Is eager gaze the sovereign of the skies
looked full on Káma with his thousand eyes:
E’en such a gaze as trembling suppliants bend,
When danger threatens, on a mighty friend.
Close by his side, where Indra bade him rest,
The Love-God sate, and thus his lord addressed:
‘All-knowing Indra, deign, my Prince, to tell
Thy heart’s desire in earth, or heaven, or hell:
Double the favour, mighty sovereign, thou
Hast thought on Káma, O, command him now:
Who angers thee by toiling for the prize,
By penance, prayer, or holy sacrifice?
What mortal being dost thou count thy foe?
Speak, I will tame him with my darts and bow.
Has some one feared the endless change of birth,
And sought the path that leads the soul from earth?
Slave to a glancing eye thy foe shall bow,
And own the witchery of a woman’s brow;
E’en though the object of thine envious rage
Were taught high wisdom by the immortal sage,
With billowy passions will I whelm his soul,
Like rushing waves that spurn the bank’s control.
Or has the ripe full beauty of a spouse,
Too fondly faithful to her bridal vows,
Ravished thy spirit from thee? Thine, all thine
Around thy neck her loving arms shall twine.
Has thy love, jealous of another’s charms,
Spurned thee in wrath when flying to her arms?
I’ll rack her yielding bosom with such pain,
Soon shall she be all love and warmth again,
And wildly fly in fevered haste to rest
Her aching heart close, close to thy dear breast.
Lay, Indra, lay thy threatening bolt aside:
My gentle darts shall tame the haughtiest pride,
And all that war with heaven and thee shall know
The magic influence of thy Káma’s bow;
For woman’s curling lip shall bow them down,
Fainting in terror at her threatening frown.
Flowers are my arms, mine only warrior Spring,
Yet in thy favour am I strong, great King.
What can their strength who draw the bow avail
Against my matchless power when I assail?
Strong is the Trident-bearing God, yet he,
The mighty Śiva, e’en, must yield to me.’
Then Indra answered with a dawning smile,
Resting his foot upon a stool the while:
‘Dear God of Love, thou truly hast displayed
The power unrivalled of thy promised aid.
My hope is all in thee: my weapons are
The thunderbolt and thou, more mighty far.
But vain, all vain the bolt of heaven to fright
Those holy Saints whom penance arms aright.
Thy power exceeds all bound: thou, only thou,
All-conquering Deity, canst help me now!
Full well I know thy nature, and assign
This toil to thee, which needs a strength like thine:
As on that snake alone will Krishṇa rest,
That bears the earth upon his haughty crest.
Our task is well-nigh done: thy boasted dart
Has power to conquer even Śiva’s heart.
Hear what the Gods, oppressed with woe, would fain
From mighty Śiva through thine aid obtain.
He may beget—and none in heaven but he—A
chief to lead our hosts to victory.
But all his mind with holiest lore is fraught,
Bent on the Godhead is his every thought.
Thy darts, O Love, alone can reach him now,
And lure his spirit from the hermit vow.
Go, seek Himálaya’s Mountain-child, and aid
With all thy loveliest charms the lovely maid,
So may she please his fancy: only she
May wed with Śiva: such the fixt decree.
E’en now my bands of heavenly maids have spied
Fair Umá dwelling by the Hermit’s side.
There by her father’s bidding rests she still,
Sweet minister, upon the cold bleak hill.
Go, Káma, go! perform this great emprise,
And free from fear the Rulers of the Skies;
We need thy favour, as the new-sown grain
Calls for the influence of the gentle rain.
Go, Káma, go! thy flowery darts shall be
Crowned with success o’er this great deity.
Yea, and thy task is e’en already done,
For praise and glory are that instant won
When a bold heart dares manfully essay
The deed which others shrink from in dismay.
Gods are thy suppliants, Káma, and on thee
Depends the triple world’s security.
No cruel deed will stain thy flowery bow:
With all thy gentlest, mightiest valour, go!
And now, Disturber of the spirit, see
Spring, thy beloved, will thy comrade be,
And gladly aid thee Śiva’s heart to tame:
None bids the whispering Wind, and yet he fans the flame.’
He spake, and Káma bowed his bright head down,
And took his bidding like a flowery crown.
Above his wavy curls great Indra bent,
And fondly touched his soldier ere he went,
With that hard hand—but, O, how gentle now—
That fell so heavy on his elephant’s brow.
Then for that snow-crowned hill he turned away,
Where all alone the heavenly Hermit lay.
His fearful Rati and his comrade Spring
Followed the guidance of Love’s mighty king.
There will he battle in unwonted strife,
Return a conqueror or be reft of life.
How fair was Spring! To fill the heart with love,
And lure the Hermit from his thoughts above,
In that pure grove he grew so heavenly bright
That Káma’s envy wakened at the sight.
Now the bright Day-God turned his burning ray
To where Kuvera holds his royal sway,
While the sad South in whispering breezes sighed
And mourned his absence like a tearful bride.
Then from its stem the red Aśoka threw
Full buds and flowerets of celestial hue,
Nor waited for the maiden’s touch, the sweet
beloved pressure of her tinkling feet.
There grew Love’s arrow, his dear mango spray,
Winged with young leaves to speed its airy way,
And at the call of Spring the wild bees came,
Grouping the syllables of Káma’s name.
How sighed the spirit o’er that loveliest flower
That boasts no fragrance to enrich its dower!
For Nature, wisest mother, oft prefers
To part more fairly those good gifts of hers.
There from the tree Palása blossoms spread,
Curved like the crescent moon, their rosiest red,
With opening buds that looked as if young Spring
Had pressed his nails there in his dallying:
Sweet wanton Spring, to whose enchanting face
His flowery Tilaka gave fairer grace:
Who loves to tint his lip, the mango spray,
With the fresh colours of the early day,
And powder its fine red with many a bee
That sips the oozing nectar rapturously.
The cool gale speeding o’er the shady lawns
Shook down the sounding leaves, while startled fawns
Ran wildly at the viewless foe, all blind
With pollen wafted by the fragrant wind.
Sweet was the Köil’s voice, his neck still red
With mango buds on which he late had fed:
Twas as the voice of Love to bid the dame
Spurn her cold pride, nor quench the gentle flame.
What though the heat has stained the tints that dyed
With marvellous bloom the heavenly minstrel’s bride?
Neither her smile nor sunny glances fail:
Bright is her lip, although her check be pale
E’en the pure hermits owned the secret power
Of warm Spring coming in unwonted hour,
While Love’s delightful witchery gently stole
With strong sweet influence o’er the saintly soul.
On came the Archer-God, and at his side
The timid Rati, his own darling bride,
While breathing nature showed how deep it felt,
At passion’s glowing touch, the senses melt.
For there in eager love the wild bee dipp’d
In the dark flower-cup where his partner sipp’d.
Here in the shade the hart his horn declined,
And, while joy closed her eyes, caressed the hind.
There from her trunk the elephant had poured
A lily-scented stream to cool her lord,
While the fond love-bird by the silver flood
Gave to his mate the tasted lotus bud.
Full in his song the minstrel stayed to sip
The heavenlier nectar of his darling’s lip.
Pure pearls of heat had late distained the dye,
But flowery wine was sparkling in her eye.
How the young creeper’s beauty charmed the view,
Fair as the fairest maid, as playful too!
Here some bright blossoms, lovelier than the rest,
In full round beauty matched her swelling breast.
Here in a thin bright line, some delicate spray,
Red as her lip, ravished the soul away.
And then how loving, and how close they clung
To the tall trees that fondly o’er them hung!
Bright, heavenly wantons poured the witching strain,
Quiring for Śiva’s ear, but all in vain.
No charmer’s spell may check the firm control
Won by the holy o’er the impassioned soul.
The Hermit’s servant hasted to the door:
In his left hand a branch of gold he bore.
He touched his lip for silence: ‘Peace! be still!
Nor mar the quiet of this holy hill.’
He spake: no dweller of the forest stirred,
No wild bee murmured, hushed was every bird.
Still and unmoved, as in a picture stood
All life that breathed within the waving wood.
As some great monarch when he goes to war
Shuns the fierce aspect of a baleful star,
So Káma hid him from the Hermit’s eye,
And sought a path that led unnoticed by,
Where tangled flowers and clustering trailers spread
Their grateful canopy o’er Śiva’s head.
Bent on his hardy enterprise, with awe
The Three-eyed Lord—great Penitent—he saw.
There sate the God beneath a pine-tree’s shade,
Where on a mound a tiger’s skin was laid.
Absorbed in holiest thought, erect and still,
The Hermit rested on the gentle hill.
His shoulders drooping down, each foot was bent
Beneath the body of the Penitent.
With open palms the hands were firmly pressed,
As though a lotus lay upon his breast.
A double rosary in each ear, behind
With wreathing serpents were his locks entwined.
His coat of hide shone blacker to the view
Against his neck of brightly beaming blue.
How wild the look, how terrible the frown
Of his dark eyebrows bending sternly down!
How fiercely glared his eyes’ unmoving blaze
Fixed in devotion’s meditating gaze:
Calm as a full cloud resting on a hill,
A waveless lake when every breeze is still,
Like a torch burning in a sheltered spot,
So still was he, unmoving, breathing not.
So full the stream of marvellous glory poured
from the bright forehead of that mighty Lord,
Pale seemed the crescent moon upon his head,
And slenderer than a slender lotus thread.
At all the body’s nine-fold gates of sense
He had barred in the pure Intelligence,
To ponder on the Soul which sages call
Eternal Spirit, highest, over all.
How sad was Káma at the awful sight,
How failed his courage in a swoon of fright!
As near and nearer to the God he came
Whom wildest thought could never hope to tame,
Unconsciously his hands, in fear and woe,
Dropped the sweet arrows and his flowery bow.
But Umá came with all her maiden throng,
And Káma’s fainting heart again was strong;
Bright flowers of spring, in every lovely hue,
Around the lady’s form rare beauty threw.
Some clasped her neck like strings of purest pearls,
Some shot their glory through her wavy curls.
Bending her graceful head as half-oppressed
With swelling charms even too richly blest,
Fancy might deem that beautiful young maiden
Some slender tree with its sweet flowers o’erladen.
From time to time her gentle hand replaced
The flowery girdle slipping from her waist:
It seemed that Love could find no place more fair,
So hung his newest, dearest bowstring there.
A greedy bee kept hovering round to sip
The fragrant nectar of her blooming lip.
She closed her eyes in terror of the thief,
And beat him from her with a lotus leaf.
The angry curl of Rati’s lip confessed
The shade of envy that stole o’er her breast.
Through Káma’s soul fresh hope and courage flew,
As that sweet vision blessed his eager view.
So bright, so fair, so winning soft was she,
Who could not conquer in such company?
Now Umá came, fair maid, his destined bride,
With timid steps approaching Śiva’s side.
In contemplation will he brood no more,
He sees the Godhead, and his task is o’er.
He breathes, he moves, the earth begins to rock,
The Snake, her bearer, trembling at the shock.
Due homage then his own dear servant paid,
And told him of the coming of the maid.
He learnt his Master’s pleasure by the nod,
And led Himálaya’s daughter to the God.
Before his feet her young companions spread
Fresh leaves and blossoms as they bowed the head,
While Umá stooped so low, that from her hair
Dropped the bright flower that starred the midnight there.
To him whose ensign bears the bull she bent,
Till each spray fell, her ear’s rich ornament.
‘Sweet maid,’ cried Śiva, ‘surely thou shalt be
Blessed with a husband who loves none but thee!’
Her fear was banished, and her hope was high:
A God had spoken, and Gods cannot lie.
Rash as some giddy moth that wooes the flame,
Love seized the moment, and prepared to aim.
Close by the daughter of the Mountain-King,
He looked on Śiva, and he eyed his string.
While with her radiant hand fair Umá gave
A rosary, of the lotuses that lave
Their beauties in the heavenly Gangá’s wave,
And the great Three-Eyed God was fain to take
The offering for the well-loved suppliant’s sake,
On his bright bow Love placed the unerring dart,
The soft beguiler of the stricken heart.
Like the Moon’s influence on the sea at rest,
Came passion stealing o’er the Hermit’s breast,
While on the maiden’s lip that mocked the dye
Of ripe red fruit, he bent his melting eye.
And oh! how showed the lady’s love for him,
The heaving bosom, and each quivering limb!
Like young Kadambas, when the leaf-buds swell,
At the warm touch of Spring they love so well.
But still, with downcast eyes, she sought the ground,
And durst not turn their burning glances round.
Then with strong effort, Śiva lulled to rest,
The storm of passion in his troubled breast,
And seeks, with angry eyes that round him roll,
Whence came the tempest o’er his tranquil soul.
He looked, and saw the bold young archer stand,
His bow bent ready in his skilful hand,
Drawn towards the eye; his shoulder well depressed,
And the left foot thrown forward as a rest.
Then was the Hermit-God to madness lashed,
Then from his eye red flames of fury flashed.
So changed the beauty of that glorious brow,
Scarce could the gaze support its terror now.
Hark! heavenly voices sighing through the air:
‘Be calm, great Śiva, O be calm and spare!’
Alas! that angry eye’s resistless flashes
Have scorched the gentle King of Love to ashes!
But Rati saw not, for she swooned away;
Senseless and breathless on the earth she lay;
Sleep while thou mayst, unconscious lady, sleep!
Soon wilt thou rise to sigh and wake to weep.
E’en as the red bolt rives the leafy bough,
So Śiva smote the hinderer of his vow;
Then fled with all his train to some lone place
Far from the witchery of a female face.
Sad was Himaláya’s daughter: grief and shame
O’er the young spirit of the maiden came:
Grief—for she loved, and all her love was vain;
Shame—she was spurned before her youthful train.
She turned away, with fear and woe oppressed,
To hide her sorrow on her father’s breast;
Then, in the fond arms of her pitying sire,
Closed her sad eyes for fear of Śiva’s ire.
Still in his grasp the weary maiden lay,
While he sped swiftly on his homeward way.
Thus have I seen the elephant stoop to drink,
And lift a lily from the fountain’s brink.
Thus, when he rears his mighty head on high,
Across his tusks I’ve seen that lily lie.