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p. 17



(Enter the clown.)

Clown (sighing). Damn! Damn! Damn! I'm tired of being friends with this sporting king. "There's a deer!" he shouts, "There's a boar!" And off he chases on a summer noon through woods where shade is few and far between. We drink hot, stinking water from the mountain streams, flavoured with leaves--nasty! At odd times we get a little tepid meat to eat. And the horses and the elephants make such a noise that I can't even be comfortable at night. Then the hunters and the bird-chasers--damn ’em--wake me up bright and early. They do make an ear-splitting rumpus when they start for the woods. But even that isn't the whole misery. There's a new pimple growing on the old boil. He left us behind and went hunting a deer. And there in a hermitage they say he found--oh, dear! oh, dear! he found a hermit-girl named Shakuntala. Since then he hasn't a thought of going back to town. I lay awake all night, thinking about it. What can I do? Well, I'll see my friend when he is dressed and beautified. (He walks and looks about.) Hello! Here he comes, with his bow in his hand, and his girl in his heart. He is wearing a wreath of wild flowers! I'll pretend to be all knocked up. Perhaps I can get a rest that way. (He stands, leaning on his stag. Enter the king, as described.)

King (to himself).

Although my darling is not lightly won,
  She seemed to love me, and my hopes are bright;
Though love be balked ere joy be well begun,
  A common longing is itself delight.

[paragraph continues] (Smiling.) Thus does a lover deceive himself. He judges his love's feelings by his own desires.

p. 18

Her glance was loving--but 'twas not for me;
Her step was slow--'twas grace, not coquetry;
Her speech was short--to her detaining friend.
In things like these love reads a selfish end!

Clown (standing as before). Well, king, I can't move my hand. I can only greet you with my voice.

King (looking and smiling). What makes you lame?

Clown. Good! You hit a man in the eye, and then ask him why the tears come.

King. I do not understand you. Speak plainly.

Clown. When a reed bends over like a hunchback, do you blame the reed or the river-current?

King. The river-current, of course.

Clown. And you are to blame for my troubles.

King. How so?

Clown. It's a fine thing for you to neglect your royal duties and such a sure job--to live in the woods! What's the good of talking? Here I am, a Brahman, and my joints are all shaken up by this eternal running after wild animals, so that I can't move. Please be good to me. Let us have a rest for just one day.

King (to himself). He says this. And I too, when I remember Kanva's daughter, have little desire for the chase. For

The bow is strung, its arrow near;
  And yet I cannot bend
That bow against the fawns who share
  Soft glances with their friend.

Clown (observing the king). He means more than he says. I might as well weep in the woods.

King (smiling). What more could I mean? I have been thinking that I ought to take my friend's advice.

Clown (cheerfully). Long life to you, then. (He unstiffens.)

King. Wait. Hear me out.

Clown. Well, sir?

King. When you are rested, you must be my companion in another task--an easy one.

Clown. Crushing a few sweetmeats?

King. I will tell you presently.

Clown. Pray command my leisure.

p. 19

King. Who stands without? (Enter the door-keeper.)

Door-keeper. I await your Majesty's commands.

King. Raivataka, summon the general.

Door-keeper. Yes, your Majesty. (He goes out, then returns with the general.) Follow me, sir. There is his Majesty, listening to our conversation. Draw near, sir.

General (observing the king, to himself). Hunting is declared to be a sin, yet it brings nothing but good to the king. See!

He does not heed the cruel sting
Of his recoiling, twanging string;
The mid-day sun, the dripping sweat
Affect him not, nor make him fret;
His form, though sinewy and spare,
Is most symmetrically fair;
No mountain-elephant could be
More filled with vital strength than he.

[paragraph continues] (He approaches.) Victory to your Majesty! The forest is full of deer-tracks, and beasts of prey cannot be far off. What better occupation could we have?

King. Bhadrasena, my enthusiasm is broken. Madhavya has been preaching against hunting.

General (aside to the clown). Stick to it, friend Madhavya. I will humour the king a moment. (Aloud.) Your Majesty, he is a chattering idiot. Your Majesty may judge by his own case whether hunting is an evil. Consider:

The hunter's form grows sinewy, strong, and light;
He learns, from beasts of prey, how wrath and fright
Affect the mind; his skill he loves to measure
With moving targets. ’Tis life's chiefest pleasure.

Clown (angrily). Get out! Get out with your strenuous life! The king has come to his senses. But you, you son of a slave-wench, can go chasing from forest to forest, till you fall into the jaws of some old bear that is looking for a deer or a jackal.

King. Bhadrasena, I cannot take your advice, because I am in the vicinity of a hermitage. So for to-day

The hornèd buffalo may shake
The turbid water of the lake; p. 20
Shade-seeking deer may chew the cud,
Boars trample swamp-grass in the mud;
The bow I bend in hunting, may
Enjoy a listless holiday.

General. Yes, your Majesty.

King. Send back the archers who have gone ahead. And forbid the soldiers to vex the hermitage, or even to approach it. Remember:

There lurks a hidden fire in each
  Religious hermit-bower;
Cool sun-stones kindle if assailed
  By any foreign power.

General. Yes, your Majesty.

Clown. Now will you get out with your strenuous life? (Exit general.)

King (to his attendants). Lay aside your hunting dress. And you, Raivataka, return to your post of duty.

Raivataka. Yes, your Majesty. (Exit.)

Clown. You have got rid of the vermin. Now be seated on this flat stone, over which the trees spread their canopy of shade. I can't sit down till you do.

King. Lead the way.

Clown. Follow me. (They walk about and sit down.)

King. Friend Madhavya, you do not know what vision is. You have not seen the fairest of all objects.

Clown. I see you, right in front of me.

King. Yes, every one thinks himself beautiful. But I was speaking of Shakuntala, the ornament of the hermitage.

Clown (to himself). I mustn't add fuel to the flame. (Aloud.) But you can't have her because she is a hermit-girl. What is the use of seeing her?

King. Fool!

And is it selfish longing then,
  That draws our souls on high
Through eyes that have forgot to wink,
  As the new moon climbs the sky?

[paragraph continues] Besides, Dushyanta's thoughts dwell on no forbidden object.

Clown. Well, tell me about her.

p. 21


Sprung from a nymph of heaven
  Wanton and gay,
Who spurned the blessing given,
  Going her way;

By the stern hermit taken
  In her most need:
So fell the blossom shaken,
  Flower on a weed.

Clown (laughing). You are like a man who gets tired of good dates and longs for sour tamarind. All the pearls of the palace are yours, and you want this girl!

King. My friend, you have not seen her, or you could not talk so.

Clown. She must be charming if she surprises you.

King. Oh, my friend, she needs not many words.

She is God's vision, of pure thought
  Composed in His creative mind;
His reveries of beauty wrought
  The peerless pearl of womankind.
So plays my fancy when I see
How great is God, how lovely she.

Clown. How the women must hate her!

King. This too is in my thought.

She seems a flower whose fragrance none has tasted,
  A gem uncut by workman's tool,
A branch no desecrating hands have wasted,
  Fresh honey, beautifully cool.

No man on earth deserves to taste her beauty,
  Her blameless loveliness and worth,
Unless he has fulfilled man's perfect duty--
  And is there such a one on earth?

Clown. Marry her quick, then, before the poor girl falls into the hands of some oily-headed hermit.

King. She is dependent on her father, and he is not here.

Clown. But how does she feel toward you?

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King. My friend, hermit-girls are by their very nature timid. And yet

When I was near, she could not look at me;
  She smiled--but not to me--and half denied it;
She would not show her love for modesty,
  Yet did not try so very hard to hide it.

Clown. Did you want her to climb into your lap the first time she saw you?

King. But when she went away with her friends, she almost showed that she loved me.

When she had hardly left my side,
"I cannot walk," the maiden cried,
And turned her face, and feigned to free
The dress not caught upon the tree.

Clown. She has given you some memories to chew on. I suppose that is why you are so in love with the pious grove.

King. My friend, think of some pretext under which we may return to the hermitage.

Clown. What pretext do you need? Aren't you the king?

King. What of that?

Clown. Collect the taxes on the hermits' rice.

King. Fool! It is a very different tax which these hermits pay--one that outweighs heaps of gems.

The wealth we take from common men,
  Wastes while we cherish;
These share with us such holiness
  As ne’er can perish.

Voices behind the scenes. Ah, we have found him.

King (listening). The voices are grave and tranquil. These must be hermits. (Enter the door-keeper.)

Door-keeper. Victory, O King. There are two hermit-youths at the gate.

King. Bid them enter at once.

Door-keeper. Yes, your Majesty. (He goes out, then returns with the youths.) Follow me.

First youth (looking at the king). A majestic presence, yet it inspires confidence. Nor is this wonderful in a king who is half a saint. For to him

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The splendid palace serves as hermitage;
His royal government, courageous, sage,
Adds daily to his merit; it is given
To him to win applause from choirs of heaven
Whose anthems to his glory rise and swell,
Proclaiming him a king, and saint as well.

Second youth. My friend, is this Dushyanta, friend of Indra?

First youth. It is.

Second youth.

Nor is it wonderful that one whose arm
Might bolt a city gate, should keep from harm
  The whole broad earth dark-belted by the sea;
For when the gods in heaven with demons fight,
Dushyanta's bow and Indra's weapon bright
  Are their reliance for the victory.

The two youths (approaching). Victory, O King!

King (rising). I salute you.

The two youths. All hail! (They offer fruit.)

King (receiving it and bowing low). May I know the reason of your coming?

The two youths. The hermits have learned that you are here, and they request------

King. They command rather.

The two youths. The powers of evil disturb our pious life in the absence of the hermit-father. We therefore ask that you will remain a few nights with your charioteer to protect the hermitage.

King. I shall be most happy to do so.

Clown (to the king). You rather seem to like being collared this way.

King. Raivataka, tell my charioteer to drive up, and to bring the bow and arrows.

Raivataka. Yes, your Majesty. (Exit.)

The two youths.

Thou art a worthy scion of
  The kings who ruled our nation
And found, defending those in need,
  Their truest consecration.

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King. Pray go before. And I will follow straightway.

The two youths. Victory, O King! (Exeunt.)

King. Madhavya, have you no curiosity to see Shakuntala?

Clown. I did have an unending curiosity, but this talk about the powers of evil has put an end to it.

King. Do not fear. You will be with me.

Clown. I'll stick close to your chariot-wheel. (Enter the door-keeper.)

Door-keeper. Your Majesty, the chariot is ready, and awaits your departure to victory. But one Karabhaka has come from the city, a messenger from the queen-mother.

King (respectfully). Sent by my mother?

Door-keeper. Yes.

King. Let him enter.

Door-keeper (goes out and returns with KARABHAKA). Karabhaka, here is his Majesty. You may draw near.

Karabhaka (approaching and bowing low). Victory to your Majesty. The queen-mother sends her commands------

King. What are her commands?

Karabhaka. She plans to end a fasting ceremony on the fourth day from to-day. And on that occasion her dear son must not fail to wait upon her.

King. On the one side is my duty to the hermits, on the other my mother's command. Neither may be disregarded. What is to be done?

Clown (laughing). Stay half-way between, like Trishanku.

King. In truth, I am perplexed.

Two inconsistent duties sever
  My mind with cruel shock,
As when the current of a river
  Is split upon a rock.

[paragraph continues] (He reflects.) My friend, the queen-mother has always felt toward you as toward a son. Do you return, tell her what duty keeps me here, and yourself perform the offices of a son.

Clown. You don't think I am afraid of the devils?

King (smiling). O mighty Brahman, who could suspect it?

Clown. But I want to travel like a prince.

King. I will send all the soldiers with you, for the pious grove must not be disturbed.

p. 25

Clown (strutting). Aha! Look at the heir-apparent!

King (to himself). The fellow is a chatterbox. He might betray my longing to the ladies of the palace. Good, then! (He takes the clown by the hand. Aloud.) Friend Madhavya, my reverence for the hermits draws me to the hermitage. Do not think that I am really in love with the hermit-girl. Just think:

A king, and a girl of the calm hermit-grove,
Bred with the fawns, and a stranger to love!
Then do not imagine a serious quest;
The light words I uttered were spoken in jest.

Clown. Oh, I understand that well enough.

(Exeunt ambo.)

Next: Act III. The Love-Making