Ancient Ballads of Hindustan - Part 5


As consciousness came slowly back
He recognised his loving wife —
" Who was it, Love, through regions black
Where hardly seemed a sign of life
Carried me bound? Methinks I view
The dark face yet — a noble face,
He had a robe of scarlet hue,
And ruby crown; far, far through space
He bore me, on and on, but now, " —
" Thou hast been sleeping, but the man
With glory on his kingly brow,
Is gone, thou seest, Satyavan!

O my beloved, — thou art free!
Sleep which had bound thee fast, hath left
Thine eyelids. Try thyself to be!
For late of every sense bereft
Thou seemedst in a rigid trance;
And if thou canst, my love, arise,
Regard the night, the dark expanse
Spread out before us, and the skies. "
Supported by her, looked he long
Upon the landscape dim outspread,
And like some old remembered song
The past came back, — a tangled thread.

" I had a pain, as if an asp
Gnawed in my brain, and there I lay
Silent, for oh! I could but gasp,
Till someone came that bore away.
My spirit into lands unknown:
Thou, dear, who watchedst beside me, — say
Was it a dream from elfland blown,
Or very truth, — my doubts to stay. "
" O Love, look round, — how strange and dread
The shadows of the high trees fall,
Homeward our path now let us tread,
To-morrow I shall tell thee all.

Arise! Be strong! Gird up thy loins!
Think of our parents, dearest friend!
The solemn darkness haste enjoins,
Not likely is it soon to end.
Hark! Jackals still at distance howl,
The day, long, long will not appear,
Lo, wild fierce eyes through bushes scowl,
Summon thy courage, lest I fear.
Was that the tiger's sullen growl?
What means this rush of many feet?
Can creatures wild so near us prowl?
Rise up, and hasten homewards, sweet! "

He rose, but could not find the track,
And then, too well, Savitri knew
His wonted force had not come back
She made a fire, and from the dew
Essayed to shelter him. At last
He nearly was himself again, —
Then vividly rose all the past,
And with the past, new fear and pain
" What anguish must my parents feel
Who wait for me the livelong hours!
Their sore wound let us haste to heal
Before it festers, past our powers:

For broken-hearted, they may die!
Oh hasten dear, — now I am strong,
No more I suffer, let us fly,
Ah me! each minute seems so long.
They told me once, they could not live
Without me, in their feeble age,
Their food and water I must give
And help them in the last sad stage
Of earthly life, and that Beyond
In which a son can help by rites
Oh what a love is theirs — how fond!
Whom now Despair, perhaps, benights.

Infirm herself, my mother dear
Now guides, methinks, the tottering feet
Of my blind father, for they hear
And hasten eagerly to meet
Our fancied steps. O faithful wife
Let us on wings fly back again,
Upon their safety hangs my life! "
He tried his feelings to restrain,
But like some river swelling high
They swept their barriers weak and vain,
Sudden there burst a fearful cry,
Then followed tears, — like autumn rain.

Hush! Hark, a sweet voice rises clear!
A voice of earnestness intense,
" If I have worshipped Thee in fear
And duly paid with reverence
The solemn sacrifices, — hear!
Send consolation, and thy peace
Eternal, to our parents dear,
That their anxieties may cease.
Oh, ever hath I loved Thy truth,
Therefore on Thee I dare to call,
Help us, this night, and them, for sooth
Without thy help, we perish all. "

She took in hers Satyavan's hand,
She gently wiped his falling tears,
" This weakness, Love, I understand!
Courage! " She smiled away his fears.
" Now we shall go, for thou art strong. "
She helped him rise up by her side
And led him like a child along,
He, wistfully the basket eyed
Laden with fruit and flowers. " Not now,
To-morrow we shall fetch it hence. "
And so, she hung it on a bough,
" I'll bear thy saw for our defence. "

In one fair hand the saw she took,
The other with a charming grace
She twined around him, and her look
She turned upwards to his face
Thus aiding him she felt anew
His bosom beat against her own —
More firm his step, more clear his view,
More self-possessed his words and tone
Became, as swift the minutes past,
And now the pathway he discerns,
And 'neath the trees, they hurry fast,
For Hope's fair light before them burns.

Under the faint beams of the stars
How beautiful appeared the flowers,
Light scarlet, flecked with golden bars
Of the palâsas, in the bowers
That Nature there herself had made
Without the aid of man. At times
Trees on their path cast densest shade,
And nightingales sang mystic rhymes
Their fears and sorrows to assuage
Where two paths met, the north they chose,
As leading to the hermitage,
And soon before them, dim it rose.

Here let us end. For all may guess
The blind old king received his sight,
And ruled again with gentleness
The country that was his by right;
And that Savitri's royal sire
Was blest with many sons, — a race
Whom poets praised for martial fire,
And every peaceful gift and grace.
As for Savitri, to this day
Her name is named, when couples wed,
And to the bride the parents say,
Be thou like her, in heart and head.
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