Sacred Texts  Hinduism  F.W. Bain  Index  Previous  Next 

p. 53


THEN all night long, he lay tossing on his bed of leaves. And in the morning he rose before the sun, and went out and stood before the pool, and watched the parrots screaming in the ashwattha tree, with beaks that were tipped with the colour of the dawn: till he saw the chétí coming towards him with twinkling feet, holding an ashóka flower in her hand. And she seemed in his eyes like a draught of the nectar of love longing incarnate in a feminine form x. And she came up to the King and said: My mistress sends her lord, by these unworthy hands, a flower, and if his slumbers have been sweet, it is well with her.

Then the King said: Dear chétí, can he sleep well, whose night is passed in longing for the morn? Alas! why is it not always dawn? for see, at dawn, how all the lotuses turn golden in the sun, and thou art here. Could not Maheshwara of his omnipotence strike Súrya with his trident, and fix him

p. 54

in the sky, over the eastern mountain: so would the lotuses be always golden, and thou wouldst be always here. Then she said: O King, they come to evil ends who long for the impossible. As, long ago, did he, who coveted the Spinners of the Sun. For once there was a gambler, who having lost everything at play was wandering about the world, and by chance came upon an Apsaras asleep. But as he ran at her, she woke up, and sprang into the air and vanished: but he caught her by the foot, and she left her golden sandal in his hand. Then she began to wheedle and cajole him, saying: Give me back my sandal, for without it I cannot go to Indra's hall, and to-night I have to dance there without fail. Then he said: I will give it back only if thou wilt carry me to heaven, and let me see thee dancing. So finding no escape, the Apsaras carried him to heaven, hidden in a flower in her ear. And he saw all the Apsarases dancing in golden robes, like a bed of golden lotuses all waving in the wind. Then filled with greed, he said to her, whispering into her ear: Whence come your golden robes? And she said: They are made for us by the Spinners of the Sun, who dwell beyond the eastern mountain. And every night they sit and spin the hair of his old rays into

p. 55

gold, combing it out of his head, after he has washed in the lakes of liquid amethyst that lie hidden in that mountain, where it is always dawn, and never either dusk, or night, or noon. But when the gambler heard her, insatiable desire filled his greedy soul. And he began to shout and bawl: Hey! for the gold: hey! for the Spinners. And Indra said: Who is that making discords in heaven, and throwing out the dancers? So they hunted about, and found him hidden in the flower in her ear. Then Indra said to Mátali: Turn this rascal out of heaven, and with him the impudent Apsaras who has dared to smuggle him into heaven in her ear. So Mátali threw them out. But the gambler, not being a sky-goer, fell down to earth and was broken to pieces.

So King, beware! lest by coveting the impossible thou shouldst lose thy heaven altogether. And she laid the ashóka flower at the King's feet, and turned to go. Then the King said: Alas! dear chétí, canst thou not stay longer? And she said: No. Then he said: Then canst thou not come twice or three times in the day? For the days are long, and thou art here but for a moment: and between every two days there is a night. Then she said: O King, covet not the impossible: for where my mistress is,

p. 56

[paragraph continues] I must be too: and now I have duties to perform, And she went away through the trees, looking back over her shoulder at the King, till she disappeared. Then the King stooped and picked up the flower. And he said: Ashóka, thou dost torture me exactly like the provoking chétí who conveyed thee: for thy beauty is such, that I cannot bear to throw thee away, and yet thou dost not cease to remind me of my obligation to her mistress. And he went back to the temple, with the ashóka in his hand, and the image of Madhupamanjarí in his heart.


53:x These are the expressions that are the despair of the translator. So simple, so beautiful, so pithy in the original: so roundabout and clumsy in a language whose genius is altogether different (múrtámaut-sukyamádanám).

Next: Palásha