The wise Sumantra, thus addressed, Unfolded at the king's behest The plan the lords in council laid To draw the hermit from the shade: 'The priest, amid the lordly crowd, To Lomapád thus spoke aloud: 'Hear, King, the plot our thoughts have framed, A harmless trick by all unblamed. Far from the world that hermit's child Lives lonely in the distant wild: A stranger to the joys of sense, His bliss is pain and abstinence; And all unknown are women yet To him, a holy anchoret. The gentle passions we will wake That with resistless influence shake The hearts of men; and he Drawn by enchantment strong and sweet Shall follow from his lone retreat, And come and visit thee. Let ships be formed with utmost care That artificial trees may bear, And sweet fruit deftly made; Let goodly raiment, rich and rare, And flowers, and many a bird be there Beneath the leafy shade. Upon the ships thus decked a band Of young and lovely girls shall stand, Rich in each charm that wakes desire, And eyes that burn with amorous fire; Well skilled to sing, and play, and dance And ply their trade with smile and glance Let these, attired in hermits' dress, Betake them to the wilderness, And bring the boy of life austere A voluntary captive here.' He ended; and the king agreed, By the priest's counsel won. And all the ministers took heed To see his bidding done. In ships with wondrous art prepared Away the lovely women fared, And soon beneath the shade they stood Of the wild, lonely, dreary wood. And there the leafy cot they found Where dwelt the devotee, And looked with eager eyes around The hermit's son to see. Still, of Vibhándak sore afraid, They hid behind the creepers' shade. But when by careful watch they knew The elder saint was far from view, With bolder steps they ventured nigh To catch the youthful hermit's eye. Then all the damsels, blithe and gay, At various games began to play. They tossed the flying ball about With dance and song and merry shout, And moved, their scented tresses bound With wreaths, in mazy motion round. Some girls as if by love possessed, Sank to the earth in feigned unrest, Up starting quickly to pursue Their intermitted game anew. It was a lovely sight to see Those fair ones, as they played, While fragrant robes were floating free, And bracelets clashing in their glee A pleasant tinkling made. The anklet's chime, the Koïl's 1 cry With music filled the place As 'twere some city in the sky Which heavenly minstrels grace. With each voluptuous art they strove To win the tenant of the grove, And with their graceful forms inspire His modest soul with soft desire. With arch of brow, with beck and smile, With every passion-waking wile Of glance and lotus hand, With all enticements that excite The longing for unknown delight Which boys in vain withstand. Forth came the hermit's son to view The wondrous sight to him so new, And gazed in rapt surprise, For from his natal hour till then On woman or the sons of men He ne'er had cast his eyes. He saw them with their waists so slim, With fairest shape and faultless limb, In variegated robes arrayed, And sweetly singing as they played. Near and more near the hermit drew, And watched them at their game, And stronger still the impulse grew To question whence they came. They marked the young ascetic gaze With curious eye and wild amaze, And sweet the long-eyed damsels sang, And shrill their merry laughter rang, Then came they nearer to his side, And languishing with passion cried: 'Whose son, O youth, and who art thou, Come suddenly to join us now? And why dost thou all lonely dwell In the wild wood? We pray thee, tell, We wish to know thee, gentle youth; Come, tell us, if thou wilt, the truth.' He gazed upon that sight he ne'er Had seen before, of girls so fair, And out of love a longing rose His sire and lineage to disclose: 'My father,' thus he made reply, 'Is Kas'yap's son, a saint most high, Vibhándak styled; from him I came, And Rishyaring he calls my name, Our hermit cot is near this place: Come thither, O ye fair of face; There be it mine, with honour due, Ye gentle youths, to welcome you.' They heard his speech, and gave consent, And gladly to his cottage went. Vibhándak's son received them well Beneath the shelter of his cell With guest-gift, water for their feet, And woodland fruit and roots to eat, They smiled, and spoke sweet words like these, Delighted with his courtesies: 'We too have goodly fruit in store, Grown on the trees that shade our door; Come, if thou wilt, kind Hermit, haste The produce of our grove to taste; And let, O good Ascetic, first This holy water quench thy thirst.' They spoke, and gave him comfits sweet Prepared ripe fruits to counterfeit; And many a dainty cake beside And luscious mead their stores supplied. The seeming fruits, in taste and look, The unsuspecting hermit took, For, strange to him, their form beguiled The dweller in the lonely wild. Then round his neck fair arms were flung, And there the laughing damsels clung, And pressing nearer and more near With sweet lips whispered at his ear; While rounded limb and swelling breast The youthful hermit softly pressed. The pleasing charm of that strange bowl, The touch of a tender limb, Over his yielding spirit stole And sweetly vanquished him. But vows, they said, must now be paid; They bade the boy farewell, And, of the aged saint afraid, Prepared to leave the dell. With ready guile they told him where Their hermit dwelling lay: Then, lest the sire should find them there, Sped by wild paths away. They fled and left him there alone By longing love possessed; And with a heart no more his own He roamed about distressed. The aged saint came home, to find The hermit boy distraught, Revolving in his troubled mind One solitary thought. 'Why dost thou not, my son,' he cried, 'Thy due obeisance pay? Why do I see thee in the tide Of whelming thought to-day? A devotee should never wear A mien so sad and strange. Come, quickly, dearest child, declare The reason of the change.' And Rishyas'ring, when questioned thus, Made answer in this wise: 'O sire, there came to visit us Some men with lovely eyes. About my neck soft arms they wound And kept me tightly held To tender breasts so soft and round, That strangely heaved and swelled. They sing more sweetly as they dance Than e'er I heard till now, And play with many a sidelong glance And arching of the brow.' 'My son,' said he, 'thus giants roam Where holy hermits are, And wander round their peaceful home Their rites austere to mar. I charge thee, thou must never lay Thy trust in them, dear boy: They seek thee only to betray, And woo but to destroy.' Thus having warned him of his foes That night at home he spent. And when the morrow's sun arose Forth to the forest went. But Rishyas'ring with eager pace Sped forth and hurried to the place Where he those visitants had seen Of daintly waist and charming mien. When from afar they saw the son Of Saint Vibhándak toward them run, To meet the hermit boy they hied, And hailed him with a smile, and cried: 'O come, we pray, dear lord, behold Our lovely home of which we told Due honour there to thee we'll pay, And speed thee on thy homeward way.' Pleased with the gracious words they said He followed where the damsels led. As with his guides his steps he bent, That Bráhman high of worth, A flood of rain from heaven was sent That gladdened all the earth. Vibhándak took his homeward road, And wearied by the heavy load Of roots and woodland fruit he bore Entered at last his cottage door. Fain for his son he looked around, But desolate the cell he found. He stayed not then to bathe his feet, Though fainting with the toil and heat, But hurried forth and roamed about Calling the boy with cry and shout, He searched the wood, but all in vain; Nor tidings of his son could gain. One day beyond the forest's bound The wandering saint a village found, And asked the swains and neatherds there Who owned the land so rich and fair, With all the hamlets of the plain, And herds of kine and fields of grain. They listened to the hermit's words, And all the guardians of the herds, With suppliant hands together pressed, This answer to the saint addressed: The Angas' lord who bears the name Of Lomapád, renowned by fame, Bestowed these hamlets with their kine And all their riches, as a sign Of grace, on Rishyas'ring: and he Vibhándak's son is said to be.' The hermit with exulting breast The mighty will of fate confessed, By meditation's eye discerned; And cheerful to his home returned. A stately ship, at early morn, The hermit's son away had borne. Loud roared the clouds, as on he sped, The sky grew blacker overhead; Till, as he reached the royal town, A mighty flood of rain came down. By the great rain the monarch's mind The coming of his guest divined. To meet the honoured youth he went, And low to earth his head he bent. With his own priest to lead the train, He gave the gift high guests obtain. And sought, with all who dwelt within The city walls, his grace to win. He fed him with the daintiest fare, He served him with unceasing care, And ministered with anxious eyes Lest anger in his breast should rise; And gave to be the Bráhman's bride His own fair daughter, lotus-eyed. Thus loved and honoured by the king, The glorious Bráhman Rishyas'ring Passed in that royal town his life With S'ántá his beloved wife.' 16:1 The Koïl or kokila (Cuculus Indicus) as the harbinger of spring and love is a universal favourite with Indian poets. His voice when first heard in a glorious spring morning is not unpleasant, but becomes in the hot season intolerably wearisome to European ears.
Table of Contents