, dear? With his mystery, and his dignity, and his courtesy? He acts like a king and a gentleman.
Anusuya. I am curious too. I am going to ask him. (Aloud.) Sir, you are so very courteous that I make bold to ask you something. What royal family do you adorn, sir? What country is grieving at your absence? Why does a gentleman so delicately bred submit to the weary journey into our pious grove?
Shakuntala (aside). Be brave, my heart. Anusuya speaks your very thoughts.
King (aside). Shall I tell at once who I am, or conceal it? (He reflects.) This will do. (Aloud.) I am a student of Scripture. It is my duty to see justice done in the cities of the king. And I have come to this hermitage on a tour of inspection.
Anusuya. Then we of the hermitage have some one to take care of us.
(SHAKUNTALA shows embarrassment.)
The two friends (observing the demeanour of the pair. Aside to SHAKUNTALA). Oh, Shakuntala! If only Father were here to-day.
Shakuntala. What would he do?
The two friends. He would make our distinguished guest happy, if it took his most precious treasure.
Shakuntala (feigning anger). Go away! You mean something. I'll not listen to you.
King. I too would like to ask a question about your friend.
The two friends. Sir, your request is a favour to us.
King. Father Kanva lives a lifelong hermit. Yet you say that your friend is his daughter. How can that be?
Anusuya. Listen, sir. There is a majestic royal sage named Kaushika——
King. Ah, yes. The famous Kaushika.
Anusuya. Know, then, that he is the source of our friend's being. But Father Kanva is her real father, because he took care of her when she was abandoned.
King. You waken my curiosity with the word "abandoned." May I hear the whole story?
Anusuya. Listen, sir. Many years ago, that royal sage was leading a life of stern austerities, and the gods, becoming strangely jealous, sent the nymph Menaka to disturb his devotions.
King. Yes, the gods feel this jealousy toward the austerities of others. And then—
Anusuya. Then in the lovely spring-time he saw her intoxicating beauty—(She stops in embarrassment.)
King. The rest is plain. Surely, she is the daughter of the nymph.
King. It is as it should be.
To beauty such as this No woman could give birth; The quivering lightning flash Is not a child of earth.
(SHAKUNTALA hangs her head in confusion.) King (to himself). Ah, my wishes become hopes.
Priyamvada (looking with a smile at SHAKUNTALA). Sir, it seems as if you had more to say. (SHAKUNTALA threatens her friend with her finger.)
King. You are right. Your pious life interests me, and I have another question.
Priyamvada. Do not hesitate. We hermit people stand ready to answer all demands.
King. My question is this:
Does she, till marriage only, keep her vow As hermit-maid, that shames the ways of love? Or must her soft eyes ever see, as now, Soft eyes of friendly deer in peaceful grove?
Priyamvada. Sir, we are under bonds to lead a life of virtue. But it is her father's wish to give her to a suitable lover.
King (joyfully to himself).
O heart, your wish is won! All doubt at last is done; The thing you feared as fire, Is the jewel of your desire.
Shakuntala (pettishly). Anusuya, I'm going.
Anusuya. What for?
Shakuntala. I am going to tell Mother Gautami that Priyamvada is talking nonsense. (She rises.)
Anusuya. My dear, we hermit people cannot neglect to entertain a distinguished guest, and go wandering about.
(SHAKUNTALA starts to walk away without answering.)
King (aside). She is going! (He starts up as if to detain her, then checks his desires.) A thought is as vivid as an act, to a lover.
Though nurture, conquering nature, holds Me back, it seems As had I started and returned In waking dreams.
Priyamvada (approaching SHAKUNTALA). You dear, peevish girl! You mustn't go.
Shakuntala (turns with a frown). Why not?
Priyamvada. You owe me the watering of two trees. You can go when you have paid your debt. (She forces her to come back.)
King. It is plain that she is already wearied by watering the trees. See!
Her shoulders droop; her palms are reddened yet; Quick breaths are struggling in her bosom fair; The blossom o'er her ear hangs limply wet; One hand restrains the loose, dishevelled hair.
I therefore remit her debt. (He gives the two friends a ring. They take it, read the name engraved on it, and look at each other.)
King. Make no mistake. This is a present—from the king.
Priyamvada. Then, sir, you ought not to part with it. Your word is enough to remit the debt.
Anusuya. Well, Shakuntala, you are set free by this kind gentleman—or rather, by the king himself. Where are you going now?
Shakuntala (to herself). I would never leave him if I could help myself.
Priyamvada. Why don't you go now?
Shakuntala. I am not your servant any longer. I will go when I like.
King (looking at SHAKUNTALA. To himself). Does she feel toward me as I do toward her? At least, there is ground for hope.
Although she does not speak to me, She listens while I speak; Her eyes turn not to see my face, But nothing else they seek.
A voice behind the scenes. Hermits! Hermits! Prepare to defend the creatures in our pious grove. King Dushyanta is hunting in the neighbourhood.
The dust his horses' hoofs have raised, Red as the evening sky, Falls like a locust-swarm on boughs Where hanging garments dry.
King (aside). Alas! My soldiers are disturbing the pious grove in their search for me. The voice behind the scenes. Hermits! Hermits! Here is an elephant who is terrifying old men, women, and children.
One tusk is splintered by a cruel blow Against a blocking tree; his gait is slow, For countless fettering vines impede and cling; He puts the deer to flight; some evil thing He seems, that comes our peaceful life to mar, Fleeing in terror from the royal car.
(The girls listen and rise anxiously.)
King. I have offended sadly against the hermits. I must go back.
The two friends. Your Honour, we are frightened by this alarm of the elephant. Permit us to return to the cottage.
Anusuya (to SHAKUNTALA). Shakuntala dear, Mother Gautami will be anxious. We must hurry and find her.
Shakuntala (feigning lameness). Oh, oh! I can hardly walk.
King. You must go very slowly. And I will take pains that the hermitage is not disturbed.
The two friends. Your honour, we feel as if we knew you very well. Pray pardon our shortcomings as hostesses. May we ask you to seek better entertainment from us another time?
King. You are too modest. I feel honoured by the mere sight of you.
Shakuntala. Anusuya, my foot is cut on a sharp blade of grass, and my dress is caught on an amaranth twig. Wait for me while I loosen it.
(She casts a lingering glance at the king, and goes out with her two friends.)
King (sighing). They are gone. And I must go. The sight of Shakuntala has made me dread the return to the city. I will make my men camp at a distance from the pious grove. But I cannot turn my own thoughts from Shakuntala.
It is my body leaves my love, not I; My body moves away, but not my mind; For back to her my struggling fancies fly Like silken banners borne against the wind. (Exit.)
(Enter the clown.)
Clown (sighing). Damn! Damn! Damn! I'm tired of being friends with this sporting king. "There's a deer!" he shouts, "There's a boar!" And off he chases on a summer noon through woods where shade is few and far between. We drink hot, stinking water from the mountain streams, flavoured with leaves—nasty! At odd times we get a little tepid meat to eat. And the horses and the elephants make such a noise that I can't even be comfortable at night. Then the hunters and the bird-chasers—damn 'em—wake me up bright and early. They do make an ear-splitting rumpus when they start for the woods. But even that isn't the whole misery. There's a new pimple growing on the old boil. He left us behind and went hunting a deer. And there in a hermitage they say he found—oh, dear! oh, dear! he found a hermit-girl named Shakuntala. Since then he hasn't a thought of going back to town. I lay awake all night, thinking about it. What can I do? Well, I'll see my friend when he is dressed and beautified. (He walks and looks about.) Hello! Here he comes, with his bow in his hand, and his girl in his heart. He is wearing a wreath of wild flowers! I'll pretend to be all knocked up. Perhaps I can get a rest that way. (He stands, leaning on his staff. Enter the king, as described.)
King (to himself).
Although my darling is not lightly won, She seemed to love me, and my hopes are bright; Though love be balked ere joy be well begun, A common longing is itself delight.
(Smiling.) Thus does a lover deceive himself. He judges his love's feelings by his own desires.
Her glance was loving—but 'twas not for me; Her step was slow—'twas grace, not coquetry; Her speech was short—to her detaining friend. In things like these love reads a selfish end!
Clown (standing as before). Well, king, I can't move my hand. I can only greet you with my voice.
King (looking and smiling). What makes you lame?
Clown. Good! You hit a man in the eye, and then ask him why the tears come.
King. I do not understand you. Speak plainly.
Clown. When a reed bends over like a hunchback, do you blame the reed or the river-current?
King. The river-current, of course.
Clown. And you are to blame for my troubles.
King. How so?
Clown. It's a fine thing for you to neglect your royal duties and such a sure job—to live in the woods! What's the good of talking? Here I am, a Brahman, and my joints are all shaken up by this eternal running after wild animals, so that I can't move. Please be good to me. Let us have a rest for just one day.
King (to himself). He says this. And I too, when I remember Kanva's daughter, have little desire for the chase. For
The bow is strung, its arrow near; And yet I cannot bend That bow against the fawns who share Soft glances with their friend.
Clown (observing the king). He means more than he says. I might as well weep in the woods.
King (smiling). What more could I mean? I have been thinking that I ought to take my friend's advice.
Clown (cheerfully). Long life to you, then. (He unstiffens.)
King. Wait. Hear me out.
Clown. Well, sir?
King. When you are rested, you must be my companion in another task—an easy one.
Clown. Crushing a few sweetmeats?
King. I will tell you presently.
Clown. Pray command my leisure.
King. Who stands without? (Enter the door-keeper.)
Door-keeper. I await your Majesty's commands.
King. Raivataka, summon the general.
Door-keeper. Yes, your Majesty. (He goes out, then returns with the general.) Follow me, sir. There is his Majesty, listening to our conversation. Draw near, sir.
General (observing the king, to himself). Hunting is declared to be a sin, yet it brings nothing but good to the king. See!
He does not heed the cruel sting Of his recoiling, twanging string; The mid-day sun, the dripping sweat Affect him not, nor make him fret; His form, though sinewy and spare, Is most symmetrically fair; No mountain-elephant could be More filled with vital strength than he.
(He approaches.) Victory to your Majesty! The forest is full of deer-tracks, and beasts of prey cannot be far off. What better occupation could we have?
King. Bhadrasena, my enthusiasm is broken. Madhavya has been preaching against hunting.
General (aside to the clown). Stick to it, friend Madhavya. I will humour the king a moment. (Aloud.) Your Majesty, he is a chattering idiot. Your Majesty may judge by his own case whether hunting is an evil. Consider:
The hunter's form grows sinewy, strong, and light; He learns, from beasts of prey, how wrath and fright Affect the mind; his skill he loves to measure With moving targets. 'Tis life's chiefest pleasure.
Clown (angrily). Get out! Get out with your strenuous life! The king has come to his senses. But you, you son of a slave-wench, can go chasing from forest to forest, till you fall into the jaws of some old bear that is looking for a deer or a jackal.
King. Bhadrasena, I cannot take your advice, because I am in the vicinity of a hermitage. So for to-day
The horned buffalo may shake The turbid water of the lake; Shade-seeking deer may chew the cud, Boars trample swamp-grass in the mud; The bow I bend in hunting, may Enjoy a listless holiday.
General. Yes, your Majesty.
King. Send back the archers who have gone ahead. And forbid the soldiers to vex the hermitage, or even to approach it. Remember:
There lurks a hidden fire in each Religious hermit-bower; Cool sun-stones kindle if assailed By any foreign power.
General. Yes, your Majesty.
Clown. Now will you get out with your strenuous life? (Exit general.)
King (to his attendants). Lay aside your hunting dress. And you, Raivataka, return to your post of duty.
Raivataka. Yes, your Majesty. (Exit.)
Clown. You have got rid of the vermin. Now be seated on this flat stone, over which the trees spread their canopy of shade. I can't sit down till you do.
King. Lead the way.
Clown. Follow me. (They walk about and sit down.)
King. Friend Madhavya, you do not know what vision is. You have not seen the fairest of all objects.
Clown. I see you, right in front of me.
King. Yes, every one thinks himself beautiful. But I was speaking of Shakuntala, the ornament of the hermitage.
Clown (to himself). I mustn't add fuel to the flame. (Aloud.) But you can't have her because she is a hermit-girl. What is the use of seeing her?
And is it selfish longing then, That draws our souls on high Through eyes that have forgot to wink, As the new moon climbs the sky?
Besides, Dushyanta's thoughts dwell on no forbidden object.
Clown. Well, tell me about her.
Sprung from a nymph of heaven Wanton and gay, Who spurned the blessing given, Going her way;
By the stern hermit taken In her most need: So fell the blossom shaken, Flower on a weed.
Clown (laughing). You are like a man who gets tired of good dates and longs for sour tamarind. All the pearls of the palace are yours, and you want this girl!
King. My friend, you have not seen her, or you could not talk so.
Clown. She must be charming if she surprises you.
King. Oh, my friend, she needs not many words.
She is God's vision, of pure thought Composed in His creative mind; His reveries of beauty wrought The peerless pearl of womankind. So plays my fancy when I see How great is God, how lovely she.
Clown. How the women must hate her!
King. This too is in my thought.
She seems a flower whose fragrance none has tasted, A gem uncut by workman's tool, A branch no desecrating hands have wasted, Fresh honey, beautifully cool.
No man on earth deserves to taste her beauty, Her blameless loveliness and worth, Unless he has fulfilled man's perfect duty— And is there such a one on earth?
Clown. Marry her quick, then, before the poor girl falls into the hands of some oily-headed hermit.
King. She is dependent on her father, and he is not here.
Clown. But how does she feel toward you? King. My friend, hermit-girls are by their very nature timid. And yet
When I was near, she could not look at me; She smiled—but not to me—and half denied it; She would not show her love for modesty, Yet did not try so very hard to hide it.
Clown. Did you want her to climb into your lap the first time she saw you?
King. But when she went away with her friends, she almost showed that she loved me.
When she had hardly left my side, "I cannot walk," the maiden cried, And turned her face, and feigned to free The dress not caught upon the tree.
Clown. She has given you some memories to chew on. I suppose that is why you are so in love with the pious grove.
King. My friend, think of some pretext under which we may return to the hermitage.
Clown. What pretext do you need? Aren't you the king?
King. What of that?
Clown. Collect the taxes on the hermits' rice.
King. Fool! It is a very different tax which these hermits pay—one that outweighs heaps of gems.
The wealth we take from common men, Wastes while we cherish; These share with us such holiness As ne'er can perish.
Voices behind the scenes. Ah, we have found him.
King (Listening). The voices are grave and tranquil. These must be hermits. (Enter the door-keeper.)
Door-keeper. Victory, O King. There are two hermit-youths at the gate.
King. Bid them enter at once.
Door-keeper. Yes, your Majesty. (He goes out, then returns with the youths.) Follow me.
First youth (looking at the king). A majestic presence, yet it inspires confidence. Nor is this wonderful in a king who is half a saint. For to him
The splendid palace serves as hermitage; His royal government, courageous, sage, Adds daily to his merit; it is given To him to win applause from choirs of heaven Whose anthems to his glory rise and swell, Proclaiming him a king, and saint as well.
Second youth. My friend, is this Dushyanta, friend of Indra?
First youth. It is.
Nor is it wonderful that one whose arm Might bolt a city gate, should keep from harm The whole broad earth dark-belted by the sea; For when the gods in heaven with demons fight, Dushyanta's bow and Indra's weapon bright Are their reliance for the victory.
The two youths (approaching). Victory, O King!
King (rising). I salute you.
The two youths. All hail! (They offer fruit.)
King (receiving it and bowing low). May I know the reason of your coming?
The two youths. The hermits have learned that you are here, and they request——
King. They command rather.
The two youths. The powers of evil disturb our pious life in the absence of the hermit-father. We therefore ask that you will remain a few nights with your charioteer to protect the hermitage.
King. I shall be most happy to do so.
Clown (to the king). You rather seem to like being collared this way.
King. Raivataka, tell my charioteer to drive up, and to bring the bow and arrows.
Raivataka. Yes, your Majesty. (Exit)
The two youths.
Thou art a worthy scion of The kings who ruled our nation And found, defending those in need, Their truest consecration.
King. Pray go before. And I will follow straightway.
The two youths. Victory, O King! (Exeunt.)
King. Madhavya, have you no curiosity to see Shakuntala?
Clown. I did have an unending curiosity, but this talk about the powers of evil has put an end to it.
King. Do not fear. You will be with me.
Clown. I'll stick close to your chariot-wheel. (Enter the door-keeper.)
Door-keeper. Your Majesty, the chariot is ready, and awaits your departure to victory. But one Karabhaka has come from the city, a messenger from the queen-mother.
King (respectfully). Sent by my mother?
King. Let him enter.
Door-keeper (goes out and returns with KARABHAKA). Karabhaka, here is his Majesty. You may draw near.
Karabhaka (approaching and bowing low). Victory to your Majesty. The queen-mother sends her commands——
King. What are her commands?
Karabhaka. She plans to end a fasting ceremony on the fourth day from to-day. And on that occasion her dear son must not fail to wait upon her.
King. On the one side is my duty to the hermits, on the other my mother's command. Neither may be disregarded. What is to be done?
Clown (laughing). Stay half-way between, like Trishanku.
King. In truth, I am perplexed.
Two inconsistent duties sever My mind with cruel shock, As when the current of a river Is split upon a rock.
(He reflects.) My friend, the queen-mother has always felt toward you as toward a son. Do you return, tell her what duty keeps me here, and yourself perform the offices of a son.
Clown. You don't think I am afraid of the devils?
King (smiling). O mighty Brahman, who could suspect it?
Clown. But I want to travel like a prince.
King. I will send all the soldiers with you, for the pious grove must not be disturbed. Clown (strutting). Aha! Look at the heir-apparent!
King (to himself). The fellow is a chatterbox. He might betray my longing to the ladies of the palace. Good, then! (He takes the clown by the hand. Aloud.) Friend Madhavya, my reverence for the hermits draws me to the hermitage. Do not think that I am really in love with the hermit-girl. Just think:
A king, and a girl of the calm hermit-grove, Bred with the fawns, and a stranger to love! Then do not imagine a serious quest; The light words I uttered were spoken in jest.
Clown. Oh, I understand that well enough. (Exeunt ambo.)
(Enter a pupil, with sacred grass for the sacrifice.)
Pupil (with meditative astonishment). How great is the power of King Dushyanta! Since his arrival our rites have been undisturbed.
He does not need to bend the bow; For every evil thing, Awaiting not the arrow, flees From the twanging of the string.
Well, I will take this sacred grass to the priests, to strew the altar. (He walks and looks about, then speaks to some one not visible.) Priyamvada, for whom are you carrying this cuscus-salve and the fibrous lotus-leaves? (He listens.) What do you say? That Shakuntala has become seriously ill from the heat, and that these things are to relieve her suffering? Give her the best of care, Priyamvada. She is the very life of the hermit-father. And I will give Gautami the holy water for her. (Exit. Enter the lovelorn king.)
King (with a meditative sigh).
I know that stern religion's power Keeps guardian watch my maiden o'er; Yet all my heart flows straight to her Like water to the valley-floor.
Oh, mighty Love, thine arrows are made of flowers. How can they be so sharp? (He recalls something.) Ah, I understand.
Shiva's devouring wrath still burns in thee, As burns the eternal fire beneath the sea; Else how couldst thou, thyself long since consumed, Kindle the fire that flames so ruthlessly?
Indeed, the moon and thou inspire confidence, only to deceive the host of lovers.
Thy shafts are blossoms; coolness streams From moon-rays: thus the poets sing; But to the lovelorn, falsehood seems To lurk in such imagining; The moon darts fire from frosty beams; Thy flowery arrows cut and sting.
If Love will trouble her Whose great eyes madden me, I greet him unafraid, Though wounded ceaselessly.
O mighty god, wilt thou not show me mercy after such reproaches?
With tenderness unending I cherished thee when small, In vain—thy bow is bending; On me thine arrows fall. My care for thee to such a plight Has brought me; and it serves me right.
I have driven off the powers of evil, and the hermits have dismissed me. Where shall I go now to rest from my weariness? (He sighs.) There is no rest for me except in seeing her whom I love. (He looks up.) She usually spends these hours of midday heat with her friends on the vine-wreathed banks of the Malini. I will go there. (He walks and looks about.) I believe the slender maiden has just passed through this corridor of young trees. For
The stems from which she gathered flowers Are still unhealed; The sap where twigs were broken off Is uncongealed.
(He feels a breeze stirring.) This is a pleasant spot, with the wind among the trees.
Limbs that love's fever seizes, Their fervent welcome pay To lotus-fragrant breezes That bear the river-spray.
(He studies the ground.) Ah, Shakuntala must be in this reedy bower. For
In white sand at the door Fresh footprints appear, The toe lightly outlined, The heel deep and clear.
I will hide among the branches, and see what happens. (He does so. Joyfully.) Ah, my eyes have found their heaven. Here is the darling of my thoughts, lying upon a flower-strewn bench of stone, and attended by her two friends. I will hear what they say to each other.
(He stands gazing. Enter SHAKUNTALA with her two friends.)
The two friends (fanning her). Do you feel better, dear, when we fan you with these lotus-leaves?
Shakuntala (wearily). Oh, are you fanning me, my dear girls? (The two friends look sorrowfully at each other.)
King. She is seriously ill. (Doubtfully.) Is it the heat, or is it as I hope? (Decidedly.) It must be so.
With salve upon her breast, With loosened lotus-chain, My darling, sore oppressed, Is lovely in her pain.
Though love and summer heat May work an equal woe, No maiden seems so sweet When summer lays her low.
Priyamvada (aside to ANUSUYA). Anusuya, since she first saw the good king, she has been greatly troubled. I do not believe her fever has any other cause.
Anusuya. I suspect you are right. I am going to ask her. My dear, I must ask you something. You are in a high fever.
King. It is too true.
Her lotus-chains that were as white As moonbeams shining in the night, Betray the fever's awful pain, And fading, show a darker stain.
Shakuntala (half rising.) Well, say whatever you like. Anusuya. Shakuntala dear, you have not told us what is going on in your mind. But I have heard old, romantic stories, and I can't help thinking that you are in a state like that of a lady in love. Please tell us what hurts you. We have to understand the disease before we can even try to cure it.
King. Anusuya expresses my own thoughts.
Shakuntala. It hurts me terribly. I can't tell you all at once.
Priyamvada. Anusuya is right, dear. Why do you hide your trouble? You are wasting away every day. You are nothing but a beautiful shadow.
King. Priyamvada is right. See!
Her cheeks grow thin; her breast and shoulders fail; Her waist is weary and her face is pale: She fades for love; oh, pitifully sweet! As vine-leaves wither in the scorching heat.
Shakuntala (sighing). I could not tell any one else. But I shall be a burden to you.
The two friends. That is why we insist on knowing, dear. Grief must be shared to be endured.
To friends who share her joy and grief She tells what sorrow laid her here; She turned to look her love again When first I saw her—yet I fear!
Shakuntala. Ever since I saw the good king who protects the pious grove—(She stops and fidgets.)
The two friends. Go on, dear.
Shakuntala. I love him, and it makes me feel like this.
The two friends. Good, good! You have found a lover worthy of your devotion. But of course, a great river always runs into the sea.
King (joyfully). I have heard what I longed to hear.
'Twas love that caused the burning pain; 'Tis love that eases it again; As when, upon a sultry day, Rain breaks, and washes grief away.
Shakuntala. Then, if you think best, make the good king take pity upon me. If not, remember that I was. King. Her words end all doubt.
Priyamvada (aside to ANUSUYA). Anusuya, she is far gone in love and cannot endure any delay.
Anusuya. Priyamvada, can you think of any scheme by which we could carry out her wishes quickly and secretly?
Priyamvada. We must plan about the "secretly." The "quickly" is not hard.
Anusuya. How so?
Priyamvada. Why, the good king shows his love for her in his tender glances, and he has been wasting away, as if he were losing sleep.
King. It is quite true.
The hot tears, flowing down my cheek All night on my supporting arm And on its golden bracelet, seek To stain the gems and do them harm.
The bracelet slipping o'er the scars Upon the wasted arm, that show My deeds in hunting and in wars, All night is moving to and fro.
Priyamvada (reflecting). Well, she must write him a love-letter. And I will hide it in a bunch of flowers and see that it gets into the king's hand as if it were a relic of the sacrifice.
Anusuya. It is a pretty plan, dear, and it pleases me. What does Shakuntala say?
Shakuntala. I suppose I must obey orders.
Priyamvada. Then compose a pretty little love-song, with a hint of yourself in it.
Shakuntala. I'll try. But my heart trembles, for fear he will despise me.
Here stands the eager lover, and you pale For fear lest he disdain a love so kind: The seeker may find fortune, or may fail; But how could fortune, seeking, fail to find?
The ardent lover comes, and yet you fear Lest he disdain love's tribute, were it brought, The hope of which has led his footsteps here— Pearls need not seek, for they themselves are sought.
The two friends. You are too modest about your own charms. Would anybody put up a parasol to keep off the soothing autumn moonlight?
Shakuntala (smiling). I suppose I shall have to obey orders. (She meditates.)
King. It is only natural that I should forget to wink when I see my darling. For
One clinging eyebrow lifted, As fitting words she seeks, Her face reveals her passion For me in glowing cheeks.
Shakuntala. Well, I have thought out a little song. But I haven't anything to write with.
Priyamvada. Here is a lotus-leaf, glossy as a parrot's breast. You can cut the letters in it with your nails.
Shakuntala. Now listen, and tell me whether it makes sense.
The two friends. Please.
I know not if I read your heart aright; Why, pitiless, do you distress me so? I only know that longing day and night Tosses my restless body to and fro, That yearns for you, the source of all its woe.
Though Love torments you, slender maid, Yet he consumes me quite, As daylight shuts night-blooming flowers And slays the moon outright.
The two friends (perceive the king and rise joyfully). Welcome to the wish that is fulfilled without delay. (SHAKUNTALA tries to rise.)
Do not try to rise, beautiful Shakuntala. Your limbs from which the strength is fled, That crush the blossoms of your bed And bruise the lotus-leaves, may be Pardoned a breach of courtesy.
Shakuntala (sadly to herself). Oh, my heart, you were so impatient, and now you find no answer to make.
Anusuya. Your Majesty, pray do this stone bench the honour of sitting upon it. (SHAKUNTALA edges away.)
King (seating himself). Priyamvada, I trust your friend's illness is not dangerous.
Priyamvada (smiling). A remedy is being applied and it will soon be better. It is plain, sir, that you and she love each other. But I love her too, and I must say something over again.
King. Pray do not hesitate. It always causes pain in the end, to leave unsaid what one longs to say.
Priyamvada. Then listen, sir.
King. I am all attention.
Priyamvada. It is the king's duty to save hermit-folk from all suffering. Is not that good Scripture?
King. There is no text more urgent.
Priyamvada. Well, our friend has been brought to this sad state by her love for you. Will you not take pity on her and save her life?
King. We cherish the same desire. I feel it a great honour.
Shakuntala (with a jealous smile). Oh, don't detain the good king. He is separated from the court ladies, and he is anxious to go back to them.
Bewitching eyes that found my heart, You surely see It could no longer live apart, Nor faithless be. I bear Love's arrows as I can; Wound not with doubt a wounded man.
Anusuya. But, your Majesty, we hear that kings have many favourites. You must act in such a way that our friend may not become a cause of grief to her family.
King. What more can I say?
Though many queens divide my court, But two support the throne; Your friend will find a rival in The sea-girt earth alone.
The two friends. We are content. (SHAKUNTALA betrays her joy.) Priyamvada (aside to ANUSUYA). Look, Anusuya! See how the dear girl's life is coming back moment by moment—just like a peahen in summer when the first rainy breezes come.
Shakuntala. You must please ask the king's pardon for the rude things we said when we were talking together.
The two friends (smiling). Anybody who says it was rude, may ask his pardon. Nobody else feels guilty.
Shakuntala. Your Majesty, pray forgive what we said when we did not know that you were present. I am afraid that we say a great many things behind a person's back.
Your fault is pardoned if I may Relieve my weariness By sitting on the flower-strewn couch Your fevered members press.
Priyamvada. But that will not be enough to satisfy him.
Shakuntala (feigning anger). Stop! You are a rude girl. You make fun of me when I am in this condition.
Anusuya (looking out of the arbour). Priyamvada, there is a little fawn, looking all about him. He has probably lost his mother and is trying to find her. I am going to help him.
Priyamvada. He is a frisky little fellow. You can't catch him alone. I'll go with you. (They start to go.)
Shakuntala. I will not let you go and leave me alone.
The two friends (smiling). You alone, when the king of the world is with you! (Exeunt.)
Shakuntala. Are my friends gone?
King (looking about). Do not be anxious, beautiful Shakuntala. Have you not a humble servant here, to take the place of your friends? Then tell me:
Shall I employ the moistened lotus-leaf To fan away your weariness and grief? Or take your lily feet upon my knee And rub them till you rest more easily?
Shakuntala. I will not offend against those to whom I owe honour. (She rises weakly and starts to walk away.) King (detaining her). The day is still hot, beautiful Shakuntala, and you are feverish.
Leave not the blossom-dotted couch To wander in the midday heat, With lotus-petals on your breast, With fevered limbs and stumbling feet.
(He lays his hand upon her.)
Shakuntala. Oh, don't! Don't! For I am not mistress of myself. Yet what can I do now? I had no one to help me but my friends.
King. I am rebuked.
Shakuntala. I was not thinking of your Majesty. I was accusing fate.
King. Why accuse a fate that brings what you desire?
Shakuntala. Why not accuse a fate that robs me of self-control and tempts me with the virtues of another?
King (to himself).
Though deeply longing, maids are coy And bid their wooers wait; Though eager for united joy In love, they hesitate.
Love cannot torture them, nor move Their hearts to sudden mating; Perhaps they even torture love By their procrastinating.
(SHAKUNTALA moves away.)
King. Why should I not have my way? (He approaches and seizes her dress.)
Shakuntala. Oh, sir! Be a gentleman. There are hermits wandering about.
King. Do not fear your family, beautiful Shakuntala. Father Kanva knows the holy law. He will not regret it.
For many a hermit maiden who By simple, voluntary rite Dispensed with priest and witness, yet Found favour in her father's sight.
(He looks about.) Ah, I have come into the open air. (He leaves SHAKUNTALA and retraces his steps.) Shakuntala (takes a step, then turns with an eager gesture).
O King, I cannot do as you would have me. You hardly know me after this short talk. But oh, do not forget me.
When evening comes, the shadow of the tree Is cast far forward, yet does not depart; Even so, beloved, wheresoe'er you be, The thought of you can never leave my heart.
Shakuntala (takes a few steps. To herself). Oh, oh! When I hear him speak so, my feet will not move away. I will hide in this amaranth hedge and see how long his love lasts. (She hides and waits.)
King. Oh, my beloved, my love for you is my whole life, yet you leave me and go away without a thought.
Your body, soft as siris-flowers, Engages passion's utmost powers; How comes it that your heart is hard As stalks that siris-blossoms guard?
Shakuntala. When I hear this, I have no power to go.
King. What have I to do here, where she is not? (He gazes on the ground.) Ah, I cannot go.
The perfumed lotus-chain That once was worn by her Fetters and keeps my heart A hopeless prisoner. (He lifts it reverently.)
Shakuntala (looking at her arm). Why, I was so weak and ill that when the lotus-bracelet fell off, I did not even notice it.
King (laying the lotus-bracelet on his heart). Ah!
Once, dear, on your sweet arm it lay, And on my heart shall ever stay; Though you disdain to give me joy, I find it in a lifeless toy.
Shakuntala. I cannot hold back after that. I will use the bracelet as an excuse for my coming. (She approaches.)
King (seeing her. Joyfully). The queen of my life! As soon as I complained, fate proved kind to me.
No sooner did the thirsty bird With parching throat complain, Than forming clouds in heaven stirred And sent the streaming rain.
Shakuntala (standing before the king). When I was going away, sir, I remembered that this lotus-bracelet had fallen from my arm, and I have come back for it. My heart seemed to tell me that you had taken it. Please give it back, or you will betray me, and yourself too, to the hermits.
King. I will restore it on one condition.
Shakuntala. What condition?
King. That I may myself place it where it belongs.
Shakuntala (to herself). What can I do? (She approaches.)
King. Let us sit on this stone bench. (They walk to the bench and sit down.)
King (taking SHAKUNTALA'S hand). Ah!
When Shiva's anger burned the tree Of love in quenchless fire, Did heavenly fate preserve a shoot To deck my heart's desire?
Shakuntala (feeling his touch). Hasten, my dear, hasten.
King (joyfully to himself). Now I am content. She speaks as a wife to her husband. (Aloud.) Beautiful Shakuntala, the clasp of the bracelet is not very firm. May I fasten it in another way?
Shakuntala (smiling). If you like.
King (artfully delaying before he fastens it). See, my beautiful girl!
The lotus-chain is dazzling white As is the slender moon at night. Perhaps it was the moon on high That joined her horns and left the sky, Believing that your lovely arm Would, more than heaven, enhance her charm.
Shakuntala. I cannot see it. The pollen from the lotus over my ear has blown into my eye.
King (smiling). Will you permit me to blow it away?
Shakuntala. I should not like to be an object of pity. But why should I not trust you? King. Do not have such thoughts. A new servant does not transgress orders.
Shakuntala. It is this exaggerated courtesy that frightens me.
King (to himself). I shall not break the bonds of this sweet servitude. (He starts to raise her face to his. SHAKUNTALA resists a little, then is passive.)
King. Oh, my bewitching girl, have no fear of me.
(SHAKUNTALA darts a glance at him, then looks down. The king raises her face. Aside.)
Her sweetly trembling lip With virgin invitation Provokes my soul to sip Delighted fascination.
Shakuntala. You seem slow, dear, in fulfilling your promise.
King. The lotus over your ear is so near your eye, and so like it, that I was confused. (He gently blows her eye.)
Shakuntala. Thank you. I can see quite well now. But I am ashamed not to make any return for your kindness.
King. What more could I ask?
It ought to be enough for me To hover round your fragrant face; Is not the lotus-haunting bee Content with perfume and with grace?
Shakuntala. But what does he do if he is not content?
King. This! This! (He draws her face to his.)
A voice behind the scenes. O sheldrake bride, bid your mate farewell. The night is come.
Shakuntala (listening excitedly). Oh, my dear, this is Mother Gautami, come to inquire about me. Please hide among the branches.
(The king conceals himself. Enter GAUTAMI, with a bowl in her hand.)
Gautami. Here is the holy water, my child. (She sees SHAKUNTALA and helps her to rise.) So ill, and all alone here with the gods?
Shakuntala. It was just a moment ago that Priyamvada and Anusuya went down to the river.
Gautami (sprinkling SHAKUNTALA with the holy water). May you live long and happy, my child. Has the fever gone down? (She touches her.)
Shakuntala. There is a difference, mother.
Gautami. The sun is setting. Come, let us go to the cottage.
Shakuntala (weakly rising. To herself). Oh, my heart, you delayed when your desire came of itself. Now see what you have done. (She takes a step, then turns around. Aloud.) O bower that took away my pain, I bid you farewell until another blissful hour. (Exeunt SHAKUNTALA and GAUTAMI.)
King (advancing with a sigh.) The path to happiness is strewn with obstacles.
Her face, adorned with soft eye-lashes, Adorable with trembling flashes Of half-denial, in memory lingers; The sweet lips guarded by her fingers, The head that drooped upon her shoulder— Why was I not a little bolder?
Where shall I go now? Let me stay a moment in this bower where my beloved lay. (He looks about.)
The flower-strewn bed whereon her body tossed; The bracelet, fallen from her arm and lost; The dear love-missive, in the lotus-leaf Cut by her nails: assuage my absent grief And occupy my eyes—I have no power, Though she is gone, to leave the reedy bower.
(He reflects.) Alas! I did wrong to delay when I had found my love. So now
If she will grant me but one other meeting, I'll not delay; for happiness is fleeting; So plans my foolish, self-defeated heart; But when she comes, I play the coward's part.
A voice behind the scenes. O King!
The flames rise heavenward from the evening altar; And round the sacrifices, blazing high, Flesh-eating demons stalk, like red cloud-masses, And cast colossal shadows on the sky.
King (listens. Resolutely). Have no fear, hermits. I am here.
(Enter the two friends, gathering flowers.)
Anusuya. Priyamvada, dear Shakuntala has been properly married by the voluntary ceremony and she has a husband worthy of her. And yet I am not quite satisfied.
Priyamvada. Why not?
Anusuya. The sacrifice is over and the good king was dismissed to-day by the hermits. He has gone back to the city and there he is surrounded by hundreds of court ladies. I wonder whether he will remember poor Shakuntala or not.
Priyamvada. You need not be anxious about that. Such handsome men are sure to be good. But there is something else to think about. I don't know what Father will have to say when he comes back from his pilgrimage and hears about it.
Anusuya. I believe that he will be pleased.
Anusuya. Why not? You know he wanted to give his daughter to a lover worthy of her. If fate brings this about of itself, why shouldn't Father be happy?
Priyamvada. I suppose you are right. (She looks at her flower-basket.) My dear, we have gathered flowers enough for the sacrifice.
Anusuya. But we must make an offering to the gods that watch over Shakuntala's marriage. We had better gather more.