Treasure Island

Kalidasa

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

The Birth of The War-God (Canto Second) - The Address To BRahma


While impious Tárak in resistless might
Was troubling heaven and earth with wild affright,
To Brahmá's high abode, by Indra led,
The mournful deities for refuge fled.
As when the Day-God's loving beams awake
The lotus slumbering on the silver lake,
So Brahmá deigned his glorious face to show,
And poured sweet comfort on their looks of woe.
Then nearer came the suppliant Gods to pay
Honour to him whose face turns every way.
They bowed them low before the Lord of Speech,
And sought with truthful words his heart to reach:
'Glory to Thee! before the world was made,
One single form thy Majesty displayed.
Next Thou, to body forth the mystic Three,
Didst fill three Persons: Glory, Lord, to Thee!
Unborn and unbegotten! from thy hand
The fruitful seed rained down; at thy command
From that small germ o'er quickening waters thrown
All things that move not, all that move have grown.
Before thy triple form in awe they bow:
Maker, preserver, and destroyer, Thou!
Thou, when a longing urged thee to create,
Thy single form in twain didst separate.
The Sire, the Mother that made all things be
By their first union were but parts of Thee.
From them the life that fills this earthly frame,
And fruitful Nature, self-renewing, came.
Thou countest not thy time by mortals' light;
With Thee there is but one vast day and night.
When Brahmá slumbers fainting Nature dies,
When Brahmá wakens all again arise.
Creator of the world, and uncreate!
Endless! all things from Thee their end await.
Before the world wast Thou! each Lord shall fall
Before Thee, mightiest, highest, Lord of all.
Thy self-taught soul thine own deep spirit knows;
Made by thyself thy mighty form arose;
Into the same, when all things have their end,
Shall thy great self, absorbed in Thee, descend.
Lord, who may hope thy essence to declare?
Firm, yet as subtile as the yielding air:
Fixt, all-pervading; ponderous, yet light,
Patent to all, yet hidden from the sight.
Thine are the sacred hymns which mortals raise,
Commencing ever with the word of praise,
With three-toned chant the sacrifice to grace,
And win at last in heaven a blissful place.
They hail Thee Nature labouring to free
The Immortal Soul from low humanity;
Hail Thee the stranger Spirit, unimpressed,
Gazing on Nature from thy lofty rest.
Father of fathers, God of gods art thou,
Creator, highest, hearer of the vow!
Thou art the sacrifice, and Thou the priest,
Thou, he that eateth; Thou, the holy feast.
Thou art the knowledge which by Thee is taught,
The mighty thinker, and the highest thought!'
Pleased with their truthful praise, his favouring eye
He turned upon the dwellers in the sky,
While from four mouths his words in gentle flow
Come welling softly to assuage their woe:
'Welcome! glad welcome, Princes! ye who hold
Your lofty sovereignties ordained of old.
But why so mournful? what has dimmed your light?
Why shine your faces less divinely bright?
Like stars that pour forth weaker, paler gleams,
When the fair moon with brighter radiance beams.
O say, in vain doth mighty Indra bear
The thunderbolt of heaven, unused to spare?
Vritra, the furious fiend, 'twas strong to slay:
Why dull and blunted is that might to-day?
See, Varun's noose hangs idly on his arm,
Like some fell serpent quelled by magic charm.
Weak is Kuvera's hand, his arm no more
Wields the dread mace it once so proudly bore;
But like a tree whose boughs are lopped away,
It tells of piercing woe, and dire dismay.
In days of yore how Yama's sceptre shone!
Fled are its glories, all its terrors gone;
Despised and useless as a quenched brand,
All idly now it marks the yielding sand.
Fallen are the Lords of Light, ere now the gaze
Shrank from the coming of their fearful blaze;
So changed are they, the undazzled eye may see
Like pictured forms, each rayless deity.
Some baffling power has curbed the breezes' swell:
Vainly they chafe against the secret spell.
We know some barrier checks their wonted course,
When refluent waters seek again their source.
The Rudras too—fierce demigods who bear
The curved moon hanging from their twisted hair—
Tell by their looks of fear, and shame, and woe,
Of threats now silenced, of a mightier foe.
Glory and power, ye Gods, were yours of right:
Have ye now yielded to some stronger might,
Even as on earth a general law may be
Made powerless by a special text's decree?
Then say, my sons, why seek ye Brahmá's throne?
'Tis mine to frame the worlds, and yours to guard your own.'
Then Indra turned his thousand glorious eyes,
Glancing like lilies when the soft wind sighs,
And in the Gods' behalf, their mighty chief
Urged the Most Eloquent to tell their grief.
Then rose the heavenly Teacher, by whose side
Dim seemed the glories of the Thousand-eyed,
And with his hands outspread, to Brahmá spake,
Couched on his own dear flower, the daughter of the lake:
'O mighty Being! surely thou dost know
The unceasing fury of our ruthless foe;
For thou canst see the secret thoughts that lie
Deep in the heart, yet open to thine eye.
The vengeful Tárak, in resistless might,
Like some dire Comet, gleaming wild affright,
O'er all the worlds an evil influence sheds,
And, in thy favour strong, destruction spreads.
All bow before him: on his palace wall
The sun's first ray and parting splendour fall;
Ne'er could he waken with a lovelier glance
His own dear lotus from her nightly trance.
For him, proud fiend, the moon no waning knows,
But with unminished full-orbed lustre glows.
Too faint for him the crescent glory set
Amid the blaze of Śiva's coronet.
How fair his garden, where the obedient breeze
Dares steal no blossom from the slumbering trees!
The wild wind checks his blustering pinions there,
And gently whispering fans the balmy air;
While through the inverted year the seasons pour,
To win the demon's grace, their flowery store.
For him, the River-god beneath the stream,
Marks the young pearl increase its silver gleam,
Until, its beauty and its growth complete,
He bears the offering to his master's feet.
The Serpents, led by Vásuki, their king,
Across his nightly path their lustre fling;
Bright as a torch their flashing jewels blaze,
Nor wind, nor rain, can dim their dazzling rays.
E'en Indra, sovereign of the blissful skies,
To gain his love by flattering homage tries,
And sends him oft those flowers of wondrous hue
That on the heavenly tree in beauty grew.
Yet all these offerings brought from day to day,
This flattery, fail his ruthless hand to stay.
Earth, hell, and heaven, beneath his rage must groan,
Till force can hurl him from his evil throne.
Alas! where glowed the bright celestial bowers,
And gentle fair ones nursed the opening flowers,
Where heavenly trees a heavenly odour shed,
O'er a sad desert ruin reigns instead.
He roots up Meru's sacred peaks, where stray
The fiery coursers of the God of Day,
To form bright slopes, and glittering mounds of ease,
In the broad gardens of his palaces.
There, on his couch, the mighty lord is fanned
To sweetest slumber by a heavenly band;
Poor captive nymphs, who stand in anguish by,
dropp the big tear, and heave the ceaseless sigh.
And now have Indra's elephants defiled
The sparkling stream where heavenly Gangá smiled,
And her gold lotuses the fiend has taken
To deck his pools, and left her all forsaken.
The Gods of heaven no more delight to roam
O'er all the world, far from their glorious home.
They dread the demon's impious might, nor dare
Speed their bright chariots through the fields of air.
And when our worshippers in duty bring
The appointed victims for the offering,
He tears them from the flame with magic art,
While we all powerless watch with drooping heart.
He too has stolen from his master's side
The steed of heavenly race, great Indra's pride.
No more our hosts, so glorious once, withstand
The fierce dominion of the demon's hand,
As herbs of healing virtue fail to tame
The sickness raging through the infected frame.
Idly the discus hangs on Vishṇu's neck,
And our last hope is vain, that it would check
The haughty Tárak's might, and flash afar
Ruin and death—the thunderbolt of war.
E'en Indra's elephant has felt the might
Of his fierce monsters in the deadly fight,
Which spurn the dust in fury, and defy
The threatening clouds that sail along the sky.
Therefore, O Lord, we seek a chief, that he
May lead the hosts of heaven to victory,
Even as holy men who long to sever
The immortal spirit from its shell for ever,
Seek lovely Virtue's aid to free the soul
From earthly ties and action's base control.
Thus shall he save us: proudly will we go
Under his escort 'gainst the furious foe;
And Indra, conqueror in turn, shall bring
Fortune, dear captive, home with joy and triumphing.'
Sweet as the rains—the fresh'ning rains—that pour
On the parched earth when thunders cease to roar,
Were Brahmá's words: 'Gods, I have heard your grief;
Wait ye in patience: time will bring relief.
'Tis not for me, my children, to create
A chief to save you from your mournful fate.
Not by my hand the fiend must be destroyed,
For my kind favour has he once enjoyed;
And well ye know that e'en a poisonous tree
By him who planted it unharmed should be.
He sought it eagerly, and long ago
I gave my favour to your demon-foe,
And stayed his awful penance, that had hurled
Flames, death, and ruin o'er the subject world.
When that great warrior battles for his life,
O, who may conquer in the deadly strife,
Save one of Śiva's seed? He is the light,
Reigning supreme beyond the depths of night.
Nor I, nor Vishṇu, his full power may share,
Lo, where he dwells in solitude and prayer!
Go, seek the Hermit in the grove alone,
And to the God be Umá's beauty shown.
Perchance, the Mountain-child, with magnet's force,
May turn the iron from its steadfast course,
Bride of the mighty God; for only she
Can bear to Him as water bears to me.
Then from their love a mighty Child shall rise,
And lead to war the armies of the skies.
Freed by his hand, no more the heavenly maids
Shall twine their glittering hair in mournful braids.'
He spake, and vanished from their wondering sight;
And they sped homeward to their world of light.
But Indra, still on Brahmá's words intent,
To Káma's dwelling-place his footsteps bent.
Swiftly he came: the yearning of his will
Made Indra's lightning course more speedy still.
The Love-God, armed with flowers divinely sweet,
In lowly homage bowed before his feet.
Around his neck, where bright love-tokens clung,
Arched like a maiden's brow, his bow was hung,
And blooming Spring, his constant follower, bore
The mango twig, his weapon famed of yore.

Submitted: Monday, June 18, 2012

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