The Seasons is an unpretentious poem, describing in six short cantos the six seasons into which the Hindus divide the year. The title is perhaps a little misleading, as the description is not objective, but deals with the feelings awakened by each season in a pair of young lovers. Indeed, the poem might be called a Lover’s Calendar. Kalidasa’s authorship has been doubted, without very cogent argument. The question is not of much interest, as The Seasons would neither add greatly to his reputation nor subtract from it.
The whole poem contains one hundred and forty-four stanzas, or something less than six hundred lines of verse. There follow a few stanzas selected from each canto.
Pitiless heat from heaven poursBy day, but nights are cool;Continual bathing gently lowersThe water in the pool;The evening brings a charming peace:For summer-time is hereWhen love that never knows surcease,Is less imperious, dear.
Yet love can never fall asleep;For he is waked to-dayBy songs that all their sweetness keepAnd lutes that softly play,By fans with sandal-water wetThat bring us drowsy rest,By strings of pearls that gently fretFull many a lovely breast.
The sunbeams like the fires are hotThat on the altar wake;The enmity is quite forgotOf peacock and of snake;The peacock spares his ancient foe,For pluck and hunger fail;He hides his burning head belowThe shadow of his tail.
Beneath the garland of the raysThat leave no corner cool,The water vanishes in hazeAnd leaves a muddy pool;The cobra does not hunt for foodNor heed the frog at allWho finds beneath the serpent’s hoodA sheltering parasol.
Dear maiden of the graceful song,To you may summer’s powerBring moonbeams clear and garlands longAnd breath of trumpet-flower,Bring lakes that countless lilies dot,Refreshing water-sprays,Sweet friends at evening, and a spotCool after burning days.
The rain advances like a kingIn awful majesty;Hear, dearest, how his thunders ringLike royal drums, and seeHis lightning-banners wave; a cloudFor elephant he rides,And finds his welcome from the crowdOf lovers and of brides.
The clouds, a mighty army, marchWith drumlike thunderingAnd stretch upon the rainbow’s archThe lightning’s flashing string;The cruel arrows of the rainSmite them who love, apartFrom whom they love, with stinging pain,And pierce them to the heart.
The forest seems to show its gleeIn flowering nipa plants;In waving twigs of many a treeWind-swept, it seems to dance;Its ketak-blossom’s opening sheathIs like a smile put onTo greet the rain’s reviving breath,Now pain and heat are gone.
To you, dear, may the cloudy timeBring all that you desire,Bring every pleasure, perfect, prime,To set a bride on fire;May rain whereby life wakes and shinesWhere there is power of life,The unchanging friend of clinging vines,Shower blessings on my wife.
The autumn comes, a maiden fairIn slenderness and grace,With nodding rice-stems in her hairAnd lilies in her face.In flowers of grasses she is clad;And as she moves along,Birds greet her with their cooing gladLike bracelets’ tinkling song.
A diadem adorns the nightOf multitudinous stars;Her silken robe is white moonlight,Set free from cloudy bars;And on her face (the radiant moon)Bewitching smiles are shown:She seems a slender maid, who soonWill be a woman grown.
Over the rice-fields, laden plantsAre shivering to the breeze;While in his brisk caresses danceThe blossom-burdened trees;He ruffles every lily-pondWhere blossoms kiss and part,And stirs with lover’s fancies fondThe young man’s eager heart.
The bloom of tenderer flowers is pastAnd lilies droop forlorn,For winter-time is come at last,Rich with its ripened corn;Yet for the wealth of blossoms lostSome hardier flowers appearThat bid defiance to the frostOf sterner days, my dear.
The vines, remembering summer, shiverIn frosty winds, and gainA fuller life from mere endeavourTo live through all that pain;Yet in the struggle and acquistThey turn as pale and wanAs lonely women who have missedKnown love, now lost and gone.
Then may these winter days show forthTo you each known delight,Bring all that women count as worthPure happiness and bright;While villages, with bustling cry,Bring home the ripened corn,And herons wheel through wintry sky,Forget sad thoughts forlorn.
Now, dearest, lend a heedful earAnd listen while I singDelights to every maiden dear,The charms of early spring:When earth is dotted with the heapsOf corn, when heron-screamIs rare but sweet, when passion leapsAnd paints a livelier dream.
When all must cheerfully applaudA blazing open fire;Or if they needs must go abroad,The sun is their desire;When everybody hopes to findThe frosty chill allayedBy garments warm, a window-blindShut, and a sweet young maid.
Then may the days of early springFor you be rich and fullWith love’s proud, soft philanderingAnd many a candy-pull,With sweetest rice and sugar-cane:And may you float aboveThe absent grieving and the painOf separated love.
A stalwart soldier comes, the spring,Who bears the bow of Love;And on that bow, the lustrous stringIs made of bees, that moveWith malice as they speed the shaftOf blossoming mango-flowerAt us, dear, who have never laughedAt love, nor scorned his power.
Their blossom-burden weights the trees;The winds in fragrance move;The lakes are bright with lotuses,The women bright with love;The days are soft, the evenings clearAnd charming; everythingThat moves and lives and blossoms, dear,Is sweeter in the spring.
The groves are beautifully brightFor many and many a mileWith jasmine-flowers that are as whiteAs loving woman’s smile:The resolution of a saintMight well be tried by this;Far more, young hearts that fancies paintWith dreams of loving bliss