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p. 81


(Enter, in a chariot that flies through the air, the king and MATALI.)

King. Matali, though I have done what Indra commanded, I think myself an unprofitable servant, when I remember his most gracious welcome.

Matali. O King, know that each considers himself the other's debtor. For

You count the service given
  Small by the welcome paid,
Which to the king of heaven
  Seems mean for such brave aid.

King. Ah, no! For the honour given me at parting went far beyond imagination. Before the gods, he seated me beside him on his throne. And then

He smiled, because his son Jayanta's heart
  Beat quicker, by the self-same wish oppressed,
And placed about my neck the heavenly wreath
  Still fragrant from the sandal on his breast.

Matali. But what do you not deserve from heaven's king? Remember:

Twice, from peace-loving Indra's sway
The demon-thorn was plucked away:
  First, by Man-lion's crooked claws;
Again, by your smooth shafts to-day.

King. This merely proves Indra's majesty. Remember:

All servants owe success in enterprise
  To honour paid before the great deed's done;
Could dawn defeat the darkness otherwise
  Than resting on the chariot of the sun?

Matali. The feeling becomes you. (After a little.) See, O King! Your glory has the happiness of being published abroad in heaven.

p. 82

With colours used by nymphs of heaven
  To make their beauty shine,
Gods write upon the surface given
  Of many a magic vine,
As worth their song, the simple story
Of those brave deeds that made your glory.

King. Matali, when I passed before, I was intent on fighting the demons, and did not observe this region. Tell me. In which path of the winds are we?


It is the windpath sanctified
By holy Vishnu's second stride;
Which, freed from dust of passion, ever
Upholds the threefold heavenly river;
And, driving them with reins of light,
Guides the stars in wheeling flight.

King. That is why serenity pervades me, body and soul. (He observes the path taken by the chariot.) It seems that we have descended into the region of the clouds.

Matali. How do you perceive it?


Plovers that fly from mountain-caves,
Steeds that quick-flashing lightning laves,
And chariot-wheels that drip with spray--
A path o’er pregnant clouds betray.

Matali. You are right. And in a moment you will be in the world over which you bear rule.

King (looking down). Matali, our quick descent gives the world of men a mysterious look. For

The plains appear to melt and fall
From mountain peaks that grow more tall;
The trunks of trees no longer hide
Nor in their leafy nests abide;
The river network now is clear,
For smaller streams at last appear:
It seems as if some being threw
The world to me, for clearer view.

Matali. You are a good observer, O King. (He looks down, awe-struck.) There is a noble loveliness in the earth.

p. 83

King. Matali, what mountain is this, its flanks sinking into the eastern and into the western sea? It drips liquid gold like a cloud at sunset.

Matali. O King, this is Gold Peak, the mountain of the fairy centaurs. Here it is that ascetics most fully attain to magic powers. See!

The ancient sage, Marichi's son,
Child of the Uncreated One,
Father of superhuman life,
Dwells here austerely with his wife.

King (reverently). I must not neglect the happy chance. I cannot go farther until I have walked humbly about the holy one.

Matali. It is a worthy thought, O King. (The chariot descends.) We have come down to earth.

King (astonished). Matali,

The wheels are mute on whirling rim;
  Unstirred, the dust is lying there;
We do not bump the earth, but skim:
  Still, still we seem to fly through air.

Matali. Such is the glory of the chariot which obeys you and Indra.

King. In which direction lies the hermitage of Marichi's son?

Matali (pointing). See!

Where stands the hermit, horridly austere,
Whom clinging vines are choking, tough and sere;
Half-buried in an ant-hill that has grown
About him, standing post-like and alone;
Sun-staring with dim eyes that know no rest,
The dead skin of a serpent on his breast:
So long he stood unmoved, insensate there
That birds build nests within his mat of hair.

King (gazing). All honour to one who mortifies the flesh so terribly.

Matali (checking the chariot). We have entered the hermitage of the ancient sage, whose wife Aditi tends the coral-trees.

p. 84

King. Here is deeper contentment than in heaven. I seem plunged in a pool of nectar.

Matali (stopping the chariot). Descend, O King.

King (descending). But how will you fare?

Matali. The chariot obeys the word of command. I too will descend. (He does so.) Before you, O King, are the groves where the holiest hermits lead their self-denying life.

King. I look with amazement both at their simplicity and at what they might enjoy.

Their appetites are fed with air
Where grows whatever is most fair;
They bathe religiously in pools
Which golden lily-pollen cools;
They pray within a jewelled home,
Are chaste where nymphs of heaven roam:
They mortify desire and sin
With things that others fast to win.

Matali. The desires of the great aspire high. (He walks about and speaks to some one not visible.) Ancient Shakalya, how is Marichi's holy son occupied? (He listens.) What do you say? That he is explaining to Aditi, in answer to her question, the duties of a faithful wife? My matter must await a fitter time. (He turns to the king.) Wait here, O King, in the shade of the ashoka tree, till I have announced your coming to the sire of Indra.

King. Very well. (Exit MATALI. The king's arm throbs, a happy omen.)

I dare not hope for what I pray;
  Why thrill--in vain?
For heavenly bliss once thrown away
  Turns into pain.

A voice behind the scenes. Don't! You mustn't be so foolhardy. Oh, you are always the same.

King (listening). No naughtiness could feel at home in this spot. Who draws such a rebuke upon himself? (He looks towards the sound. In surprise.) It is a child, but no child in strength. And two hermit-women are trying to control him.

p. 85

He drags a struggling lion cub,
  The lioness' milk half-sucked, half-missed,
Towzles his mane, and tries to drub
  Him tame with small, imperious fist.

(Enter a small boy, as described, and two hermit-women.)

Boy. Open your mouth, cub. I want to count your teeth.

First woman. Naughty boy, why do you torment our pets? They are like children to us. Your energy seems to take the form of striking something. No wonder the hermits call you All-tamer.

King. Why should my heart go out to this boy as if he were my own son? (He reflects.) No doubt my childless state makes me sentimental.

Second woman. The lioness will spring at you if you don't let her baby go.

Boy (smiling). Oh, I'm dreadfully scared. (He bites his lip.)

King (in surprise).

The boy is seed of fire
  Which, when it grows, will burn;
A tiny spark that soon
  To awful flame may turn.

First woman. Let the little lion go, dear. I will give you another plaything.

Boy. Where is it? Give it to me. (He stretches out his hand.)

King (looking at the hand.) He has one of the imperial birthmarks! For

Between the eager fingers grow
  The close-knit webs together drawn,
Like some lone lily opening slow
  To meet the kindling blush of dawn.

Second woman. Suvrata, we can't make him stop by talking. Go. In my cottage you will find a painted clay peacock that belongs to the hermit-boy Mankanaka. Bring him that.

First woman. I will. (Exit.)

p. 86

Boy. Meanwhile I'll play with this one.

Hermit-woman (looks and laughs). Let him go.

King. My heart goes out to this wilful child. (Sighing.)

They show their little buds of teeth
  In peals of causeless laughter;
They hide their trustful heads beneath
  Your heart. And stumbling after
Come sweet, unmeaning sounds that sing
  To you. The father warms
And loves the very dirt they bring
  Upon their little forms.

Hermit-woman (shaking her finger). Won't you mind me?

(She looks about.) Which one of the hermit-boys is here?

(She sees the king.) Oh, sir, please come here and free this lion cub. The little rascal is tormenting him, and I can't make him let go.

King. Very well. (He approaches, smiling.) O little son of a great sage!

Your conduct in this place apart,
Is most unfit;
’Twould grieve your father's pious heart
And trouble it.

To animals he is as good
As good can be;
You spoil it, like a black snake's brood
In sandal tree.

Hermit-woman. But, sir, he is not the son of a hermit.

King. So it would seem, both from his looks and his actions. But in this spot, I had no suspicion of anything else. (He loosens the boy's hold on the cub, and touching him, says to himself.)

It makes me thrill to touch the boy,
  The stranger's son, to me unknown;
What measureless content must fill
  The man who calls the child his own!

Hermit-woman (looking at the two). Wonderful! wonderful!

King. Why do you say that, mother?

p. 87

Hermit-woman. I am astonished to see how much the boy looks like you, sir. You are not related. Besides, he is a perverse little creature and he does not know you. Yet he takes no dislike to you.

King (caressing the boy). Mother, if he is not the son of a hermit, what is his family?

Hermit-woman. The family of Puru.

King (to himself). He is of one family with me! Then could my thought be true? (Aloud.) But this is the custom of Puru's line:

In glittering palaces they dwell
While men, and rule the country well;
Then make the grove their home in age,
And die in austere hermitage.

[paragraph continues] But how could human beings, of their own mere motion, attain this spot?

Hermit-woman. You are quite right, sir. But the boy's mother was related to a nymph, and she bore her son in the pious grove of the father of the gods.

King (to himself). Ah, a second ground for hope. (Aloud.) What was the name of the good king whose wife she was?

Hermit-woman. Who would speak his name? He rejected his true wife.

King (to himself). This story points at me. Suppose I ask the boy for his mother's name. (He reflects.) No, it is wrong to concern myself with one who may be another's wife. (Enter the first woman, with the clay peacock.)

First woman. Look, All-tamer. Here is the bird, the shakunta. Isn't the shakunta lovely?

Boy (looks about). Where is my mamma? (The two women burst out laughing.)

First woman. It sounded like her name, and deceived him. He loves his mother.

Second woman. She said: "See how pretty the peacock is." That is all.

King (to himself). His mother's name is Shakuntala! But names are alike. I trust this hope may not prove a disappointment in the end, like a mirage.

Boy. I like this little peacock, sister. Can it fly? (He seizes the toy.)

p. 88

First woman (looks at the boy. Anxiously). Oh, the amulet is not on his wrist.

King. Do not be anxious, mother. It fell while he was struggling with the lion cub. (He starts to pick it up.)

The two women. Oh, don't, don't! (They look at him.) He has touched it! (Astonished, they lay their hands on their bosoms, and look at each other.)

King. Why did you try to prevent me?

First woman. Listen, your Majesty. This is a divine and most potent charm, called the Invincible. Marichi's holy son gave it to the baby when the birth-ceremony was performed. If it falls on the ground, no one may touch it except the boy's parents or the boy himself.

King. And if another touch it?

First woman. It becomes a serpent and stings him.

King. Did you ever see this happen to any one else?

Both women. More than once.

King (joyfully). Then why may I not welcome my hopes fulfilled at last? (He embraces the boy.)

Second woman. Come, Suvrata. Shakuntala is busy with her religious duties. We must go and tell her what has happened. (Exeunt ambo.)

Boy. Let me go. I want to see my mother.

King. My son, you shall go with me to greet your mother.

Boy. Dushyanta is my father, not you.

King (smiling). You show I am right by contradicting me. (Enter SHAKUNTALA, wearing her hair in a single braid.)

Shakuntala (doubtfully). I have heard that All-tamer's amulet did not change when it should have done so. But I do not trust my own happiness. Yet perhaps it is as Mishrakeshi told me. (She walks about.)

King (looking at SHAKUNTALA. With plaintive joy). It is she. It is Shakuntala.

The pale, worn face, the careless dress,
  The single braid,
Show her still true, me pitiless,
  The long vow paid.

Shakuntala (seeing the king pale with remorse. Doubtfully). It is not my husband. Who is the man that soils my boy with his caresses? The amulet should protect him.

p. 89

Boy (running to his mother). Mother, he is a man that belongs to other people. And he calls me his son.

King. My darling, the cruelty I showed you has turned to happiness. Will you not recognise me?

Shakuntala (to herself). Oh, my heart, believe it. Fate struck hard, but its envy is gone and pity takes its place. It is my husband.


Black madness flies;
  Comes memory;
Before my eyes
  My love I see.

Eclipse flees far;
  Light follows soon;
The loving star
  Draws to the moon.

Shakuntala. Victory, victo----- (Tears choke her utterance.)


The tears would choke you, sweet, in vain;
  My soul with victory is fed,
Because I see your face again--
  No jewels, but the lips are red.

Boy. Who is he, mother?

Shakuntala. Ask fate, my child. (She weeps.)


Dear, graceful wife, forget;
  Let the sin vanish;
Strangely did madness strive
  Reason to banish.

Thus blindness works in men,
  Love's joy to shake;
Spurning a garland, lest
  It prove a snake. (He falls at her feet.)

Shakuntala. Rise, my dear husband. Surely, it was some old sin of mine that broke my happiness--though it has turned again to happiness. Otherwise, how could you, dear, have acted so? You are so kind. (The king rises.) But what brought back the memory of your suffering wife?

p. 90

King. I will tell you when I have plucked out the dart of sorrow.

’Twas madness, sweet, that could let slip
A tear to burden your dear lip;
On graceful lashes seen to-day,
I wipe it, and our grief, away.

(He does so.)

Shakuntala (sees more clearly and discovers the ring). My husband, it is the ring!

King. Yes. And when a miracle recovered it, my memory returned.

Shakuntala. That was why it was so impossible for me to win your confidence.

King. Then let the vine receive her flower, as earnest of her union with spring.

Shakuntala. I do not trust it. I would rather you wore it. (Enter MATALI.)

Matali. I congratulate you, O King, on reunion with your wife and on seeing the face of your son.

King. My desires bear sweeter fruit because fulfilled through a friend. Matali, was not this matter known to Indra?

Matali (smiling). What is hidden from the gods? Come. Marichi's holy son, Kashyapa, wishes to see you.

King. My dear wife, bring our son. I could not appear without you before the holy one.

Shakuntala. I am ashamed to go before such parents with my husband.

King. It is the custom in times of festival. Come. (They walk about. KASHYAPA appears seated, with ADITI.)

Kashyapa (looking at the king). Aditi,

’Tis King Dushyanta, he who goes before
  Your son in battle, and who rules the earth,
Whose bow makes Indra's weapon seem no more
  Than a fine plaything, lacking sterner worth.

Aditi. His valour might be inferred from his appearance.

Matali. O King, the parents of the gods look upon you with a glance that betrays parental fondness. Approach them.

p. 91

King. Matali,

Sprung from the Creator's children, do I see
Great Kashyapa and Mother Aditi?
The pair that did produce the sun in heaven,
To which each year twelve changing forms are given;
That brought the king of all the gods to birth,
Who rules in heaven, in hell, and on the earth;
That Vishnu, than the Uncreated higher,
Chose as his parents with a fond desire.

Matali. It is indeed they.

King (falling before them). Dushyanta, servant of Indra, does reverence to you both.

Kashyapa. My son, rule the earth long.

Aditi. And be invincible. (SHAKUNTALA and her son fall at their feet.)

Kashyapa. My daughter,

Your husband equals Indra, king
  Of gods; your son is like his son;
No further blessing need I bring:
  Win bliss such as his wife has won.

Aditi. My child, keep the favour of your husband. And may this fine boy be an honour to the families of both parents. Come, let us be seated. (All seat themselves.)

Kashyapa (indicating one after the other).

Faithful Shakuntala, the boy,
  And you, O King, I see
A trinity to bless the world--
  Faith, Treasure, Piety.

King. Holy one, your favour shown to us is without parallel. You granted the fulfilment of our wishes before you called us to your presence. For, holy one,

The flower comes first, and then the fruit;
  The clouds appear before the rain;
Effect comes after cause; but you
  First helped, then made your favour plain.

Matali. O King, such is the favour shown by the parents of the world.

p. 92

King. Holy one, I married this your maid-servant by the voluntary ceremony. When after a time her relatives brought her to me, my memory failed and I rejected her. In so doing, I sinned against Kanva, who is kin to you. But afterwards, when I saw the ring, I perceived that I had married her. And this seems very wonderful to me.

Like one who doubts an elephant,
  Though seeing him stride by,
And vet believes when he has seen
  The footprints left; so I.

Kashyapa. My son, do not accuse yourself of sin. Your infatuation was inevitable. Listen.

King. I am all attention.

Kashyapa. When the nymph Menaka descended to earth and received Shakuntala, afflicted at her rejection, she came to Aditi. Then I perceived the matter by my divine insight. I saw that the unfortunate girl had been rejected by her rightful husband because of Durvasas' curse. And that the curse would end when the ring came to light.

King (with a sigh of relief. To himself). Then I am free from blame.

Shakuntala (to herself). Thank heaven! My husband did not reject me of his own accord. He really did not remember me. I suppose I did not hear the curse in my absent-minded state, for my friends warned me most earnestly to show my husband the ring.

Kashyapa. My daughter, you know the truth. Do not now give way to anger against your rightful husband.


The curse it was that brought defeat and pain;
The darkness flies; you are his queen again.
Reflections are not seen in dusty glass,
Which, cleaned, will mirror all the things that pass.

King. It is most true, holy one.

Kashyapa. My son, I hope you have greeted as he deserves the son whom Shakuntala has borne you, for whom I myself have performed the birth-rite and the other ceremonies.

King. Holy one, the hope of my race centres in him.

p. 93

Kashyapa. Know then that his courage will make him emperor.

Journeying over every sea,
His car will travel easily;
The seven islands of the earth
Will bow before his matchless worth;
Because wild beasts to him were tame,
All-tamer was his common name;
As Bharata he shall be known,
For he will bear the world alone.

King. I anticipate everything from him, since you have performed the rites for him.

Aditi. Kanva also should be informed that his daughter's wishes are fulfilled. But Menaka is waiting upon me here and cannot be spared.

Shakuntala (to herself). The holy one has expressed my own desire. Kashyapa. Kanva knows the whole matter through his divine insight. (He reflects.) Yet he should hear from us the pleasant tidings, how his daughter and her son have been received by her husband. Who waits without? (Enter a pupil.)

Pupil. I am here, holy one.

Kashyapa. Galava, fly through the air at once, carrying pleasant tidings from me to holy Kanva. Tell him how Durvasas' curse has come to an end, how Dushyanta recovered his memory, and has taken Shakuntala with her child to himself.

Pupil. Yes, holy one. (Exit.)

Kashyapa (to the king). My son, enter with child and wife the chariot of your friend Indra, and set out for your capital.

King. Yes, holy one.

Kashyapa. For now

May Indra send abundant rain,
Repaid by sacrificial gain;
With aid long mutually given,
Rule you on earth, and he in heaven.

King. Holy one, I will do my best.

p. 94

Kashyapa. What more, my son, shall I do for you?

King. Can there be more than this? Yet may this prayer be fulfilled.

May kingship benefit the land,
And wisdom grow in scholars' band;
May Shiva see my faith on earth
And make me free of all rebirth.

(Exeunt omnes.)

Next: The Story of Shakuntala