Tansen, the singer, in great Akbar's Court
Won great renown; through the Badshahi Fort
His voice rang like the sound of silver bells
And Akbar ravished heard. The story tells
How the King praised him, gave him many a gem,
Called him chief jewel in his diadem.
One day the singer sang the Song of Fire,
The Deepak Râg , and burning like a pyre
His body burst into consuming flame.
To cure his burning heart a maiden came
And sang Malhar, the song of water cold,
Till health returned, and comfort as of old.
— Mighty thy Teacher must be and divine, —
Great Akbar said; — magic indeed is thine,
Learnt at his feet. — Then happy Tansen bowed
And said, — Beyond the world's ignoble crowd,
Scorning its wealth, remote and far-away
He dwells within a cave of Himalay. —
— Could I but see him once, — desired the King,
— Sit at his feet awhile, and listening
Hear his celestial song, I would deny
My state and walk in robes of poverty. —
Then said Tansen. — As you desire, Huzoor,
Indeed 'twere better as a slave and poor
To come; for he, lifted above the things
Of earth, disdains to sing to earthly kings. —
Long was the road, and Akbar as a slave
Followed Tansen who rode towards the cave
High in the mountains. At the singer's feet
They knelt and prayed with supplication sweet:
— Towards thy shrine, lo, we have journeyed long,
O Holy Master, bless us with thy song! —
Then Ostad, won by their humility,
Sang songs of peace and high felicity;
The Malkous Raga all ecstatic rang
Till birds and beasts, enchanted as he sang,
Gathered to hear, O'er Akbar's dreaming soul
He felt the waves of heavenly rapture roll,
But, as he turned to speak his words of praise,
Ostad had vanished from his wondering gaze.
— Tell me, Tansen, what theme this is that holds
The soul enchanted, and the heart enfolds
In high delight — ; and, when he knew the name,
— Tell me, — again he said, — could you the same
Theme sing to lure my heart to paths untrod? —
— Ah no, to thee I sing; he sings to God. —
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