In The Cloud-Messenger Kalidasa created a new genre in Sanskrit literature. Hindu critics class the poem with The Dynasty of Raghu and The Birth of the War-god as a kavya, or learned epic. This it obviously is not. It is fair enough to call it an elegiac poem, though a precisian might object to the term.
We have already seen, in speaking of The Dynasty of Raghu, what admiration Kalidasa felt for his great predecessor Valmiki, the author of the Ramayana; and it is quite possible that an episode of the early epic suggested to him the idea which he has exquisitely treated in The Cloud-Messenger. In the Ramayana, after the defeat and death of Ravana, Rama returns with his wife and certain heroes of the struggle from Ceylon to his home in Northern India. The journey, made in an aërial car, gives the author an opportunity to describe the country over which the car must pass in travelling from one end of India to the other. The hint thus given him was taken by Kalidasa; a whole canto of The Dynasty of Raghu (the thirteenth) is concerned with the aërial journey. Now if, as seems not improbable, The Dynasty of Raghu was the earliest of Kalidasa’s more ambitious works, it is perhaps legitimate to imagine him, as he wrote this canto, suddenly inspired with the plan of The Cloud-Messenger.
This plan is slight and fanciful. A demigod, in consequence of some transgression against his master, the god of wealth, is condemned to leave his home in the Himalayas, and spend a year of exile on a peak in the Vindhya Mountains, which divide the Deccan from the Ganges basin. He wishes to comfort and encourage his wife, but has no messenger to send her. In his despair, he begs a passing cloud to carry his words. He finds it necessary to describe the long journey which the cloud must take, and, as the two termini are skilfully chosen, the journey involves a visit to many of the spots famous in Indian story. The description of these spots fills the first half of the poem. The second half is filled with a more minute description of the heavenly city, of the home and bride of the demigod, and with the message proper. The proportions of the poem may appear unfortunate to the Western reader, in whom the proper names of the first half will wake scanty associations. Indeed, it is no longer possible to identify all the places mentioned, though the general route followed by the cloud can be easily traced. The peak from which he starts is probably one near the modern Nagpore. From this peak he flies a little west of north to the Nerbudda River, and the city of Ujjain; thence pretty straight north to the upper Ganges and the Himalaya. The geography of the magic city of Alaka is quite mythical.
The Cloud-Messenger contains one hundred and fifteen four-line stanzas, in a majestic metre called the “slow-stepper.” The English stanza which has been chosen for the translation gives perhaps as fair a representation of the original movement as may be, where direct imitation is out of the question. Though the stanza of the translation has five lines to four for the slow-stepper, it contains fewer syllables; a constant check on the temptation to padding.
The analysis which accompanies the poem, and which is inserted in Italics at the beginning of each stanza, has more than one object. It saves footnotes; it is intended as a real help to comprehension; and it is an eminently Hindu device. Indeed, it was my first intention to translate literally portions of Mallinatha’s famous commentary; and though this did not prove everywhere feasible, there is nothing in the analysis except matter suggested by the commentary.
One minor point calls for notice. The word Himálaya has been accented on the second syllable wherever it occurs. This accent is historically correct, and has some foothold in English usage; besides, it is more euphonious and better adapted to the needs of the metre.
A Yaksha, or divine attendant on Kubera, god of wealth, is exiled for a year from his home in the Himalayas. As he dwells on a peak in the Vindhya range, half India separates him from his young bride.
On Rama’s shady peak where hermits roam,Mid streams by Sita’s bathing sanctified,An erring Yaksha made his hapless home,Doomed by his master humbly to abide,And spend a long, long year of absence from his bride.
After eight months of growing emaciation, the first cloud warns him of the approach of the rainy season, when neglected brides are wont to pine and die.
Some months were gone; the lonely lover’s painHad loosed his golden bracelet day by dayEre he beheld the harbinger of rain,A cloud that charged the peak in mimic fray,As an elephant attacks a bank of earth in play.
fore this cause of lovers’ hopes and fearsLong time Kubera’s bondman sadly bowedIn meditation, choking down his tears—Even happy hearts thrill strangely to the cloud;To him, poor wretch, the loved embrace was disallowed.
Unable to send tidings otherwise of his health and unchanging love, he resolves to make the cloud his messenger.
Longing to save his darling’s life, unblestWith joyous tidings, through the rainy days,He plucked fresh blossoms for his cloudy guest,Such homage as a welcoming comrade pays,And bravely spoke brave words of greeting and of praise.
Nor did it pass the lovelorn Yaksha’s mindHow all unfitly might his message mateWith a cloud, mere fire and water, smoke and wind—Ne’er yet was lover could discriminate’Twixt life and lifeless things, in his love-blinded state.
He prefers his request,
I know, he said, thy far-famed princely line,Thy state, in heaven’s imperial council chief,Thy changing forms; to thee, such fate is mine,I come a suppliant in my widowed grief—Better thy lordly “no” than meaner souls’ relief.
O cloud, the parching spirit stirs thy pity;My bride is far, through royal wrath and might;Bring her my message to the Yaksha city,Rich-gardened Alaka, where radiance brightFrom Shiva’s crescent bathes the palaces in light.
hinting at the same time that the’ cloud will find his kindly labour rewarded by pleasures on the road,
When thou art risen to airy paths of heaven,Through lifted curls the wanderer’s love shall peepAnd bless the sight of thee for comfort given;Who leaves his bride through cloudy days to weepExcept he be like me, whom chains of bondage keep?
and by happy omens.
While favouring breezes waft thee gently forth,And while upon thy left the plover singsHis proud, sweet song, the cranes who know thy worthWill meet thee in the sky on joyful wingsAnd for delights anticipated join their rings.
He assures the cloud that his bride is neither dead nor faithless;
Yet hasten, O my brother, till thou see—Counting the days that bring the lonely smart—The faithful wife who only lives for me:A drooping flower is woman’s loving heart,Upheld by the stem of hope when two true lovers part.
further, that there will be no lack of travelling companions.
And when they hear thy welcome thunders break,When mushrooms sprout to greet thy fertile weeks,The swans who long for the Himalayan lakeWill be thy comrades to Kailasa’s peaks,With juicy bits of lotus-fibre in their beaks.
One last embrace upon this mount bestowWhose flanks were pressed by Rama’s holy feet,Who yearly strives his love for thee to show,Warmly his well-beloved friend to greetWith the tear of welcome shed when two long-parted meet.
He then describes the long journey,
Learn first, O cloud, the road that thou must go,Then hear my message ere thou speed away;Before thee mountains rise and rivers flow:When thou art weary, on the mountains stay,And when exhausted, drink the rivers’ driven spray.
beginning with the departure from Rama’s peak, where dwells a company of Siddhas, divine beings of extraordinary sanctity.
Elude the heavenly elephants’ clumsy spite;Fly from this peak in richest jungle drest;And Siddha maids who view thy northward flightWill upward gaze in simple terror, lestThe wind be carrying quite away the mountain crest.
Bright as a heap of flashing gems, there shinesBefore thee on the ant-hill, Indra’s bow;Matched with that dazzling rainbow’s glittering lines,Thy sombre form shall find its beauties grow,Like the dark herdsman Vishnu, with peacock-plumes aglow.
The Mala plateau.
The farmers’ wives on Mala’s lofty lea,Though innocent of all coquettish art,Will give thee loving glances; for on theeDepends the fragrant furrow’s fruitful part;Thence, barely westering, with lightened burden start.
The Mango Peak.
The Mango Peak whose forest fires were laidBy streams of thine, will soothe thy weariness;In memory of a former service paid,Even meaner souls spurn not in time of stressA suppliant friend; a soul so lofty, much the less.
With ripened mango-fruits his margins teem;And thou, like wetted braids, art blackness quite;When resting on the mountain, thou wilt seemLike the dark nipple on Earth’s bosom white,For mating gods and goddesses a thrilling sight.
The Reva, or Nerbudda River, foaming against the mountain side,
His bowers are sweet to forest maidens ever;Do thou upon his crest a moment bide,Then fly, rain-quickened, to the Reva riverWhich gaily breaks on Vindhya’s rocky side,Like painted streaks upon an elephant’s dingy hide.
and flavoured with the ichor which exudes from the temples of elephants during the mating season.
Where thick rose-apples make the current slow,Refresh thyself from thine exhausted stateWith ichor-pungent drops that fragrant flow;Thou shalt not then to every wind vibrate—Empty means ever light, and full means added weight.
Spying the madder on the banks, half brown,Half green with shoots that struggle to the birth,Nibbling where early plantain-buds hang down,Scenting the sweet, sweet smell of forest earth,The deer will trace thy misty track that ends the dearth.
Though thou be pledged to ease my darling’s pain,Yet I foresee delay on every hillWhere jasmines blow, and where the peacock-trainCries forth with joyful tears a welcome shrill;Thy sacrifice is great, but haste thy journey still.
The Dasharna country,
At thine approach, Dasharna land is blestWith hedgerows where gay buds are all aglow,With village trees alive with many a nestAbuilding by the old familiar crow,With lingering swans, with ripe rose-apples’ darker show.
and its capital Vidisha, on the banks of Reed River.
There shalt thou see the royal city, knownAfar, and win the lover’s fee complete,If thou subdue thy thunders to a toneOf murmurous gentleness, and taste the sweet,Love-rippling features of the river at thy feet.
A moment rest on Nichais’ mountain then,Where madder-bushes don their blossom coatAs thrilling to thy touch; where city menO’er youth’s unbridled pleasures fondly gloatIn caverns whence the perfumes of gay women float.
Fly on refreshed; and sprinkle buds that fadeOn jasmine-vines in gardens wild and rareBy forest rivers; and with loving shadeCaress the flower-girls’ heated faces fair,Whereon the lotuses droop withering from their hair.
The famous old city of Ujjain, the home of the poet, and dearly beloved by him;
Swerve from thy northern path; for westward riseThe palace balconies thou mayst not slightIn fair Ujjain; and if bewitching eyesThat flutter at thy gleams, should not delightThine amorous bosom, useless were thy gift of sight.
and the river, personified as a loving woman, whom the cloud will meet just before he reaches the city.
The neighbouring mountain stream that gliding grantsA glimpse of charms in whirling eddies pursed,While noisy swans accompany her danceLike a tinkling zone, will slake thy loving thirst—A woman always tells her love in gestures first.
Thou only, happy lover! canst repairThe desolation that thine absence made:Her shrinking current seems the careless hairThat brides deserted wear in single braid,And dead leaves falling give her face a paler shade.
The city of Ujjain is fully described,
Oh, fine Ujjain! Gem to Avanti given,Where village ancients tell their tales of mirthAnd old romance! Oh, radiant bit of heaven,Home of a blest celestial band whose worthSufficed, though fallen from heaven, to bring down heaven on earth!
Where the river-breeze at dawn, with fragrant gainFrom friendly lotus-blossoms, lengthens outThe clear, sweet passion-warbling of the crane,To cure the women’s languishing, and floutWith a lover’s coaxing all their hesitating doubt.
Enriched with odours through the windows driftingFrom perfumed hair, and greeted as a friendBy peacock pets their wings in dances lifting,On flower-sweet balconies thy labour end,Where prints of dear pink feet an added glory lend.
especially its famous shrine to Shiva, called Mahakala;
Black as the neck of Shiva, very God,Dear therefore to his hosts, thou mayest goTo his dread shrine, round which the gardens nodWhen breezes rich with lotus-pollen blowAnd ointments that the gaily bathing maidens know.
Reaching that temple at another time,Wait till the sun is lost to human eyes;For if thou mayest play the part sublimeOf Shiva’s drum at evening sacrifice,Then hast thou in thy thunders grave a priceless prize.
The women there, whose girdles long have tinkledIn answer to the dance, whose hands yet seizeAnd wave their fans with lustrous gems besprinkled,Will feel thine early drops that soothe and please,And recompense thee from black eyes like clustering bees.
and the black cloud, painted with twilight red, is bidden to serve as a robe for the god, instead of the bloody elephant hide which he commonly wears in his wild dance.
Clothing thyself in twilight’s rose-red glory,Embrace the dancing Shiva’s tree-like arm;He will prefer thee to his mantle goryAnd spare his grateful goddess-bride’s alarm,Whose eager gaze will manifest no fear of harm.
After one night of repose in the city
Where women steal to rendezvous by nightThrough darkness that a needle might divide,Show them the road with lightning-flashes brightAs golden streaks upon the touchstone’s side—But rain and thunder not, lest they be terrified.
On some rich balcony where sleep the doves,Through the dark night with thy beloved stay,The lightning weary with the sport she loves;But with the sunrise journey on thy way—For they that labour for a friend do not delay.
The gallant dries his mistress’ tears that streamWhen he returns at dawn to her embrace—Prevent thou not the sun’s bright-fingered beamThat wipes the tear-dew from the lotus’ face;His anger else were great, and great were thy disgrace.
the cloud is besought to travel to Deep River.
Thy winsome shadow-soul will surely findAn entrance in Deep River’s current bright,As thoughts find entrance in a placid mind;Then let no rudeness of thine own affrightThe darting fish that seem her glances lotus-white.
But steal her sombre veil of mist away,Although her reeds seem hands that clutch the dressTo hide her charms; thou hast no time to stay,Yet who that once has known a dear caressCould bear to leave a woman’s unveiled loveliness?
Thence to Holy Peak,
The breeze ‘neath which the breathing acre grantsNew odours, and the forest figs hang sleek,With pleasant whistlings drunk by elephantsThrough long and hollow trunks, will gently seekTo waft thee onward fragrantly to Holy Peak.
the dwelling-place of Skanda, god of war, the child of Shiva and Gauri, concerning whose birth more than one quaint tale is told.
There change thy form; become a cloud of flowersWith heavenly moisture wet, and pay the meedOf praise to Skanda with thy blossom showers;That sun-outshining god is Shiva’s seed,Fire-born to save the heavenly hosts in direst need.
God Skanda’s peacock—he whose eyeballs shineBy Shiva’s moon, whose flashing fallen plumeThe god’s fond mother wears, a gleaming lineOver her ear beside the lotus bloom—Will dance to thunders echoing in the caverns’ room.
Thence to Skin River, so called because it flowed forth from a mountain of cattle carcasses, offered in sacrifice by the pious emperor Rantideva.
Adore the reed-born god and speed away,While Siddhas flee, lest rain should put to shameThe lutes which they devoutly love to play;But pause to glorify the stream whose nameRecalls the sacrificing emperor’s blessed fame.
Narrow the river seems from heaven’s blue;And gods above, who see her dainty lineMatched, when thou drinkest, with thy darker hue,Will think they see a pearly necklace twineRound Earth, with one great sapphire in its midst ashine.
The province of the Ten Cities.
Beyond, the province of Ten Cities liesWhose women, charming with their glances rash,Will view thine image with bright, eager eyes,Dark eyes that dance beneath the lifted lash,As when black bees round nodding jasmine-blossoms flash.
The Hallowed Land, where were fought the awful battles of the ancient epic time.
Then veil the Hallowed Land in cloudy shade;Visit the field where to this very hourLie bones that sank beneath the soldier’s blade,Where Arjuna discharged his arrowy showerOn men, as thou thy rain-jets on the lotus-flower.
In these battles, the hero Balarama, whose weapon was a plough-share, would take no part, because kinsmen of his were fighting in each army. He preferred to spend the time in drinking from the holy river Sarasvati, though little accustomed to any other drink than wine.
Sweet friend, drink where those holy waters shineWhich the plough-bearing hero—loath to fightHis kinsmen—rather drank than sweetest wineWith a loving bride’s reflected eyes alight;Then, though thy form be black, thine inner soul is bright.
The Ganges River, which originates in heaven. Its fall is broken by the head of Shiva, who stands on the Himalaya Mountains; otherwise the shock would be too great for the earth. But Shiva’s goddess-bride is displeased.
Fly then where Ganges o’er the king of mountainsFalls like a flight of stairs from heaven let downFor the sons of men; she hurls her billowy fountainsLike hands to grasp the moon on Shiva’s crownAnd laughs her foamy laugh at Gauri’s jealous frown.
The dark cloud is permitted to mingle with the clear stream of Ganges, as the muddy Jumna River does near the city now called Allahabad.
If thou, like some great elephant of the sky,Shouldst wish from heaven’s eminence to bendAnd taste the crystal stream, her beauties high—As thy dark shadows with her whiteness blend—Would be what Jumna’s waters at Prayaga lend.
The magnificent Himalaya range.
Her birth-place is Himalaya’s rocky crestWhereon the scent of musk is never lost,For deer rest ever there where thou wilt restSombre against the peak with whiteness glossed,Like dark earth by the snow-white bull of Shiva tossed.
If, born from friction of the deodars,A scudding fire should prove the mountain’s bane,Singeing the tails of yaks with fiery stars,Quench thou the flame with countless streams of rain—The great have power that they may soothe distress and pain.
If mountain monsters should assail thy pathWith angry leaps that of their object fail,Only to hurt themselves in helpless wrath,Scatter the creatures with thy pelting hail—For who is not despised that strives without avail?
Bend lowly down and move in reverent stateRound Shiva’s foot-print on the rocky plateWith offerings laden by the saintly great;The sight means heaven as their eternal fateWhen death and sin are past, for them that faithful wait.
The breeze is piping on the bamboo-tree;And choirs of heaven sing in union sweetO’er demon foe of Shiva’s victory;If thunders in the caverns drumlike beat,Then surely Shiva’s symphony will be complete.
The mountain pass called the Swan-gate.
Pass by the wonders of the snowy slope;Through the Swan-gate, through mountain masses rentTo make his fame a path by Bhrigu’s hopeIn long, dark beauty fly, still northward bent,Like Vishnu’s foot, when he sought the demon’s chastisement.
And at Mount Kailasa, the long journey is ended;
Seek then Kailasa’s hospitable care,With peaks by magic arms asunder riven,To whom, as mirror, goddesses repair,So lotus-bright his summits cloud the heaven,Like form and substance to God’s daily laughter given.
Like powder black and soft I seem to seeThine outline on the mountain slope as brightAs new-sawn tusks of stainless ivory;No eye could wink before as fair a sightAs dark-blue robes upon the Ploughman’s shoulder white.
Should Shiva throw his serpent-ring asideAnd give Gauri his hand, go thou beforeUpon the mount of joy to be their guide;Conceal within thee all thy watery storeAnd seem a terraced stairway to the jewelled floor.
I doubt not that celestial maidens sweetWith pointed bracelet gems will prick thee thereTo make of thee a shower-bath in the heat;Frighten the playful girls if they should dareTo keep thee longer, friend, with thunder’s harshest blare.
Drink where the golden lotus dots the lake;Serve Indra’s elephant as a veil to hideHis drinking; then the tree of wishing shake,Whose branches like silk garments flutter wide:With sports like these, O cloud, enjoy the mountain side
for on this mountain is the city of the Yakshas.
Then, in familiar Alaka find rest,Down whom the Ganges’ silken river swirls,Whose towers cling to her mountain lover’s breast,While clouds adorn her face like glossy curlsAnd streams of rain like strings of close-inwoven pearls.
The splendid heavenly city Alaka,
Where palaces in much may rival thee—Their ladies gay, thy lightning’s dazzling powers—Symphonic drums, thy thunder’s melody—Their bright mosaic floors, thy silver showers—Thy rainbow, paintings, and thy height, cloud-licking towers.
where the flowers which on earth blossom at different seasons, are all found in bloom the year round.
Where the autumn lotus in dear fingers shines,And lodh-flowers’ April dust on faces rare,Spring amaranth with winter jasmine twinesIn women’s braids, and summer siris fair,The rainy madder in the parting of their hair.
Here grows the magic tree which yields whatever is desired.
Where men with maids whose charm no blemish marsClimb to the open crystal balconyInlaid with flower-like sparkling of the stars,And drink the love-wine from the wishing-tree,And listen to the drums’ deep-thundering dignity.
Where maidens whom the gods would gladly wedAre fanned by breezes cool with Ganges’ sprayIn shadows that the trees of heaven spread;In golden sands at hunt-the-pearl they play,Bury their little fists, and draw them void away.
Where lovers’ passion-trembling fingers clingTo silken robes whose sashes flutter wide,The knots undone; and red-lipped women fling,Silly with shame, their rouge from side to side.Hoping in vain the flash of jewelled lamps to hide.
Where, brought to balconies’ palatial topsBy ever-blowing guides, were clouds beforeLike thee who spotted paintings with their drops;Then, touched with guilty fear, were seen no more,But scattered smoke-like through the lattice’ grated door.
Here are the stones from which drops of water ooze when the moon shines on them.
Where from the moonstones hung in nets of threadGreat drops of water trickle in the night—When the moon shines clear and thou, O cloud, art fled—To ease the languors of the women’s plightWho lie relaxed and tired in love’s embraces tight.
Here are the magic gardens of heaven.
Where lovers, rich with hidden wealth untold,Wander each day with nymphs for ever young,Enjoy the wonders that the gardens hold,The Shining Gardens, where the praise is sungOf the god of wealth by choirs with love-impassioned tongue.
Where sweet nocturnal journeys are betrayedAt sunrise by the fallen flowers from curlsThat fluttered as they stole along afraid,By leaves, by golden lotuses, by pearls,By broken necklaces that slipped from winsome girls.
Here the god of love is not seen, because of the presence of his great enemy, Shiva. Yet his absence is not severely felt.
Where the god of love neglects his bee-strung bow,Since Shiva’s friendship decks Kubera’s reign;His task is done by clever maids, for lo!Their frowning missile glances, darting plainAt lover-targets, never pass the mark in vain.
Here the goddesses have all needful ornaments. For the Mine of Sentiment declares: “Women everywhere have four kinds of ornaments—hair-ornaments, jewels, clothes, cosmetics; anything else is local.”
Where the wishing-tree yields all that might enhanceThe loveliness of maidens young and sweet:Bright garments, wine that teaches eyes to dance,And flowering twigs, and rarest gems discrete,And lac-dye fit to stain their pretty lotus-feet.
And here is the home of the unhappy Yaksha,
There, northward from the master’s palace, seeOur home, whose rainbow-gateway shines afar;And near it grows a little coral-tree,Bending ‘neath many a blossom’s clustered star,Loved by my bride as children of adoption are.
with its artificial pool;
A pool is near, to which an emerald stairLeads down, with blooming lotuses of goldWhose stalks are polished beryl; resting there,The wistful swans are glad when they beholdThine image, and forget the lake they loved of old.
its hill of sport, girdled by bright hedges, like the dark cloud girdled by the lightening;
And on the bank, a sapphire-crested hillRound which the golden plantain-hedges fit;She loves the spot; and while I marvel stillAt thee, my friend, as flashing lightnings flitAbout thine edge, with restless rapture I remember it.
its two favourite trees, which will not blossom while their mistress is grieving;
The ashoka-tree, with sweetly dancing lines,The favourite bakul-tree, are near the bowerOf amaranth-engirdled jasmine-vines;Like me, they wait to feel the winning powerOf her persuasion, ere they blossom into flower.
its tame peacock;
A golden pole is set between the pair,With crystal perch above its emerald bandsAs green as young bamboo; at sunset thereThy friend, the blue-necked peacock, rises, stands,And dances when she claps her bracelet-tinkling hands.
and its painted emblems of the god of wealth.
These are the signs—recall them o’er and o’er,My clever friend—by which the house is known,And the Conch and Lotus painted by the door:Alas! when I am far, the charm is gone—The lotus’ loveliness is lost with set of sun.
Small as the elephant cub thou must becomeFor easy entrance; rest where gems enhanceThe glory of the hill beside my home,And peep into the house with lightning-glance,But make its brightness dim as fireflies’ twinkling dance.
The Yaksha’s bride.
The supremest woman from God’s workshop gone—Young, slender; little teeth and red, red lips,Slight waist and gentle eyes of timid fawn,An idly graceful movement, generous hips,Fair bosom into which the sloping shoulder slips—
Like a bird that mourns her absent mate anewPassing these heavy days in longings keen,My girlish wife whose words are sweet and few,My second life, shall there of thee be seen—But changed like winter-blighted lotus-blooms, I ween.
Her eyes are swol’n with tears that stream unchidden;Her lips turn pale with sorrow’s burning sighs;The face that rests upon her hand is hiddenBy hanging curls, as when the glory diesOf the suffering moon pursued by thee through nightly skies.
The passion of love passes through ten stages, eight of which are suggested in this stanza and the stanzas which follow. The first stage is not indicated; it is called Exchange of Glances.
Thou first wilt see her when she seeks reliefIn worship; or, half fancying, half recalling,She draws mine image worn by absent grief;Or asks the caged, sweetly-singing starling:”Do you remember, dear, our lord? You were his darling.”
In this stanza and the preceding one is suggested the second stage: Wistfulness.
Or holds a lute on her neglected skirt,And tries to sing of me, and tries in vain;For she dries the tear-wet string with hands inert,And e’er begins, and e’er forgets again,Though she herself composed it once, the loving strain.
Here is suggested the third stage: Desire.
Or counts the months of absence yet remainingWith flowers laid near the threshold on the floor,Or tastes the bliss of hours when love was gainingThe memories recollected o’er and o’er—woman’s comforts when her lonely heart is sore.
Here is suggested the fourth stage: Wakefulness.
Such daytime labours doubtless ease the acheWhich doubly hurts her in the helpless dark;With news from me a keener joy to wake,Stand by her window in the night, and markMy sleepless darling on her pallet hard and stark.
Here is suggested the fifth stage: Emaciation.
Resting one side upon that widowed bed,Like the slender moon upon the Eastern height,So slender she, now worn with anguish dread,Passing with stifling tears the long, sad nightWhich, spent in love with me, seemed but a moment’s flight.
Here is suggested the sixth stage: Loss of Interest in Ordinary Pleasures.
On the cool, sweet moon that through the lattice flashesShe looks with the old delight, then turns awayAnd veils her eyes with water-weighted lashes,Sad as the flower that blooms in sunlight gay,But cannot wake nor slumber on a cloudy day.
Here is suggested the seventh stage: Loss of Youthful Bashfulness.
One unanointed curl still frets her cheekWhen tossed by sighs that burn her blossom-lip;And still she yearns, and still her yearnings seekThat we might be united though in sleep—Ah! Happy dreams come not to brides that ever weep.
Here is suggested the eighth stage: Absent-mindedness. For if she were not absent-minded, she would arrange the braid so as not to be annoyed by it.
Her single tight-bound braid she pushes oft—With a hand uncared for in her lonely madness—So rough it seems, from the cheek that is so soft:That braid ungarlanded since the first day’s sadness,Which I shall loose again when troubles end in gladness.
Here is suggested the ninth stage: Prostration. The tenth stage, Death, is not suggested.
The delicate body, weak and suffering,Quite unadorned and tossing to and froIn oft-renewing wretchedness, will wringEven from thee a raindrop-tear, I know—Soft breasts like thine are pitiful to others’ woe.
I know her bosom full of love for me,And therefore fancy how her soul doth grieveIn this our first divorce; it cannot beSelf-flattery that idle boastings weave—Soon shalt thou see it all, and seeing, shalt believe.
Quivering of the eyelids
Her hanging hair prevents the twinkling shineOf fawn-eyes that forget their glances sly,Lost to the friendly aid of rouge and wine—Yet the eyelids quiver when thou drawest nighAs water-lilies do when fish go scurrying by.
and trembling of the limbs are omens of speedy union with the beloved.
And limbs that thrill to thee thy welcome prove,Limbs fair as stems in some rich plantain-bower,No longer showing marks of my rough love,Robbed of their cooling pearls by fatal power,The limbs which I was wont to soothe in passion’s hour.
But if she should be lost in happy sleep,Wait, bear with her, grant her but three hours’ grace,And thunder not, O cloud, but let her keepThe dreaming vision of her lover’s face—Loose not too soon the imagined knot of that embrace.
As thou wouldst wake the jasmine’s budding wonder,Wake her with breezes blowing mistily;Conceal thy lightnings, and with words of thunderSpeak boldly, though she answer haughtilyWith eyes that fasten on the lattice and on thee.
The cloud is instructed how to announce himself
“Thou art no widow; for thy husband’s friendIs come to tell thee what himself did say—A cloud with low, sweet thunder-tones that sendAll weary wanderers hastening on their way,Eager to loose the braids of wives that lonely stay.”
in such a way as to win the favour of his auditor.
Say this, and she will welcome thee indeed,Sweet friend, with a yearning heart’s tumultuous beatingAnd joy-uplifted eyes; and she will heedThe after message: such a friendly greetingIs hardly less to woman’s heart than lovers’ meeting.
The message itself.
Thus too, my king, I pray of thee to speak,Remembering kindness is its own reward;”Thy lover lives, and from the holy peakAsks if these absent days good health afford—Those born to pain must ever use this opening word.
With body worn as thine, with pain as deep,With tears and ceaseless longings answering thine,With sighs more burning than the sighs that keepThy lips ascorch—doomed far from thee to pine,He too doth weave the fancies that thy soul entwine.
He used to love, when women friends were near,To whisper things he might have said aloudThat he might touch thy face and kiss thine ear;Unheard and even unseen, no longer proud,He now must send this yearning message by a cloud.
According to the treatise called “Virtues Banner,” a lover has four solaces in separation: first, looking at objects that remind him of her he loves;
‘I see thy limbs in graceful-creeping vines,Thy glances in the eyes of gentle deer,Thine eyebrows in the ripple’s dancing lines,Thy locks in plumes, thy face in moonlight clear—Ah, jealous! But the whole sweet image is not here.
second, painting a picture of her;
And when I paint that loving jealousyWith chalk upon the rock, and my caressAs at thy feet I lie, I cannot seeThrough tears that to mine eyes unbidden press—So stern a fate denies a painted happiness.
third, dreaming of her;
And when I toss mine arms to clasp thee tight,Mine own though but in visions of a dream—They who behold the oft-repeated sight,The kind divinities of wood and stream,Let fall great pearly tears that on the blossoms gleam.
fourth, touching something which she has touched.
Himalaya’s breeze blows gently from the north,Unsheathing twigs upon the deodarAnd sweet with sap that it entices forth—I embrace it lovingly; it came so far,Perhaps it touched thee first, my life’s unchanging star!
Oh, might the long, long night seem short to me!Oh, might the day his hourly tortures hide!Such longings for the things that cannot be,Consume my helpless heart, sweet-glancing bride,In burning agonies of absence from thy side.
The bride is besought not to lose heart at hearing of her lover’s wretchedness,
Yet much reflection, dearest, makes me strong,Strong with an inner strength; nor shouldst thou feelDespair at what has come to us of wrong;Who has unending woe or lasting weal?Our fates move up and down upon a circling wheel.
and to remember that the curse has its appointed end, when the rainy season is over and the year of exile fulfilled. Vishnu spends the rainy months in sleep upon the back of the cosmic serpent Shesha.
When Vishnu rises from his serpent bedThe curse is ended; close thine eyelids tightAnd wait till only four months more are sped;Then we shall taste each long-desired delightThrough nights that the full autumn moon illumines bright.
Then is added a secret which, as it could not possibly be known to a third person, assures her that the cloud is a true messenger.
And one thing more: thou layest once asleep,Clasping my neck, then wakening with a scream;And when I wondered why, thou couldst but weepA while, and then a smile began to beam:”Rogue! Rogue! I saw thee with another girl in dream.”
This memory shows me cheerful, gentle wife;Then let no gossip thy suspicions move:They say the affections strangely forfeit lifeIn separation, but in truth they proveToward the absent dear, a growing bulk of tenderest love.'”
The Yaksha then begs the cloud to return with a message of comfort.
Console her patient heart, to breaking fullIn our first separation; having spoken,Fly from the mountain ploughed by Shiva’s bull;Make strong with message and with tender tokenMy life, so easily, like morning jasmines, broken.
I hope, sweet friend, thou grantest all my suit,Nor read refusal in thy solemn air;When thirsty birds complain, thou givest muteThe rain from heaven: such simple hearts are rare,Whose only answer is fulfilment of the prayer.
and dismisses him, with a prayer for his welfare.
Thus, though I pray unworthy, answer meFor friendship’s sake, or pity’s, magnifiedBy the sight of my distress; then wander freeIn rainy loveliness, and ne’er abideOne moment’s separation from thy lightning bride.