The Little Clay Cart, by Shudraka, tr. Arthur William Ryder, , at sacred-texts.com
[Enter, with a cloak in his hand, Maitreya.]
YOU must invite some other Brahman. I am busy." And yet I really ought to be seeking invitations from a stranger. Oh, what a wretched state of affairs! When good Chārudatta was still wealthy, I used to eat my fill of the most deliciously fragrant sweetmeats, prepared day and night with the greatest of care. I would sit at the door of the courtyard, where I was surrounded by hundreds of dishes, and there, like a painter with his paint-boxes, I would simply touch them with my fingers and thrust them aside. I would stand chewing my cud like a bull in the city market. And now he is so poor that I have to run here, there, and everywhere, and come home, like the pigeons, only to roost. Now here is this jasmine-scented cloak, which Chārudatta's good friend Jūrnavriddha has sent him. He bade me give it to Chārudatta, as soon as he had finished his devotions. So now I will look for Chārudatta. [He walks about and looks around him.] Chārudatta has finished his devotions, and here he comes with an offering for the divinities of the house.
[Enter Chārudatta as described, and Radanikā.]
Chārudatta. [Looking up and sighing wearily.]
[He walks about very slowly and seats himself.]
Maitreya. Chārudatta is here. I must go and speak to him. [Approaching.] My greetings to you. May happiness be yours.
Chārudatta. Ah, it is my constant friend Maitreya. You are very welcome, my friend. Pray be seated.
Maitreya. Thank you. [He seats himself.] Well, comrade, here is a jasmine-scented cloak which your good friend Jūrnavriddha has sent. He bade me give it you as soon as you had finished your devotions. [He presents the cloak. Chārudatta takes it and remains sunk in thought.] Well, what are you thinking about?
Chārudatta. My good friend,
Maitreya. Well, which would you rather, be dead or be poor?
Chārudatta. Ah, my friend,
Maitreya. My dear friend, be not thus cast down. Your wealth has been conveyed to them you love, and like the moon, after she has yielded her nectar to the gods, your waning fortunes win an added charm.
Chārudatta. Comrade, I do not grieve for my ruined fortunes. But
As flitting bees, the season oer,
Desert the elephant, whose store
Of ichor 1 spent, attracts no more.12
Maitreya. Oh, confound the money! It is a trifle not worth thinking about. It is like a cattle-boy in the woods afraid of wasps; it doesn't stay anywhere where it is used for food.
Chārud. Believe me, friend. My sorrow does not spring
Maitreya. But just remember what a trifle money is, after all, and be more cheerful.
Chārudatta. My friend, the poverty of a man is to him
Comrade, I have made my offering to the divinities of the house. Do you too go and offer sacrifice to the Divine Mothers at a place where four roads meet.
Chārudatta. Why not?
Maitreya. Because the gods are not gracious to you even when thus honored. So what is the use of worshiping?
Chārudatta. Not so, my friend, not so! This is the constant duty of a householder.
Why then do you hesitate? Go and offer sacrifice to the Mothers.
Maitreya. No, I'm not going. You must send somebody else. Anyway, everything seems to go wrong with me, poor Brahman that I am! It's like a reflection in a mirror; the right side becomes the left, and the left becomes the right. Besides, at this hour of the evening, people are abroad upon the king's highwaycourtezans, courtiers, servants, and royal favorites. They will take me now for fair prey, just as the black-snake out frog-hunting snaps up the mouse in his path. But what will you do sitting here?
Chārudatta. Good then, remain; and I will finish my devotions.
Voices behind the scenes. Stop, Vasantasenā, stop!
[Enter Vasantasenā, pursued by the courtier, by Sansthānaka, and the servant.]
Courtier. Vasantasenā! Stop, stop!
Sansthānaka. Shtop, 1 Vasantasenā, shtop!
Servant. Stop, courtezan, stop!
Courtier. Vasantasenā! Stop, stop!
Sansthānaka. Shtop, Vasantasenā, shtop!
Courtier. Ah, Vasantasenā,
Sansthānaka. Lishten to me, shir!
Courtier. As courtier's fingers strike the lute's tense string,
Sansth. Your jingling gems, girl, clink like anything;
Servant. He's the royal protégé;
Courtier. Mistress Vasantasenā,
Sansth. We're chasing you with all our main and might,
Vasantasenā. Pallavaka! Parabhritikā!
Sansthānaka. Mashter! a man! a man!
Courtier. Don't be a coward.
Vasantasenā. Mādhavikā! Mādhavikā!
Courtier. [Laughing.] Fool! She is calling her servants.
Sansthānaka. Mashter! Is she calling a woman?
Courtier. Why, of course.
Sansthānaka. Women! I kill hundreds of em. I'm a brave man.
Vasantasenā. [Seeing that no one answers.] Alas, how comes it that my very servants have fallen away from me? I shall have to defend myself by mother-wit.
Courtier. Don't stop the search.
Sansthānaka. Shqueal, Vasantasenā, shqueal for your cuckoo Parabhritikā, or for your blosshom Pallavaka or for all the month of May! Who's going to save you when I'm chasing you?
Vasantasenā. Sir, I am a weak woman.
Courtier. That is why you are still alive.
Sansthānaka. That is why you're not murdered.
Vasantasenā. [Aside.] Oh! his very courtesy frightens me. Come, I will try this. [Aloud.] Sir, what do you expect from this pursuit? my jewels?
Courtier. Heaven forbid! A garden creeper, mistress Vasantasenā, should not be robbed of its blossoms. Say no more about the jewels.
Vasantasenā. What is then your desire?
Sansthānaka. I'm a man, a big man, a regular Vāsudeva. 1 You musht love me.
Vasantasenā. [Indignantly.] Heavens! You weary me. Come, leave me! Your words are an insult.
Sansthānaka. [Laughing and clapping his hands.] Look, mashter, look! The courtezan's daughter is mighty affectionate with me, isn't she? Here she says "Come on! Heavens, you're weary. You're tired!" No, I haven't been walking to another village or another city. No, little mishtress, I shwear by the gentleman's head, I shwear by my own feet! It's only by chasing about at your heels that I've grown tired and weary.
Courtier. [Aside.] What! is it possible that the idiot does not understand when she says "You weary me"? [Aloud.] Vasantasenā, your words have no place in the dwelling of a courtezan,
Vasantasenā. Yet true love would be won by virtue, not violence.
Sansthānaka. But, mashter, ever since the shlave-wench went into the park where Kāma's 1 temple shtands, she has been in love with a poor man, with Chārudatta, and she doesn't love me any more. His house is to the left. Look out and don't let her shlip out of our hands.
Courtier. [Aside.] Poor fool, he has said the very thing he should have concealed. So Vasantasenā is in love with Chārudatta? The proverb is right. Pearl suits with pearl. Well, I have had enough of this fool. [Aloud.] Did you say the good merchant's house was to the left, you jackass?
Sansthānaka. Yes. His house is to the left.
Vasantasenā. [Aside.] Oh, wonderful! If his house is really at my left hand, then the scoundrel has helped me in the very act of hurting me, for he has guided me to my love.
Sansthānaka. But mashter, it's pitch dark and it's like hunting for a grain of soot in a pile of shpotted beans. Now you shee Vasantasenā and now you don't.
Courtier. Pitch dark it is indeed.
Sansthānaka. Mashter, I'm looking for Vasantasenā.
Courtier. Is there anything you can trace her by, jackass?
Sansthānaka. Like what, for inshtance?
Courtier. Like the tinkling of her jewels, for instance, or the fragrance of her garlands.
Sansthānaka. I hear the shmell of her garlands, but my nose is shtuffed so full of darkness that I don't shee the shound of her jewels very clearly.
Courtier. [To Vasantasenā. Aside.] Vasantasenā,
Have you heard me, Vasantasenā?
Vasantasenā. [To herself.] Heard and understood. [She removes the ankle-rings, lays aside the garlands, and takes a few steps, feeling her way.] I can feel the wall of the house, and here is a side-entrance. But alas! my fingers tell me that the door is shut.
Chārudatta [who is within the house]. Comrade, my prayer is done. Go now and offer sacrifice to the Mothers.
Maitreya. No, I'm not going.
Where vulgar throngs are gathered, tis the same;
His scanty raiment wakes his heartfelt shame.
Five are the deadly sins 1 we knew before;
Alas! I find the sixth isto be poor.37
And yet again:
Maitreya. [Betraying his embarrassment.] Well, comrade, if I must go, at least let Radanikā go with me, to keep me company.
Chārudatta. Radanikā, you are to accompany Maitreya.
Radanikā. Yes, sir.
Maitreya. Mistress Radanikā, do you take the offering and the candle while I open the side-door. [He does so.]
Vasantasenā. It seems as if the door took pity on me and opened of itself. I will lose no time, but enter. [She looks in.] What? a candle? Oh dear, oh dear! [She puts it out with her skirt and enters.]
Chārudatta. What was that, Maitreya?
Maitreya. I opened the side-door and the wind came through all in a lump and blew out the candle. Suppose you go out by the side-door, Radanikā, and I will follow as soon as I have gone into the courtyard and lighted the candle again.
Sansthānaka. Mashter! mashter! I'm looking for Vasantasenā.
Courtier. Keep on looking, keep on looking!
Sansthānaka. [Does so.] Mashter! mashter! I've caught her! I've caught her!
Courtier. Idiot, you've caught me.
Sansthānaka. You shtand right here, mashter, and shtay where you're put. [He renews the search and seizes the servant.] Mashter!
mashter! I've caught her! I've caught her!
Servant. Master, you've caught me, your servant.
Sansthānaka. Mashter here, shervant here! Mashter, shervant; shervant, mashter. Now shtay where you're put, both of you. [He renews the search and seizes Radanikā by the hair.] Mashter! mashter! Thish time I've caught her! I've caught Vasantasenā!
Courtier. Ah, proud to be so young, so fair!
Sansth. I've got your head, girl, got it tight,
Radanikā. [In terror.] Oh, sirs, what does this mean?
Courtier. You jackass! It's another voice.
Sansthānaka. Mashter, the wench has changed her voice, the way a cat changes her voice, when she wants shome cream of curdled milk.
Courtier. Changed her voice? Strange! Yet why so strange?
Maitreya. Look! In the gentle evening breeze the flame of the candle is fluttering like the heart of a goat that goes to the altar. [He approaches and discovers Radanikā.] Mistress Radanikā!
Sansthānaka. Mashter, mashter! A man! a man!
Maitreya. This is right, this is perfectly right, that strangers should force their way into the house, just because Chārudatta is poor.
Radanikā. Oh, Maitreya, see how they insult me.
Maitreya. What! insult you? No, they are insulting us.
Radanikā. Very well. They are insulting you, then.
Maitreya. But they aren't using violence?
Radanikā. Yes, yes!
Maitreya. [Raising his staff angrily.] No, sir! Man, a dog will show his teeth in his own kennel, and I am a Brahman! My staff is crooked as my fortunes, but it can still split a dry bamboo or a rascal's pate.
Courtier. Have mercy, O great Brahman, have mercy.
Maitreya. [Discovers the courtier.] He is not the sinner. [Discovers Sansthānaka.] Ah, here is the sinner. Well, you brother-in-law to the king, Sansthānaka, you scoundrel, you coward, this is perfectly proper, isn't it? Chārudatta the good is a poor man nowtrue, but are not his virtues an ornament to Ujjayinī? And so men break into his house and insult his servants!
Courtier. [Betraying his embarrassment.] Have mercy, O great Brahman, have mercy. We intended no insolence; we merely mistook this lady for another. For
Maitreya. What! this one?
Courtier. Heaven forbid!
I pray you, accept this all-in-all of humblest supplication. [He drops his sword, folds his hands, and falls at Maitreya's feet.]
Maitreya. Good man, rise, rise. When I reviled you, I did not know you. Now I know you and I ask your pardon.
Courtier. It is I who should ask pardon. I will rise on one condition.
Maitreya. And that is
Courtier. That you will not tell Chārudatta what has happened here.
Maitreya. I will be silent.
Courtier. Brahman, this gracious act of thine
Sansthānaka. [Indignantly.] But mashter, what makes you fold your hands sho helplesshly and fall at the feet of thish manikin?
Courtier. I was afraid.
Sansthānaka. What were you afraid of?
Courtier. Of Chārudatta's virtues.
Sansthānaka. Virtues? He? You can go into his houshe and not find a thing to eat.
Courtier. No, no.
Sansthānaka. [Impatiently.] Who is the shon of a shlave-wench anyway?
Courtier. Fool! I will tell you who Chārudatta is.
Let us be gone.
Sansthānaka. Without Vasantasenā?
Courtier. Vasantasenā has disappeared.
Courtier. Like sick men's strength, or like the blind man's sight,
Sansthānaka. I'm not going without Vasantasenā.
Courtier. And did you never hear this?
Sansthānaka. If you're going, go along. I'm not going.
Courtier. Very well. I will go.
Sansthānaka. Mashter's gone, sure enough. [To Maitreya.] Well, you man with the head that looks like a caret, you manikin, take a sheat, take a sheat.
Maitreya. We have already been invited to take a seat.
Sansthānaka. By whom?
Maitreya. By destiny.
Sansthānaka. Shtand up, then, shtand up!
Maitreya. We shall.
Maitreya. When fate is kind again.
Sansthānaka. Weep, then, weep!
Maitreya. We have wept.
Sansthānaka. Who made you?
Sansthānaka. Laugh, then, laugh!
Maitreya. Laugh we shall.
Maitreya. When Chārudatta is happy once more.
Sansthānaka. You manikin, give poor little Chārudatta thish messhage from me. "Thish wench with golden ornaments and golden jewels, thish female shtage-manager looking after the rehearsal of a new play, thish Vasantasenāshe has been in love with you ever shince she went into the park where Kāma's temple shtands. And when we tried to conciliate her by force, she went into your houshe. Now if you shend her away yourshelf and hand her over to me, if you reshtore her at once, without any lawshuit in court, then I'll be friends with you forever. But if you don't reshtore her, there will be a fight to the death." Remember:
Tell it to him prettily, tell it to him craftily. Tell it to him sho that I can hear it as I roosht in the dove-cote on the top of my own palace. If you shay it different, I'll chew your head like an apple caught in the crack of a door.
Maitreya. Very well. I shall tell him.
Sansthānaka. [Aside.] Tell me, shervant. Is mashter really gone?
Servant. Yes, sir.
Sansthānaka. Then we will go as quickly as we can.
Servant. Then take your sword, master.
Sansthānaka. You can keep it.
Servant. Here it is, master. Take your sword, master.
Sansthānaka. [Taking it by the wrong end.]
[Sansthānaka and the servant walk about, then exeunt.
Maitreya. Mistress Radanikā, you must not tell good Chārudatta of this outrage. I am sure you would only add to the poor man's sorrows.
Radanikā. Good Maitreya, you know Radanikā. Her lips are sealed.
Maitreya. So be it.
Chārudatta. [To Vasantasenā.] Radanikā, Rohasena likes the fresh air, but he will be cold in the evening chill. Pray bring him into the house, and cover him with this mantle. [He gives her the mantle.]
Vasantasenā. [To herself.] See! He thinks I am his servant. [She takes the mantle and perceives its perfume. Ardently to herself.] Oh, beautiful! The mantle is fragrant with jasmine. His youthful days are not wholly indifferent to the pleasures of the world. [She wraps it about her, without letting Chārudatta see.]
Chārudatta. Come, Radanikā, take Rohasena and enter the heart of the house.
Vasantasenā. [To herself.] Ah me unhappy, that have little part or lot in your heart!
Chārudatta. Come, Radanikā, will you not even answer? Alas!
Maitreya. [Drawing near to Radanikā.] Sir, here is Radanikā.
Chārudatta. Here is Radanikā? Who then is this
Vasantasenā. [To herself.] Say rather "consecrated."
But no! I may not gaze upon another's wife.
Maitreya. Oh, you need not fear that you are looking at another man's wife. This is Vasantasenā, who has been in love with you ever since she saw you in the garden where Kāma's temple stands.
Chārudatta. What! this is Vasantasenā? [Aside.]
Maitreya. My friend, that brother-in-law of the king says
Maitreya. "This wench with golden ornaments and golden jewels, this female stage-manager looking after the rehearsal of a new play, this Vasantasenāshe has been in love with you ever since she went into the park where Kāma's temple stands. And when we tried to conciliate her by force, she went into your house."
Vasantasenā. [To herself.] "Tried to conciliate me by force"truly, I am honored by these words.
Maitreya. "Now if you send her away yourself and hand her over to me, if you restore her at once, without any lawsuit in court, then I'll be friends with you forever. Otherwise, there will be a fight to the death."
Chārudatta. [Contemptuously.] He is a fool. [To himself.] How is this maiden worthy of the worship that we pay a goddess! For now
[Aloud.] Mistress Vasantasenā, I have unwittingly made myself guilty of an offense; for I greeted as a servant one whom I did not recognize. I bend my neck to ask your pardon.
Vasantasenā. It is I who have offended by this unseemly intrusion. I bow my head to seek your forgiveness.
Maitreya. Yes, with your pretty bows you two have knocked your heads together, till they look like a couple of rice-fields. I also bow my head like a camel colt's knee and beseech you both to stand up. [He does so, then rises.]
Chārudatta. Very well, let us no longer trouble ourselves with conventions.
Vasantasenā. [To herself.] What a delightfully clever hint! But it would hardly be proper to spend the night, considering how I
came hither. Well, I will at least say this much. [Aloud.] If I am to receive thus much of your favor, sir, I should be glad to leave these jewels in your house. It was for the sake of the jewels that those scoundrels pursued me.
Chārudatta. This house is not worthy of the trust.
Vasantasenā. You mistake, sir! It is to men that treasures are entrusted, not to houses.
Chārudatta. Maitreya, will you receive the jewels?
Vasantasenā. I am much indebted to you. [She hands him the jewels.]
Maitreya. [Receiving them.] Heaven bless you, madam.
Chārudatta. Fool! They are only entrusted to us.
Maitreya. [Aside.] Then the thieves may take them, for all I care.
Chārudatta. In a very short time
Maitreya. What she has entrusted to us, belongs to us.
Chārudatta. I shall restore them.
Vasantasenā. I should be grateful, sir, if this gentleman would accompany me home.
Chārudatta. Maitreya, pray accompany our guest.
Maitreya. She walks as gracefully as a female swan, and you are the gay flamingo to accompany her. But I am only a poor Brahman, and wherever I go, the people will fall upon me just as dogs will snap at a victim dragged to the cross-roads.
Chārudatta. Very well. I will accompany her myself. Let the torches be lighted, to ensure our safety on the highway.
Maitreya. Vardhamānaka, light the torches.
Vardhamānaka. [Aside to Maitreya.] What! light torches without oil?
Maitreya. [Aside to Chārudatta.] These torches of ours are like courtezans who despise their poor lovers. They won't light up unless you feed them.
Chārudatta. Enough, Maitreya! We need no torches. See, we have a lamp upon the king's highway.
[His voice betraying his passion.] Mistress Vasantasenā, we have reached your home. Pray enter. [Vasantasenā gazes ardently at him, then exit.] Comrade, Vasantasenā is gone. Come, let us go home.
[He walks about.] And you shall guard this golden casket by night, and Vardhamānaka by day.
Maitreya. Very well.
7:1 During the mating season, a fragrant liquor exudes from the forehead of the elephant. Of this liquor bees are very fond.
9:1 The most striking peculiarity of Sansthānaka's dialecthis substitution of sh for sI have tried to imitate in the translation.
10:1 Red arsenic, used as a cosmetic.
10:2 Here, as elsewhere, Sansthānaka's mythology is wildly confused. To a Hindu the effect must be ludicrous enough; but the humor is necessarily lost in a translation. It therefore seems hardly worth while to explain his mythological vagaries in detail.
13:1 A name of Krishna, who is perhaps the most amorous character in Indian story.
16:1 The five deadly sins are: the slaying of a Brahman, the drinking of wine, theft, adultery with the wife of one's teacher, and association with one guilty of these crimes.
17:1 These are all epithets of the same god.
23:1 Which look pretty, but do not rain. He doubtless means to suggest that the cloak, belonging to a strange man, is as useless to Vasantasenā as the veil of autumn clouds to the earth.