Treasure Island

Kalidasa

(4th Century - 5th Century / Ujjain / India)

The Birth of The War-God (Canto Fourth ) - Rati's Lament


Sad, solitary, helpless, faint, forlorn,
Woke Káma's darling from her swoon to mourn.
Too soon her gentle soul returned to know
The pangs of widowhood—that word of woe.
Scarce could she raise her, trembling, from the ground,
Scarce dared to bend her anxious gaze around,
Unconscious yet those greedy eyes should never
Feed on his beauty more—gone, gone for ever.
'Speak to me, Káma! why so silent? give
One word in answer—doth my Káma live?'
There on the turf his dumb cold ashes lay,
Whose soul that fiery flash had scorched away.
She clasped the dank earth in her wild despair,
Her bosom stained, and rent her long bright hair,
Till hill and valley caught the mourner's cry,
And pitying breezes echoed sigh for sigh.
'Oh thou wast beautiful: fond lovers sware
Their own bright darlings were like Káma, fair.
Sure woman's heart is stony: can it be
That I still live while this is all of thee?
Where art thou, Káma? Could my dearest leave
His own fond Rati here alone to grieve?
So must the sad forsaken lotus die
When her bright river leaves his channel dry.
Káma, dear Káma, call again to mind
How thou wast ever gentle, I was kind.
Let not my prayer, thy Rati's prayer, be vain;
Come as of old, and bless these eyes again!
Wilt thou not hear me? Think of those sweet hours
When I would bind thee with my zone of flowers,
Those soft gay fetters o'er thee fondly wreathing,
Thine only punishment when gently breathing
In tones of love thy heedless sigh betrayed
The name, dear traitor! of some rival maid.
Then would I pluck a floweret from my tress
And beat thee till I forced thee to confess,
While in my play the falling leaves would cover
The eyes—the bright eyes—of my captive lover.
And then those words that made me, oh, so blest—
'Dear love, thy home is in my faithful breast!'
Alas, sweet words, too blissful to be true,
Or how couldst thou have died, nor Rati perish too?
Yes, I will fly to thee, of thee bereft,
And leave this world which thou, my life, hast left.
Cold, gloomy, now this wretched world must be,
For all its pleasures came from only thee.
When night has veiled the city in its shade,
Thou, only thou, canst soothe the wandering maid,
And guide her trembling at the thunder's roar
Safe through the darkness to her lover's door.
In vain the wine-cup, as it circles by,
Lisps in her tongue and sparkles in her eye.
Long locks are streaming, and the cheek glows red:
But all is mockery, Love—dear Love—is dead.
The Moon, sweet spirit, shall lament for thee,
Late, dim, and joyless shall his rising be.
Days shall fly on, and he forget to take
His full bright glory, mourning for thy sake.
Say, Káma, say, whose arrow now shall be
The soft green shoot of thy dear mango tree,
The favourite spray which Köils love so well,
And praise in sweetest strain its wondrous spell?
This line of bees which strings thy useless bow
Hums mournful echo to my cries of woe.
Come in thy lovely shape and teach again
The Köil's mate, that knows the tender strain,
Her gentle task to waft to longing ears
The lover's hope, the distant lover's fears.
Come, bring once more that ecstasy of bliss,
The fond dear look, the smile, and ah! that kiss!
Fainting with woe, my soul refuses rest
When memory pictures how I have been blest.
See, thou didst weave a garland, love, to deck
With all spring's fairest buds thy Rati's neck.
Sweet are those flowers as they were culled to-day,
And is my Káma's form more frail than they?
His pleasant task my lover had begun,
But stern Gods took him ere the work was done;
Return, my Káma, at thy Rati's cry,
And stain this foot which waits the rosy dye.
Now will I hie me to the fatal pile,
And ere heaven's maids have hailed thee with a smile,
Or on my love their winning glances thrown,
I will be there, and claim thee for mine own.
Yet though I come, my lasting shame will be
That I have lived one moment after thee.
Ah, how shall I thy funeral rites prepare,
Gone soul and body to the viewless air?
'With thy dear Spring I've seen thee talk and smile,
Shaping an arrow for thy bow the while.
Where is he now, thy darling friend, the giver
Of many a bright sweet arrow for thy quiver?
Is he too sent upon death's dreary path,
Scorched by the cruel God's inexorable wrath?'
Stricken in spirit by her cries of woe,
Like venomed arrows from a mighty bow,
A moment fled, and gentle Spring was there,
To ask her grief, to soothe her wild despair.
She beat her breast more wildly than before,
With greater floods her weeping eyes ran o'er.
When friends are nigh the spirit finds relief
In the full gushing torrent of its grief.
'Turn, gentle friend, thy weeping eyes, and see
That dear companion who was all to me.
His crumbling dust with which the breezes play,
Bearing it idly in their course away,
White as the silver feathers of a dove,
Is all that's left me of my murdered love.
Now come, my Káma. Spring, who was so dear,
Longs to behold thee. Oh, appear, appear!
Fickle to women Love perchance may bend
His ear to listen to a faithful friend.
Remember, he walked ever at thy side
O'er bloomy meadows in the warm spring-tide,
That Gods above, and men, and fiends below
Should own the empire of thy mighty bow,
That ruthless bow, which pierces to the heart,
Strung with a lotus-thread, a flower its dart.
As dies a torch when winds sweep roughly by,
So is my light for ever fled, and I,
The lamp his cheering rays no more illume,
Am wrapt in darkness, misery and gloom.
Fate took my love, and spared the widow's breath,
Yet fate is guilty of a double death.
When the wild monster tramples on the ground
The tree some creeper garlands closely round,
Reft of the guardian which it thought so true,
Forlorn and withered, it must perish too.
Then come, dear friend, the true one's pile prepare,
And send me quickly to my husband there.
Call it not vain: the mourning lotus dies
When the bright Moon, her lover, quits the skies.
When sinks the red cloud in the purple west,
Still clings his bride, the lightning, to his breast.
All nature keeps the eternal high decree:
Shall woman fail? I come, my love, to thee!
Now on the pile my faint limbs will I throw,
Clasping his ashes, lovely even so,—
As if beneath my weary frame were spread
Soft leaves and blossoms for a flowery bed.
And oh, dear comrade (for in happier hours
Oft have I heaped a pleasant bed of flowers
For thee and him beneath the spreading tree),
Now quickly raise the pile for Love and me.
And in thy mercy gentle breezes send
To fan the flame that wafts away thy friend,
And shorten the sad moments that divide
Impatient Káma from his Rati's side;
Set water near us in a single urn,
We'll sip in heaven from the same in turn;
And let thine offering to his spirit be
Sprays fresh and lovely from the mango tree,
Culled when the round young buds begin to swell,
For Káma loved those fragrant blossoms well.'
As Rati thus complained in faithful love,
A heavenly voice breathed round her from above,
Falling in pity like the gentle rain
That brings the dying herbs to life again:
'Bride of the flower-armed God, thy lord shall be
Not ever distant, ever deaf to thee.
Give me thine ear, sad lady, I will tell
Why perished Káma, whom thou lovedst well.
The Lord of Life in every troubled sense
Too warmly felt his fair child's influence.
He quenched the fire, but mighty vengeance came
On Káma, fanner of the unholy flame.
When Śiva by her penance won has led
Himálaya's daughter to her bridal bed,
His bliss to Káma shall the God repay,
And give again the form he snatched away.
Thus did the gracious God, at Justice' prayer,
The term of Love's sad punishment declare.
The Gods, like clouds, are fierce and gentle too,
Now hurl the bolt, now dropp sweet heavenly dew.
Live, widowed lady, for thy lover's arms
Shall clasp again—oh, fondly clasp—thy charms.
In summer-heat the streamlet dies away
Beneath the fury of the God of Day:
Then, in due season, comes the pleasant rain,
And all is fresh, and fair, and full again.'
Thus breathed the spirit from the viewless air,
And stilled the raging of her wild despair;
While Spring consoled with every soothing art,
Cheered by that voice from heaven, the mourner's heart,
Who watched away the hours, so sad and slow,
That brought the limit of her weary woe,
As the pale moon, quenched by the conquering light
Of garish day, longs for its own dear night.

Submitted: Monday, June 18, 2012

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