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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