The Little Clay Cart, by Shudraka, tr. Arthur William Ryder, , at sacred-texts.com
[Enter Chārudatta, accompanied by two headsmen.]
Out of the way, gentlemen, out of the way! This is the noble Chārudatta.
Headsmen. Out of the way, gentlemen, out of the way!
Come, Chārudatta, come!
Chārudatta. Incalculable are the ways of human destiny, that I am come to such a plight!
[He gazes intently before him.] Alas for human differences! [Mournfully.]
Headsmen. Out of the way, gentlemen, out of the way! Why do you gaze upon him?
Goha. Look, Ahīnta! Look, man!
Ahīnta. Goha, man,
Chārudatta. [Gazes intently. Mournfully.]
Headsmen. Come, Chārudatta, come! Here is the place of proclamation. Beat the drum and proclaim the sentence.
Listen, good people, listen! This is the noble Chārudatta, son of Sāgaradatta, and grandson of the merchant Vinayadatta. This malefactor enticed the courtezan Vasantasenā into the deserted old garden Pushpakaranda, and for a mere trifle murdered her by strangling. He was taken with the booty, and confessed his guilt. Therefore are we under orders from King Pālaka to execute him. And if any other commit such a crime, accursèd in this world and the next, him too King Pālaka condemns to the like punishment.
Chārudatta. [Despondently. Aside.]
[He looks up and stops his ears.] Vasantasenā! Oh, my belovèd!
Headsmen. Out of the way, gentlemen, out of the way!
Chārudatta. [Looks about him.]
Headsmen. They are out of the way. The street is cleared. Lead on the condemned criminal.
Voices behind the scenes. My father! Oh, my friend!
Chārudatta. [Listens. Mournfully.] You are a leader in your own caste. I would beg a favor at your hands.
Headsmen. From our hands you would receive a favor?
Chārudatta. Heaven forbid! Yet a headsman is neither so wanton nor so cruel as King Pālaka. That I may be happy in the other world, I ask to see the face of my son.
Headsmen. So be it.
A voice behind the scenes. My father! oh, my father! [Chārudatta hears the words, and mournfully repeats his request.]
Headsmen. Citizens, make way a moment. Let the noble Chārudatta look upon the face of his son. [Turning to the back of the stage.] This way, sir! Come on, little boy!
[Enter Maitreya, with Rohasena.]
Maitreya. Make haste, my boy, make haste! Your father is being led to his death.
Rohasena. My father! oh, my father!
Maitreya. Oh, my friend! Where must I behold you now?
Chārudatta. [Perceives ins son and his friend.] Alas, my son! Alas, Maitreya! [Mournfully.] Ah, woe is me!
What may I give my son? [He looks at himself, and perceives the sacrificial cord.] Ah, this at least is mine.
[He gives Rohasena the cord.]
Goha. Come, Chārudatta! Come, man!
Ahīnta. Man, do you name the noble Chārudatta's name, and forget the title? Remember:
Rohasena. Oh, headsmen, where are you leading my father?
Chārudatta. My darling,
Goha. My boy,
Rohasena. Then why do you murder my father?
Goha. Bless you, tis the king's orders must bear the blame, not we.
Rohasena. Kill me, and let father go free.
Goha. Bless you, may you live long for saying that!
Chārudatta. [Tearfully embracing his son.]
About my neck I needs must wear
Upon my shoulder I must bear
The stake, and in my heart the care
Of near-approaching death.
I go to-day to meet a dastard's ending,
A victim, at the fatal altar bending.(21)
[He looks about. Aside.]
Maitreya. My good men, let my dear friend Chārudatta go free, and kill me instead.
Chārudatta. Heaven forbid! [He looks about. Aside.] Now I understand.
Goha. Out of the way, gentlemen, out of the way!
Ahīnta. Proclaim the sentence again, man. [Goha does so.]
Chārud. So lowly fallen! till shame my virtues blur,
[Enter Sthāvaraka, fettered, in the palace tower.]
Sthāvaraka. [After listening to the proclamation. In distress.] What! the innocent Chārudatta is being put to death? And my master has thrown me into chains! Well, I must shout to them. Listen, good gentlemen, listen! It was I, wretch that I am, who
carried Vasantasenā to the old garden Pushpakaranda, because she mistook my bullock-cart for another. And then my master, Sansthānaka, found that she would not love him, and it was he, not this gentleman, who murdered her by strangling.But they are so far away that no one hears me. What shall I do? Shall I cast myself down? [He reflects.] If I do, then the noble Chārudatta will not be put to death. Yes, through this broken window I will throw myself down from the palace tower. Better that I should meet my end, than that the noble Chārudatta should perish, this tree of life for noble youths. And if I die in such a cause, I have attained heaven. [He throws himself down.] Wonderful! I did not meet my end, and my fetters are broken. So I will follow the sound of the headsmen's voices. [He discovers the headsmen, and hastens forward.] Headsmen, headsmen, make way!
Headsmen. For whom shall we make way?
Sthāvaraka. Listen, good gentlemen, listen! It was I, wretch that I am, who carried Vasantasenā to the old garden Pushpakaranda, because she mistook my bullock-cart for another. And then my master, Sansthānaka, found that she would not love him, and it was he, not this gentleman, who murdered her by strangling.
Chārudatta. Thank heaven!
Listen! do you hear what I say?
Headsmen. Are you telling the truth, Sthāvaraka?
Sthāvaraka. I am. And to keep me from telling anybody, he cast me into chains, and imprisoned me in the tower of his palace.
[He listens.] The headsmen's voices! They shound like a broken brass cymbal. I hear the music of the fatal drum and the kettledrums, and sho I shuppose that that poor man, Chārudatta, is being led to the place of execution. I musht go and shee it. It is a great delight to shee my enemy die. Beshides, I've heard that a man who shees his enemy being killed, is sure not to have shore eyes in his next birth. I acted like a worm that had crept into the knot of a lotush-root. I looked for a hole to crawl out at, and brought about the death of thish poor man, Chārudatta. Now I'll climb up the tower of my own palace, and have a look at my own heroic deeds. [He does so and looks about.] Wonderful what a crowd there is, to shee that poor man led to his death! What would it be when an arishtocrat, a big man like me, was being led to his death? [He gazes.] Look! There he goes toward the shouth, adorned like a young shteer. But why was the proclamation made near my palace tower, and why was it shtopped? [He looks about.] Why, my shlave Sthāvaraka is gone, too. I hope he hasn't run away and betrayed the shecret. I musht go and look for him. [He descends and approaches the crowd.]
Sthāvaraka. [Discovers him.] There he comes, good masters!
Headsmen. Give way! Make room! And shut the door!
Sansthānaka. Come, come, make way! [He approaches.] Sthāvaraka, my little shon, my shlave, come, let's go home.
Sthāvaraka. You scoundrel! Are you not content with the murder of Vasantasenā? Must you try now to murder the noble Chārudatta, that tree of life to all who loved him?
Sansthānaka. I am beautiful as a pot of jewels. I kill no woman!
Bystanders. Oho! you murdered her, not the noble Chārudatta.
Sansthānaka. Who shays that?
Bystanders. [Pointing to Sthāvaraka.] This honest man.
Sansthānaka. [Fearfully. Aside.] Merciful heavens! Why didn't I chain that shlave Sthāvaraka fasht? Why, he was a witnessh of my crime. [He reflects.] I'll do it thish way. [Aloud.] Lies, lies, good gentlemen. Why, I caught the shlave shtealing gold, and I pounded him, and murdered him, and put him in chains. He hates me. What he shays can't be true. [He secretly hands Sthāvaraka a bracelet, and whispers.] Sthāvaraka, my little shon, my shlave, take thish and shay shomething different.
Sthāvaraka. [Takes it.] Look, gentlemen, look! Why, he is trying to bribe me with gold.
Sansthānaka. [Snatches the bracelet from him.] That's the gold that I put him in chains for. [Angrily.] Look here, headsmen! I put him in charge of my gold-chest, and when he turned thief, I murdered him and pounded him. If you don't believe it, jusht look at his back.
Headsmen. [Doing so.] Yes, yes. When a servant is branded that way, no wonder he tells tales.
Sthāvaraka. A curse on slavery! A slave convinces nobody. [Mournfully.] Noble Chārudatta, I have no further power. [He falls at Chārudatta's feet.]
Headsmen. Beat your servant, master, and drive him away.
Sansthānaka. Out of the way, you! [He drives Sthāvaraka away.] Come, headsmen, what are you waiting for? Kill him.
Headsmen. Kill him yourself, if you are in a hurry.
Rohasena. Oh, headsmen, kill me and let father go free.
Sansthānaka. Yesh, shon and father, kill them both.
Chārudatta. This fool might do anything. Go, my son, to your mother.
Rohasena. And what should I do then?
Chārud. Go with thy mother to a hermitage;
And you, my friend, go with him.
Maitreya. Oh, my friend, have you so known me as to think that I can live without you?
Chārudatta. Not so, my friend. Your life is your own. You may not throw it away.
Maitreya. [Aside.] True. And yet I cannot live apart from my friend. And so, when I have taken the boy to his mother, I will follow my friend even in death. [Aloud.] Yes, my friend, I will take him to her at once. [He embraces Chārudatta, then falls at his feet. Rohasena does the same, weeping.]
Sansthānaka. Look here! Didn't I tell you to kill Chārudatta, and his shon, too? [At this, Chārudatta betrays fear.]
Headsmen. We haven't any orders from the king to kill Chārudatta, and his son, too. Run away, boy, run away! [They drive Rohasena away.] Here is the third place of proclamation. Beat the drum! [They proclaim the sentence again.]
Sansthānaka. [Aside.] But the citizens don't believe it. [Aloud.] Chārudatta, you jackanapes, the citizens don't believe it. Shay it with your own tongue, "I murdered Vasantasenā." [Chārudatta remains silent.] Look here, headsmen! The man won't shpeak, the jackanapes Chārudatta. Jusht make him shpeak. Beat him a few times with thish ragged bamboo, or with a chain.
Goha. [Raises his arm to strike.] Come, Chārudatta, speak!
[Sansthānaka repeats his words.]
Chārudatta. Men of my own city!
Sansthānaka. Killed her!
Chārudatta. So be it.
Goha. It's your turn to kill him, man.
Ahīnta. No, yours.
Goha. Well, let's reckon it out. [He does so at great length.] Well, if it's my turn to kill him, we will just let it wait a minute.
Goha. Well, when my father was going to heaven, he said to me, "Son Goha, if it's your turn to kill him, don't kill the sinner too quick."
Ahīnta. But why?
Goha. "Perhaps," said he, "some good man might give the money to set him free. Perhaps a son might be born to the king, and to celebrate the event, all the prisoners might be set free. Perhaps
an elephant might break loose, and the prisoner might escape in the excitement. Perhaps there might be a change of kings, and all the prisoners might be set free."
Sansthānaka. What? What? A change of kings?
Goha. Well, let's reckon it out, whose turn it is. Sansthānaka. Oh, come! Kill Chārudatta at once. [He takes Sthāvaraka, and withdraws a little.]
Headsmen. Noble Chārudatta, it is the king's commandment that bears the blame, not we headsmen. Think then of what you needs must think.
Tell me. Whither would you have me go?
Goha. [Pointing ahead.] Why, here is the southern burying-ground, and when a criminal sees that, he says good-by to life in a minute. For look!
Chārudatta. Alas! Ah, woe is me! [In his agitation he sits down.]
Sansthānaka. I won't go yet. I'll jusht shee Chārudatta killed. [He walks about, gazing.] Well, well! He shat down.
Goha. Are you frightened, Chārudatta?
Chārudatta. [Rising hastily.] Fool!
Goha. Noble Chārudatta, the moon and the sun dwell in the vault of heaven, yet even they are overtaken by disaster. How much more, death-fearing creatures, and men! In this world, one rises only to fall, another falls only to rise again. But from him who has risen and falls, his body drops like a garment. Lay these thoughts to heart, and be strong. [To Ahīnta.] Here is the fourth place of proclamation. Let us proclaim the sentence. [They do so once again.]
Chārudatta. Vasantasenā! Oh, my belovèd!
[Enter, in great agitation, Vasantasenā and the Buddhist monk.]
Monk. Strange! My monkish life did me yeoman service when it proved necessary to comfort Vasantasenā, so untimely wearied, and to lead her on her way. Sister in Buddha, whither shall I lead you? Vasantasenā. To the noble Chārudatta's house. Revive me with the sight of him, as the night-blooming water-lily is revived by the sight of the moon.
Monk. [Aside.] By which road shall I enter? [He reflects.] The king's highwayI'll enter by that. Come, sister in Buddha! Here is the king's highway. [Listening.] But what is this great tumult that I hear on the king's highway?
Vasantasenā. [Looking before her.] Why, there is a great crowd of people before us. Pray find out, sir, what it means. All Ujjayinī tips to one side, as if the earth bore an uneven load.
Goha. And here is the last place of proclamation. Beat the drum! Proclaim the sentence! [They do so.] Now, Chārudatta, wait! Don't be frightened. You will be killed very quickly.
Chārudatta. Ye blessèd gods!
Monk. [Listens. In terror.] Sister in Buddha, Chārudatta is being led to his death for murdering you.
Vasantasenā. [In terror.] Alas! For my wretched sake the noble Chārudatta put to death? Quick, quick! Oh, lead me thither!
Monk. Hasten, oh, hasten, sister in Buddha, to comfort the noble Chārudatta while he yet lives. Make way, gentlemen, make way!
Vasantasenā. Make way, make way!
Goha. Noble Chārudatta, it is the king's commandment that bears the blame. Think then of what you needs must think.
Chārudatta. Why waste words?
Goha. [Drawing his sword.] Noble Chārudatta, lie flat and be quiet. With one stroke we will kill you and send you to heaven. [Chārudatta does so. Goha raises his arm to strike. The sword falls from his hand.] What is this?
But since it did, I conclude that the noble Chārudatta is not to die. Have mercy, O mighty goddess of the Sahya hills! If only Chārudatta might be saved, then hadst thou shown favor to our headsman caste.
Ahīnta. Let us do as we were ordered.
Goha. Well, let us do it. [They make ready to impale Chārudatta.]
Monk and Vasantasenā. [Perceiving what is being done.] Good gentlemen! Hold, hold!
Vasantasenā. Good gentlemen! I am the wretch for whose sake he is put to death.
Goha. [Perceiving her.]
Vasantasenā. Oh, Chārudatta! What does it mean? [She falls on his breast.]
Monk. Oh, Chārudatta! What does it mean? [He falls at his feet.]
Goha. [Anxiously withdrawing.] Vasantasenā?At least, we did not kill an innocent man.
Monk. [Rising.] Thank heaven! Chārudatta lives.
Goha. And shall live a hundred years!
Vasantasenā. [Joyfully.] And I too am brought back to life again.
Goha. The king is at the place of sacrifice. Let us report to him what has taken place. [The two headsmen start to go away.]
Sansthānaka. [Perceives Vasantasenā. In terror.] Goodnessh! who brought the shlave back to life? Thish is the end of me. Good! I'll run away. [He runs away.]
Goha. [Returning.] Well, didn't we have orders from the king to put the man to death who murdered Vasantasenā? Let us hunt for the king's brother-in-law.
[Exeunt the two headsmen.
Chārudatta. [In amazement.]
[He gazes at her.]
Vasantasenā. [Rises tearfully and falls at his feet.] O noble Chārudatta, I am indeed the wretch for whose sake you are fallen upon this unworthy plight.
Voices behind the scenes. A miracle, a miracle! Vasantasenā lives. [The bystanders repeat the words.]
Chārudatta. [Listens, then rises suddenly, embraces Vasantasenā, and closes his eyes. In a voice trembling with emotion.] My love! You are Vasantasenā!
Vasantasenā. That same unhappy woman.
Chārudatta. [Gazes upon her. Joyfully.] Can it be? Vasantasenā herself? [In utter happiness.]
Vasantasenā! Oh, my belovèd!
But see, my belovèd!
Vasantasenā. You with your utter kindliness, what can it be that you have done?
Chārudatta. My belovèd, he said that I had killed you.
Vasantasenā. [Stopping her ears.] Heaven avert the omen! It was he, the king's brother-in-law, who killed me.
Chārudatta. [Perceiving the monk.] But who is this?
Vasantasenā. When that unworthy wretch had killed me, this worthy man brought me back to life.
Chārudatta. Who are you, unselfish friend?
Monk. You do not remember me, sir. I am that shampooer, who once was happy to rub your feet. When I fell into the hands of certain gamblers, this sister in Buddha, upon hearing that I had been your servant, bought my freedom with her jewels. Thereupon I grew tired of the gambler's life, and became a Buddhist monk. Now this lady made a mistake in her bullock-cart, and so came to the old garden Pushpakaranda. But when that unworthy wretch learned that she would not love him, he murdered her by strangling. And I found her there.
Loud voices behind the scenes.
[Enter hurriedly Sharvilaka.]
The foe whose powers and friends had fled, he slew,
Consoled and comforted his subjects true;
And earth's broad sovereignty has gladly wed
His power, and bent to him her lowly head,
Who toward his foe plays Indra's part anew.47
[He looks before him.] Ah! There he will be found, where the people are thus gathered together. Oh, that this deed of King Aryaka might be crowned with the rescued life of noble Chārudatta! [He quickens his steps.] Make way, you rascals! [He discovers Chārudatta. Joyfully.] Is Chārudatta yet living, and Vasantasenā? Truly, our sovereign's wishes are fulfilled.
Yet how shall I approach him, who have so grievously sinned against him? But no! Honesty is always honorable. [He approaches and, folds his hands. Aloud.] O noble Chārudatta!
Chārudatta. Who are you, sir?
Chārudatta. Not so, my friend. Thereby you showed your faith in me. [He embraces him.]
Sharvilaka. And one thing more:
Chārudatta. What say you?
Chārudatta. Sharvilaka, did you set free that Aryaka, whom Pālaka took from his hamlet, and confined without cause in the tower?
Sharvilaka. I did.
Chārudatta. This is indeed most welcome tidings.
Sharvilaka. Scarcely was your friend Aryaka established in Ujjayinī, when he bestowed upon you the throne of Kushāvatī, on the bank of the Venā. May you graciously receive this first token of his love. [He turns around.] Come, lead hither that rascal, that villain, the brother-in-law of the king!
Voices behind the scenes. We will, Sharvilaka.
Sharvilaka. Sir, King Aryaka declares that he won this kingdom through your virtues, and that you are therefore to have some benefit from it.
Chārudatta. The kingdom won through my virtues?
Voices behind the scenes. Come on, brother-in-law of the king, and
reap the reward of your insolence. [Enter Sansthānaka, guarded, with his hands tied behind his back.]
Sansthānaka. Goodnessh gracious!
[He looks about him.] They crowd around me, though I'm a relative of the king's. To whom shall I go for help in my helplesshnessh? [He reflects.] Good! I'll go to the man who gives help and shows mercy to the shuppliant. [He approaches.] Noble Chārudatta, protect me, protect me! [He falls at his feet.]
Voices behind the scenes. Noble Chārudatta, leave him to us! let us kill him!
Sansthānaka. [To Chārudatta.] O helper of the helplessh, protect me!
Chārudatta. [Mercifully.] Yes, yes. He who seeks protection shall be safe.
Sharvilaka. [Impatiently.] Confound him! Take him away from Chārudatta! [To Chārudatta.] Tell me. What shall be done with the wretch?
Chārudatta. Will you do as I say?
Sharvilaka. How can you doubt it?
Sansthānaka. Chārudatta! Mashter! I sheek your protection. Protect me, protect me! Do shomething worthy of yourshelf. I'll never do it again!
Voices of citizens behind the scenes. Kill him! Why should the wretch be allowed to live?
[Vasantasenā takes the garland of death from Chārudatta's neck, and throws it upon Sansthānaka.]
Sansthānaka. You shlave-wench, be merciful, be merciful! I'll never murder you again. Protect me!
Sharvilaka. Come, take him away! Noble Chārudatta, say what shall be done with the wretch.
Chārudatta. Will you do as I say?
Sharvilaka. How can you doubt it?
Chārudatta. Then let him be immediately
Chārudatta. No, no! Set free.
Sharvilaka. What for?
Sharvilaka. All right. We will have the dogs eat him alive.
Sharvilaka. Wonderful! What shall I do? Tell me, sir.
Chārudatta. Why, set him free.
Sharvilaka. It shall be done.
Sansthānaka. Hooray! I breathe again.
[Exit, with the guards.
Sharvilaka. Mistress Vasantasenā, the king is pleased to bestow upon you the title "wedded wife."
Vasantasenā. Sir, I desire no more.
Sharvilaka. [Places the veil 1 upon Vasantasenā. To Chārudatta.] Sir, what shall be done for this monk?
Chārudatta. Monk, what do you most desire?
Monk. When I see this example of the uncertainty of all things,
I am twice content to be a monk.
Chārudatta. His purpose is not to be changed, my friend. Let him be appointed spiritual father over all the monasteries in the land.
Sharvilaka. It shall be done.
Monk. It is all that I desire.
Vasantasenā. Now I am indeed brought back to life.
Sharvilaka. What shall be done for Sthāvaraka?
Chārudatta. Let the good fellow be given his freedom. Let those headsmen be appointed chiefs of all the headsmen. Let Chandanaka be appointed chief of all the police in the land. Let the brother-in-law of the king continue to act exactly as he acted in the past.
Sharvilaka. It shall be done. Only that manleave him to me, and I'll kill him.
Sharvilaka. Then tell me what I may yet do for you.
Chārudatta. Can there be more than this?
This dear-loved maiden is at last mine own,
And you united with me as a friend.
And shall I ask for further mercies, shown
To me, who cannot sound these mercies end?58
Fate plays with us like buckets at the well,
Where one is filled, and one an empty shell,
Where one is rising, while another falls;
And shows how life is changenow heaven, now hell.59
Yet may the wishes of our epilogue be fulfilled.
154:1 That is, the lightning.
157:1 Rohasena is himself conceived as the receptacle of the water which a son must pour as a drink-offering to his dead father.
157:2 The Manes or spirits of the blessed dead.
174:1 A token of honorable marriage. Compare page 66.