The Little Clay Cart, by Shudraka, tr. Arthur William Ryder, , at sacred-texts.com
[The love-lorn Chārudatta appears, seated.]
Chārudatta. [Looks up.]
AN untimely storm 1 is gathering. For see!
And yet again:
When lightning's lamp is lit, the silver river
Impetuous falls from out the cloudy womb;
Like severed lace from heaven-cloaking gloom,
It gleams an instant, then is gone forever.4
Like shoaling fishes, or like dolphins shy,
Or like to swans, toward heaven's vault that fly,
Like paired flamingos, male and mate together,
Like mighty pinnacles that tower on high, p. 76
In thousand forms the tumbling clouds embrace,
Though torn by winds, they gather, interlace,
And paint the ample canvas of the sky.5
The sky is black as Dhritarāshtra's face;
Proud as the champion of Kuru's race,
The haughty peacock shrills his joy abroad;
The cuckoo, in Yudhishthira's sad case,
Is forced to wander if he would not die;
The swans must leave their forest-homes and fly,
Like Pāndu's sons, to seek an unknown place.6
[Reflecting.] It is long since Maitreya went to visit Vasantasenā. And even yet he does not come.
Maitreya. Confound the courtezan's avarice and her incivility! To think of her making so short a story of it! Over and over she repeats something about the affection she feels, and then without more ado she pockets the necklace. She is rich enough so that she might at least have said: "Good Maitreya, rest a little. You must not go until you have had a cup to drink." Confound the courtezan! I hope I'll never set eyes on her again. [Wearily.] The proverb is right. " It is hard to find a lotus-plant without a root, a merchant who never cheats, a goldsmith who never steals, a village-gathering without a fight, and a courtezan without avarice." Well, I'll find my friend and persuade him to have nothing more to do with this courtezan. [He walks about until he discovers Chārudatta.] Ah, my good friend is sitting in the orchard. I'll go to him. [Approaching.] Heaven bless you! May happiness be yours.
Chārudatta. [Looking up.] Ah, my friend Maitreya has returned. You are very welcome, my friend. Pray be seated.
Maitreya. Thank you.
Chārudatta. Tell me of your errand, my friend.
Maitreya. My errand went all wrong.
Chārudatta. What! did she not accept the necklace?
Maitreya. How could we expect such a piece of luck? She put her lotus-tender hands to her brow, 1 and took it.
Chārudatta. Then why do you say "went wrong"?
Maitreya. Why not, when we lost a necklace that was the pride of the four seas for a cheap golden casket, that was stolen before we had a bite or a drink out of it?
Chārudatta. Not so, my friend.
Maitreya. Now look here! I have a second grievance. She tipped her friend the wink, covered her face with the hem of her dress, and laughed at me. And so, Brahman though I am, I hereby fall on my face before you and beg you not to have anything more to do with this courtezan. That sort of society does any amount of damage. A courtezan is like a pebble in your shoe. It hurts before you get rid of it. And one thing more, my friend. A courtezan, an elephant, a scribe, a mendicant friar, a swindler, and an asswhere these dwell, not even rogues are born.
Chārudatta. Oh, my friend, a truce to all your detraction! My poverty of itself prevents me. For consider:
Then too, my friend:
[Aside. And not by virtue cold. Aloud.]
But wealth is now no longer mine,
And her I may not hold.9
Maitreya. [Looks down. Aside.] From the way he looks up and sighs, I conclude that my effort to distract him has simply increased his longing. The proverb is right. "You can't reason with a lover." [Aloud.] Well, she told me to tell you that she would have to come here this evening. I suppose she isn't satisfied with the necklace and is coming to look for something else.
Chārudatta. Let her come, my friend. She shall not depart unsatisfied.
Kumbhīlaka. Listen, good people.
[He bursts out laughing.]
My mistress Vasantasenā said to me "Kumbhīlaka, go and tell Chārudatta that I am coming." So here I am, on my way to Chārudatta's house. [He walks about, and, as he enters, discovers Chārudatta.] Here is Chārudatta in the orchard. And here is that wretched jackanapes, too. Well, I'll go up to them. What! the orchard-gate is shut? Good! I'll give this jackanapes a hint. [He throws lumps of mud.]
Maitreya. Well! Who is this pelting me with mud, as if I were an apple-tree inside of a fence?
Chārudatta. Doubtless the pigeons that play on the roof of the garden-house.
Maitreya. Wait a minute, you confounded pigeon! With this stick I'll bring you down from the roof to the ground, like an over-ripe mango. [He raises his stick and starts to run.]
Chārudatta. [Holding him back by the sacred cord.] Sit down, my friend. What do you mean? Leave the poor pigeon alone with his mate.
Kumbhīlaka. What! he sees the pigeon and doesn't see me? Good! I'll hit him again with another lump of mud. [He does so.]
Maitreya. [Looks about him.] What! Kumbhīlaka? I'll be with you in a minute. [He approaches and opens the gate.] Well, Kumbhīlaka, come in. I'm glad to see you.
Kumbhīlaka. [Enters.] I salute you, sir.
Maitreya. Where do you come from, man, in this rain and darkness?
Kumbhīlaka. You see, she's here.
Maitreya. Who's she? Who's here?
Kumbhīlaka. She. See? She.
Maitreya. Look here, you son of a slave! What makes you sigh like a half-starved old beggar in a famine, with your "shesheshe"?
Kumbhīlaka. And what makes you hoot like an owl with your "whowhowho"?
Maitreya. All right. Tell me.
Kumbhīlaka. [Aside.] Suppose I say it this way. [Aloud.] I'll give you a riddle, man.
Maitreya. And I'll give you the answer with my foot on your bald spot.
Kumbhīlaka. Not till you've guessed it. In what season do the mango-trees blossom?
Maitreya. In summer, you jackass.
Kumbhīlaka. [Laughing.] Wrong!
Maitreya. [Aside.] What shall I say now? [Reflecting.] Good! I'll go and ask Chārudatta. [Aloud.] Just wait a moment. [Approaching Chārudatta.] My friend, I just wanted to ask you in what season the mango-trees blossom.
Chārudatta. You fool, in spring, in vasanta.
Maitreya. [Returns to Kumbhīlaka.] You fool, in spring, in vasanta.
Kumbhīlaka. Now I'll give you another. Who guards thriving villages?
Maitreya. Why, the guard.
Kumbhīlaka. [Laughing.] Wrong!
Maitreya. Well, I'm stuck. [Reflecting.] Good! I'll ask Chārudatta again. [He returns and puts the question to Chārudatta.]
Chārudatta. The army, my friend, the senā.
Maitreya. [Comes back to Kumbhīlaka.] The army, you jackass, the senā.
Kumbhīlaka. Now put the two together and say em fast.
Kumbhīlaka. Say it turned around.
Maitreya. [Turns around.] Senā-vasanta.
Kumbhīlaka. You fool! you jackanapes! Turn the parts of the thing around!
Maitreya. [Turns his feet around.] Senā-vasanta.
Kumbhīlaka. You fool! Turn the parts of the word around!
Maitreya. [After reflection.] Vasanta-senā.
Kumbhīlaka. She's here.
Maitreya. Then I must tell Chārudatta. [Approaching.] Well, Chārudatta, your creditor is here.
Chārudatta. How should a creditor come into my family?
Maitreya. Not in the family perhaps, but at the door. Vasantasenā is here.
Chārudatta. Why do you deceive me, my friend?
Maitreya. If you can't trust me, then ask Kumbhīlaka here. Kumbhīlaka, you jackass, come here.
Kumbhīlaka. [Approaching.] I salute you, sir.
Chārudatta. You are welcome, my good fellow. Tell me, is Vasantasenā really here?
Kumbhīlaka. Yes, she's here. Vasantasenā is here.
Chārudatta. [Joyfully.] My good fellow, I have never let the bearer of welcome news go unrewarded. Take this as your recompense. [He gives him his mantle.]
Kumbhīlaka. [Takes it and bows. Gleefully.] I'll tell my mistress.
Maitreya. Do you see why she comes in a storm like this?
Chārudatta. I do not quite understand, my friend.
Maitreya. I know. She has an idea that the pearl necklace is cheap, and the golden casket expensive. She isn't satisfied, and she has come to look for something more.
Chārudatta. [Aside.] She shall not depart unsatisfied.
[Then enter the love-lorn Vasantasenā, in a splendid garment, fit for a woman who goes to meet her lover, a maid with an umbrella, and the courtier.]
Courtier. [Referring to Vasantasenā.]
See how she moves, so gracefully and slow!
In passion's hour she still loves modesty;
In her, good wives their dearest sorrow know.
When passion's drama shall enacted be,
When on love's stage appears the passing show,
A host of wanderers shall bend them low,
Glad to be slaves in such captivity.12
See, Vasantasenā, see!
Vasantasenā. 1 Sir, what you say is most true. For
Courtier. Yes, yes. That is right. Scold the night.
Vasantasenā. And yet, sir, why scold one who is so ignorant of woman's nature? For you must remember:
Courtier. But see, Vasantasenā! Another cloud,
Rages within the sky, and shows him bold
Mid beams that to the moon allegiance owe,
Like a hero-king within the hostile hold
Of his unwarlike foe.17
Vasantasenā. True, true. And more than this:
Courtier. Very true, Vasantasenā. And yet again:
Vasantasenā. But look, sir, look!
Courtier. See, Vasantasenā, see!
And look yonder!
Smitten with falling drops, the fragrant sod,
Upon whose bosom greenest grasses nod,
Seems pierced with pearls, each pearl an arrowy rod.22
Vasantasenā. And here is yet another cloud.
The wistful swans espy
The lotus-sweeter sky;
The darkest colors lie
On heaven clingingly.23
Courtier. True. For see!
The face of heaven, thus shrouded in the night,
Is only for a single instant bright,
When momentary lightning gives us sight;
Else is it dark alway.
Now sleeps the world as still as in the night
Within the house of rain where naught is bright, p. 85
Where hosts of swollen clouds seem to our sight
One covering veil of gray.24
Vasantasenā. True. And see!
And yet again:
Vasantasenā. O shameless, shameless sky!
O Indra, mighty Indra!
Let thunders roar, for men were cruel ever;
But oh, thou maiden lightning! didst thou never
Know pains that maidens know?32
Courtier. But mistress, do not scold the lightning. She is your friend,
Vasantasenā. And here, sir, is his house.
Courtier. You know all the arts, and need no instruction now. Yet love bids me prattle. When you enter here, you must not show yourself too angry.
Be angry! make him angry then!
Be kind! and make him kind again
The man you love.34
So much for that. Who is there? Let Chārudatta know, that
Chārudatta. [Listening.] My friend, pray discover what this means.
Maitreya. Yes, sir. [He approaches Vasantasenā. Respectfully.] Heaven bless you!
Vasantasenā. I salute you, sir. I am very glad to see you. [To the courtier.] Sir, the maid with the umbrella is at your service.
Courtier. [Aside.] A very clever way to get rid of me. [Aloud.] Thank you. And mistress Vasantasenā,
Vasantasenā. Good Maitreya, where is your gambler?
Maitreya. [Aside.] "Gambler"? Ah, she's paying a compliment to my friend. [Aloud.] Madam, here he is in the dry orchard.
Vasantasenā. But sir, what do you call a dry orchard?
Maitreya. Madam, it's a place where there's nothing to eat or drink. [Vasantasenā smiles.] Pray enter, madam.
Vasantasenā. [Aside to her maid.] What shall I say when I enter?
Maid. "Gambler, what luck this evening?"
Vasantasenā. Shall I dare to say it?
Maid. When the time comes, it will say itself.
Maitreya. Enter, madam.
Vasantasenā. [Enters, approaches Chārudatta, and strikes him with the flowers which she holds.] Well, gambler, what luck this evening?
Chārudatta. [Discovers her.] Ah, Vasantasenā is here. [He rises joyfully.] Oh, my belovèd,
You are very, very welcome. Here is a seat. Pray be seated.
Maitreya. Here is a seat. Be seated, madam. [Vasantasenā sits, then the others.]
Chārudatta. But see, my friend,
My friend, Vasantasenā's garments are wet. Let other, and most beautiful, garments be brought.
Maitreya. Yes, sir.
Maid. Good Maitreya, do you stay here. I will wait upon my mistress. [She does so.]
Maitreya. [Aside to Chārudatta.] My friend, I'd just like to ask the lady a question.
Chārudatta. Then do so.
Maitreya. [Aloud.] Madam, what made you come here, when it is so stormy and dark that you can't see the moon?
Maid. Mistress, the Brahman is very plain-spoken.
Vasantasenā. You might better call him clever.
Maid. My mistress came to ask how much that pearl necklace is worth.
Maitreya. [Aside to Chārudatta.] There! I told you so. She thinks the pearl necklace is cheap, and the golden casket is expensive. She isn't satisfied. She has come to look for something more. Maid. For my mistress imagined that it was her own, and gambled it away. And nobody knows where the gambling-master has gone, for he is employed in the king's business.
Maitreya. Madam, you are simply repeating what somebody said before.
Maid. While we are looking for him, pray take this golden casket. [She displays the casket. Maitreya hesitates.] Sir, you examine it very closely. Did you ever see it before?
Maitreya. No, madam, but the skilful workmanship captivates the eye.
Maid. Your eyes deceive you, sir. This is the golden casket.
Maitreya. [Joyfully.] Well, my friend, here is the golden casket, the very one that thieves stole from our house.
Chārudatta. My friend,
Maitreya. But it is so. I swear it on my Brahmanhood.
Chārudatta. This is welcome news.
Maitreya. [Aside to Chārudatta.] I'm going to ask where they found it.
Chārudatta. I see no harm in that.
Maitreya. [Whispers in the maid's ear.] There!
Maid. [Whispers in Maitreya's ear.] So there!
Chārudatta. What is it? and why are we left out?
Maitreya. [Whispers in Chārudatta's ear.] So there!
Chārudatta. My good girl, is this really the same golden casket?
Maid. Yes, sir, the very same.
Chārudatta. My good girl, I have never let the bearer of welcome news go unrewarded. Take this ring as your recompense. [He looks at his finger, notices that the ring is gone, and betrays his embarrassment.]
Vasantasenā. [To herself.] I love you for that.
Chārudatta. [Aside to Maitreya.] Alas,
Like wingless birds, dry pools, or withered trees,
Like fangless snakesthe poor are like to these.41
Like man-deserted houses, blasted trees,
Like empty wellsthe poor are like to these.
For them no pleasant hours serve happy ends;
They are forgotten of their sometime friends.42
Maitreya. But you must not grieve thus beyond reason. [He bursts out laughing. Aloud.] Madam, please give me back my bath-clout.
Vasantasenā. Chārudatta, it was not right that you should show your distrust of me by sending me this pearl necklace.
Chārudatta. [With an embarrassed smile.] But remember, Vasantasenā,
Maitreya. Tell me, girl, are you going to sleep here to-night?
Maid. [Laughing.] But good Maitreya, you show yourself most remarkably plain-spoken now.
Maitreya. See, my friend, the rain enters again in great streams, as if it wanted to drive people away when they are sitting comfortably together.
Chārudatta. You are quite right.
See, my belovèd, see!
[Vasantasenā betrays her passion, and throws her arms about Chārudatta. Chārudatta feels her touch, and embraces her.]
Chārudatta. More grimly yet, O thunder, boom;
Maitreya. Confound you, storm! You are no gentleman, to frighten the lady with the lightning.
Chārudatta. Do not rebuke the storm, my friend.
And oh, my friend,
Vasantasenā, my belovèd,
[He looks up.] The rainbow! See, my belovèd, see!
Come, let us seek a shelter. [He rises and walks about.]
75:1 In Indian love-poetry, the rainy season is the time when lovers most ardently long to be united.
75:2 In allusion to Vishnu's name, Krishna, "black."
77:1 A gesture of respect.
81:1 The goddess of wealth and beauty, usually represented with a lotus.
81:2 Kāma's (Cupid's) arrows are flowers.
82:1 Throughout this scene, Vasantasenā's verses are in Sanskrit. Compare note 1 on page 73.
83:1 The cry of the heron resembles the Sanskrit word for "rain." Indian love-poetry often paints the sorrow, even unto death, of her whose belovèd does not return before the rainy season.
86:1 The elephant of Indra. Indra is the god of the thunderstorm.