Tales Of Ind, And Other Poems Part 5

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BY T. RAMAKRISHNA, B.A.

With an Introduction by the Hon. the Rev. W. MILLER, M.A., LL.D., C.I.E., and dedicated, by permission, to the late Lord Tennyson, Poet Laureate.

OPINIONS.

They are interesting and remarkable.–_Lord Tennyson_.

It is a great pleasure to me to find that a native of South India has so distinguished himself.–_The Right Hon. Sir M.E. Grant Duff, G.C.S.I._

It is not often that natives succeed so well as you have done in English versification.–_H.H. Kerala Varma, C.S.I._

Krishnapore irresistibly reminds us of Auburn, the fortunes of Seeta are in many respects not unlike those of Evangeline, and some forms of expression seem to be coined in the mint of Tennyson…. These tales possess peculiar interest as first-fruits in poetic literature of that amalgamation of Eastern and Western thought that is going on before us at the present day in this country. They are tales of India, descriptive of Indian scenery, and marked by many traits both of custom and of feeling that are characteristic of India…. These tales–tales of woman’s constancy and woman’s heroism–are pleasing in themselves; and the language in which they are told is simple, imaginative, and marked by a well-sustained melody. The tales are dedicated to Lord Tennyson by “His Lordship’s ardent admirer in the Far East”; and certainly they move in the atmosphere of the Tennysonian idyll.–_Madras Christian College Magazine_.

Much of the versification is very pleasing, and where it is best, it has a decided ring of Tennyson in it…. The author possesses true poetical genius.–_Calcutta Statesman and Friend of India_.

SEETA AND RAMA:–The story is pretty, though simple. In parts, moreover, the author, who is anonymous, displays the true spirit of poetry, which he (or she) will do well to cultivate…. The tributes of respect for the heroism, purity, and constancy of women which are found in Mr.

Ramakrishna’s poems are in accordance with the teaching of the Mahabarata, as well as the spirit of the Laureate’s verse. Added to this very engaging feature of his work, there is a power of description that is very remarkable in a man to whom English is not his mother tongue.

For example, “Seeta and Rama” commences with the following vignette:–… “All this is in excellent taste. And the same may be said of his delineations of character. He is never wearisome or trite, and … he succeeds in enlisting the interest and sympathy of his reader and in proving that–as Mrs. Grant Duff lately said–there is ‘an indefinite amount of beauty and charm in everyday life’ in Southern India.”–_Madras Mail_.

SEETA AND RAMA:–A very pretty and pathetic, though simple little story, told in the true poetic vein, and possesses a deep melancholy interest…. They are simple tales, told in English verse, which is characterised by a purity and a simplicity that are very noteworthy in an Indian writer, and which show considerable acquaintance of the English language, especially of Tennyson’s writings. Indeed, of them all is true what was said of the first poem, not only according to the _Christian College Magazine_, that some forms of expression seemed coined in the mint of Tennyson, but, according to the _Statesman and Friend of India_, that where the versification is best it has a ring of Tennyson.–_Madras Times_.

The style is simple and natural, and reminds us more often of Tennyson’s “Idylls of the King” than any other English poem that we can recollect now…. Throughout, the book is most finely written in rhyme, and the learned author has minted at the forge of Tennyson, to whom the book is most dutifully dedicated, the sentiments of Oliver Goldsmith, Parnell, and Byron.–_Hindu_.

We must congratulate Mr. Ramakrishna on the success which has attended his, no doubt, pleasing labours. He is the first Hindu graduate, so far as we know, who has come before the public as a poet, and well does he deserve every encouragement.–_Madras Standard_.

This little poem is an exquisitely finished, harmonious, well-written story of a pair of Hindu lovers…. Mr. Ramakrishna is extremely felicitous in the choice of his words, and his descriptions are so picturesque and vivid, and his narrative so stirring, that the reader feels as if spell-bound by the author’s great skill and power…. There can be no manner of doubt that the hand that wrote these poems is both strong and skilful, and was directed by a true spirit of poesy of a high order.–_People’s Friend_.

TENNYSON COMMEMORATION MEETING.–At the meeting held in the Christian College, Dr. Miller proposed that the chair should be taken by Mr. T.

Ramakrishna Pillai, an old student of the College, who, as many of our readers know, has himself won no small success in the field of poetry.–_Christian College Magazine_.

Mr. T. Ramakrishna Pillai is probably the only one in Madras, and certainly the only native of India in Madras, who had come into any kind of personal contact with Lord Tennyson.–_Speech of the Hon. the Rev.

Dr. Miller at the Tennyson Commemoration Meeting_.

LIFE IN AN INDIAN VILLAGE.

BY T. RAMAKRISHNA, B.A.

With an Introduction by the Right Hon. Sir M.E. GRANT DUFF, G.C.S.I.

(_London: T. Fisher Unwin_, 1891.)

OPINIONS.

The Occidentals led by Macaulay had too complete a victory for the good of India. Much that they said and did was wise, but their system has failed in many ways, and was, indeed, never intended to breed up men interested in the past of their own land. Nearly all that has been learned about it has been learned by the labour of Europeans, and yet natives trained to European methods of research have facilities of kinds for prosecuting research which we have not…. I had a great deal to say on that subject, and on many other cognate ones in an address which I delivered in my capacity of Chancellor of the University of Madras, shortly before I left the country, but I do not know that it has had much effect since, though an excellent little book by Mr. Ramakrishna on the village life of South India is a step in the right direction. We want, however, quite a small library of works of that kind before the harvest that is ready for the sickle of intelligent native observers is gathered in.–_The Right Hon. Sir M.E. Grant Duff, G.C.S.I., in the Contemporary Review_.

The subject is interesting, and I do not doubt from the specimen which I saw that you would treat it in a fresh and agreeable way. What we need in Europe is to have the reality, the actual working of these Indian inst.i.tutions which we have so often mentioned brought home to us, and probably such a writer as yourself may do this better than a European could do.–_The Right Hon. James Bryce, D.C.L_.

Ramakrishna,–a literary gentleman belonging to Madras, who has written a charming book called “Life in an Indian Village.”–_Professor Eric Robertson in Macmillan’s series of Orient Readers_.

I can name more than a dozen Indian authors whose works can fairly rank with some of the best productions of Englishmen. The well-known author of “Maxima and Minima,” viz., the late Professor Ramachundra, was considered by no other than De Morgan, the famous mathematician, as an original genius of a remarkable order. A celebrated Cambridge Mathematician once told me that he set a problem for the Mathematical Tripos, basing it upon Ramachundra’s “Maxima and Minima,” and with the exception of a few that headed the list, none were able to solve the problem. In the late Toru Dutt, a young Bengali native Christian lady, some of the leading literary men of England found a poet of no mean powers. Mr. Edmund Gosse writes as follows in the preface to her poems that have been published by an English firm: “It is difficult to estimate what we have lost in the premature death of Toru Dutt.

Literature has no honours which need have been beyond the grasp of a girl who, at the age of twenty-one, and in languages separated from her own by so deep a chasm, had produced so much of lasting worth…. When the history of the literature of our country comes to be written, there is sure to be a page in it dedicated to this fragile exotic blossom of song.” Dr. Bandarkar of Bombay is considered to be one of the best Orientalists of the day. A number of Bengali gentlemen have earned a lasting fame by literary productions in English, among whom I may mention the Rev. Lal Behari Day, late Professor in the Hooghly College, and Mr. Dutt of the Bengal Civil Service. In our own Presidency Mr.

Ramakrishna Pillai has produced a work in English–“Village Life in India”–that has won the praise of Sir Grant Duff.–_Professor Satthianadhan’s Lecture on Intellectual Results in India_.

Mr. Ramakrishna takes a typical village in the Madras Presidency, “the most Indian part of India,” and shows us in half a dozen lucid chapters that the wants of the villagers are all material–wells, roads, better breeds of cattle, and so on–and that they do not, and will not for a long time, care one cash for anything which happens, or which might be made to happen, in the great outer world beyond their palm-groves and rice-fields. There is nothing political in this pleasant little book, we are pleased to say, although we have drawn this political moral from it.

It is a truthfully written account of native life in one of those 55,000 villages which dot the great district–a tract much larger than the British Isles–the daily existence of whose peaceful, and not altogether unhappy, population it is intended to ill.u.s.trate; and it can be dipped into, or read through, with equal satisfaction and advantage,–_Daily Telegraph_ (London).

“Life in an Indian Village” is an amusing and clear portrayal of the manners and customs of the inhabitants of a village in the Madras Presidency. The author first depicts his little community, and then proceeds to describe the avocations of all the leading personages. As Kelambakam may be taken as a type of thousands of such villages, the book will be found particularly interesting to those who are likely to be brought into contact with the natives of India. Sir M.E. Grant Duff has written an Introduction, in which he suggests how the simple villagers can be benefited by their European neighbours.–_Morning Post_ (London).

The book itself is excellent, and gives a sketch of Indian village society from inside. It is possible, however, that the ordinary English reader will prefer to take his view of “the black men” from Mr. Kipling rather than from a representative of the natives themselves. If he wishes to have a native view of native life he will find it in this work.–_Athenaeum_ (London).

India is always fertile in surprises for English readers. We know something of those among its peoples which have given us trouble; but here is a “dim population” of which many Englishmen will scarcely have heard the name–the Dravidians of the Madras Presidency, and we learn with something like astonishment that they number more than the inhabitants of England. The village which Mr. Ramakrishna describes for us is one of more than fifty thousand, averaging about five hundred inhabitants apiece. The first thing that strikes us in his account is its highly organised condition. It is a self-sufficing little commonwealth, in which a quite surprising variety of professions or occupations are represented.–_Pall Mall Gazette_ (London).

We welcome this little book as a much truer picture of Indian life than many more ambitious works.–_St. James’s Gazette_ (London).

The work is written in admirable English–even the blank verse is perfect. The story of Harichendra alone is worth the cost of the volume.–_Literary World_ (London).

We have read with great pleasure the book, “Life in an Indian Village,”

as it deals with an interesting and not at all unimportant subject in a plain and unpretending way. Simplicity has a powerful charm of its own; and we recommend the book to all whose heart can still be touched by inartificial descriptions of idyllic, gently flowing, country life. He who does not a.s.sume the tone of “India, what can it teach us?” but cares to profit by teaching, will learn a great deal even from these simple village tales.–_Asiatic Quarterly Review_ (London).

What more England can do for India is admirably and tersely set forth in the Introduction, which, with Mr. Ramakrishna’s pleasant description of Indian village life, deserves to be widely read.–_Mr. J.B. Knight, C.I.E., in the Indian Magazine_ (London).

Books about India by intelligent travellers have their uses, and books by Europeans who have lived for years in the country and studied the people are still more valuable, but it is only a native of India who can really show us Indian life as it is. There are already several books in English, by educated Indians, which give us valuable insight into what was once the unknown of Indian domestic and social life. Mr. T.

Ramakrishna, whose “Life in an Indian Village” is introduced to the notice of the British public by Sir M.E. Grant Duff, has produced a series of very interesting sketches of the more important features of village life in the South of India. They will be found to be very readable, sometimes amusing, always interesting and instructive. Any one who reads this book with intelligence and care will be able to form for himself a very accurate picture of a Madras village, and to understand the composition of the village community, which is the basis of the whole framework of Indian social life.–_Scotsman_ (Edinburgh).

Mr. Ramakrishna’s book is picturesque and sympathetic.–_Manchester Guardian_.

A well-written book, and one which gives a realistic description of a condition of life which is the outcome of centuries of isolation,–_Leeds Mercury_.

It is not an easy thing to acquire a clear conception of a life and a civilisation other in every respect to our own, and it may be reasonably questioned if one Englishman in a thousand has more than a very vague idea of what life in an Indian village is like. Here is a pleasant and graphic little volume. He may acquire that knowledge from the sketches of an Indian gentleman who knows the subject through and through, and has, moreover, so much of European culture that he is able to present the facts in a form that will not seem strange or incredible.–_Birmingham Post_.

A volume issued by Mr. T. Fisher Unwin, “Life in an Indian Village,” is a sample of the kind of book relating to our Eastern Empire that we should like to see multiplied. It is the production of a scholarly native, T. Ramakrishna, B.A., who writes excellent idiomatic English without the slightest tendency to Johnsonian eloquence.–_Christian Leader_ (Glasgow).

The manners and customs of the people are vividly reflected in these pages, and a picturesque account is given of a number of notabilities, such as the physician, &c.–_Speaker_ (London).

The book cannot fail to fulfil the author’s desire in exciting a deeper interest in the people whom he so sympathetically introduces to the British public.–_Independent_ (London).

Written with much navete.–_British Weekly_ (London).

Tales Of Ind, And Other Poems Part 2

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Tales Of Ind, And Other Poems is a Webnovel created by T. Ramakrishna Pillai.
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_THE STORY OF THE ROYAL HUNTRESS_.

It was a land of plenty and of wealth; There G.o.d’s indulgent hand made for a race Supremely blest a paradise on earth.

A land of virtue, truth, and charity, Where nature’s choicest treasures man enjoyed With little toil, where youth respected age, Where each his neighbour’s wife his sister deemed, Where side by side the tiger and the lamb The water drank, and sported oft in mirth.

A land where each man deemed him highly blest When he relieved the miseries of the poor, When to his roof the wearied traveller came To share his proffered bounty with good cheer.

Such was the far-famed land of Panchala.

Here reigned a king who walked in virtue’s path, Who ruled his country only for his G.o.d.

His people’s good he deemed his only care, Their sorrows were his sorrows, and their joys He counted as his own; such was the king Whose daily prayers went up to Him on high For wisdom and for strength to rule his men Aright, and guard the land from foreign foes.

Such was the far-famed king of Panchala.

An only son he had–a n.o.ble prince, The terror of his foes, the poor man’s friend.

He mastered all the arts of peace and war, And was a worthy father’s worthy son.

What gifts and graces men as beauties deem These Nature freely lavished on the youth, And people loved in wonder to behold The face that kindled pleasure in their minds.

The courage of a warrior in the field, A woman’s tender pity to the weak– All these were centred in the royal youth.

His arrows killed full many a beast that wrought Dread havoc on the cattle of the poor.

Such was the famous prince of Panchala.

The people, they were all true men and good, Their ruler they adored, for by their G.o.d He was ordained to rule their native land.

They freely to their king made known their wants, And he as freely satisfied their needs, And e’en the meanest of the land deemed it The basest act to sin against his king.

Such were the people of the ancient land Of Panchala, who stood one day with tears Before their king to pour their plaintive tales Of ruin wrought upon their cattle by The tiger of the forest, that all day Was safe in his impenetrable lair, But every night his dreaded figure showed And feasted on the flesh of toiling beasts.

The king gave ear to their sad tales of woe, And straightway called his only son, and said– “Dear son! my people’s good I value more Than thine own life. Go therefore to the woods With all thine arrows and thy trusty bow, And drag the dreaded tiger from his den, And to their homes their wonted peace restore.

His spotted skin and murderous claws must soon Be added to the trophies of the past, Now hanging on our ancient palace walls.”

The prince obeyed, and to the forest went: Three days and nights he wandered in the woods, But still found not the object of his search.

He missed his faithful men and lost his way, Till worn and weary underneath a tree, Whose shady boughs extended far and wide, The lonely straggler stretched his limbs and slept, And for a time forgot his dire distress.

He woke, and thus addressed himself with tears: “Here I am left deserted and alone, Perchance my faithful people at this hour Are vainly searching for their hapless prince, While I die here of hunger and of thirst.

And gladly would I welcome now the brute That has attracted me to this strange spot, To plunge his claws into my body, tear My flesh, and break my bones, and feast on me By gnawing them between his horrid jaws, And so spare me from this slow lingering death.”

So thought the royal youth of his sad doom, When lo! a spotless figure, with a bow, A pouch with arrows dangling on her back, A hatchet in her hand for cutting wood, And with a pitcher on her head, appeared.

Here every day she came to gather wood, And, dressed in male attire, her heavy load Took to the nearest town, sold it, then reached, At close of day to cook the ev’ning meal, Her cottage on the outskirts of the wood, Where, with her sire, bent down with years, she lived, And dragged her daily miserable life.

Such was the maid that was upon that day, As if by instinct, drawn to the fair youth, And such the huntress Radha he beheld.

A fairer woman never breathed the air– No, not in all the land of Panchala.

The maid in pity saw his wretched plight, Then from the pitcher took her midday meal, And soon relieved his hunger and his thirst.

The grateful prince, delighted, told his tale, And she, well pleased, thus spake: “Fair youth! grieve not, Behold the brook that yonder steals along, To this the tiger comes at noon to quench His thirst. Then, safely perched upon a tree, We can for ever check his deadly course,”

Both went, and saw at the expected hour The monarch of the forest near the brook.

In quick succession, lightning-like from them The arrows flew, and in a moment fell His ma.s.sive body lifeless on the ground.

Then vowing oft to meet his valiant friend, The prince returned, and with the happy news Appeared before the king, who blest his son And said: “My son! well hast thou done the deed; Thy life thou hast endangered for my men; Ask anything and I will give it thee.”

“I want not wealth nor power,” the prince replied, “But, n.o.ble father I one request I make.

I chanced to meet a huntress in the wood, And Radha is her name; she saved my life.

I but for her had died a lingering death, Her valour and her beauty I admire, And therefore grant me leave to marry her.”

The king spake not, but forthwith gave command To banish from his home the reckless youth, Who brought disgrace upon his royal house, And who, he wished, should wed one worthy of The n.o.ble race of ancient Panchala.

Poor youth! he left his country and his home, He that was dreaded by his foes was gone.

Vain l.u.s.t of power impelled the neighbouring king, The traitor who usurped his sovereign’s throne, To march on Panchala with all his men.

He went, and to the helpless king proclaimed– “Thou knowest well my armies are the best On earth, and folly it will be in thee To stand ‘gainst them and shed thy people’s blood.

Send forth thy greatest archer, and with him My prowess I will try: this will decide If you or I should sit upon the throne, And whether Panchala is thine or mine.”

The king, bewildered, knew not what to do, But soon two maidens, strangers to the land, Met him, and, of the two, the younger said– “O righteous king! we left our distant homes To visit shrines and bathe in holy streams.

We have been wandering in many climes, And yesternight this place we reached, and heard Your loyal people speak of your sad plight.

In early youth I learned to use the bow– I pray thee, therefore, send me forth against The wretch that dares to wrest this land from thee.”

And ere the treacherous wretch could string his bow, A pointed arrow carrying death with it, Like lightning flew from forth the maiden’s hands, Pierced deep into his head, that plans devised To kill his royal master and once more Thought ill of Panchala and her good king.

His body lifeless lay upon the field.

Then spake the maiden to the grateful king:– “Thou, n.o.ble ruler of this ancient land!

Before thy sacred presence and before All these a.s.sembled in thy royal court, I will reveal my story, sad but true.

I am the only child of him that ruled The neighbouring state, whose kings for centuries In peace and friendship lived with Panchala.

Alas! the villain, whom my arrow gave To crows and to the eagles of the air, Usurped my father’s throne, and sad to tell, He instant orders gave to murder us.

The menials sent to do the cruel deed Felt pity for the fallen king and me, His only daughter, in the woods left us And went away, reporting they had done The deed; and there, in that deserted place, Unknown we lived a wretched life for years.

And glad I am that death ign.o.ble, which The wretch deserved, has now befallen him.

“This person standing here–I now remove The veil, and, by the mole upon his breast, Behold in him thine own begotten son– Was by thy orders banished from the land.

Grant that I now may plead for him, because A woman’s words can sooner soothe the heart.

I crave your Majesty to pardon him For loving me, and take him back unto His father’s home; grant also, gracious king, That I, a princess, may be worthy deemed Of being wedded to thine only son.”

_CHANDRA_.

A TALE OF THE FIELD OF TELLIKoTA, A.D. 1565.

At length the four great Mahometan governments, A’dil Shah, Nizam Shah, Barid, and Kutb Shah, formed a league against Ram Raja, then ruling at Bijayanagar. A great battle took place on the Kishna, near Talicot, which, for the numbers engaged, the fierceness of the conflict, and the importance of the stake, resembled those of the early Mahometan invaders. The barbarous spirit of those days seemed also to be renewed in it; for, on the defeat of the Hindus, their old and brave raja, being taken prisoner, was put to death in cold blood, and his head was kept till lately at Bij.a.pur as a trophy.

This battle destroyed the monarchy of Bijayanagar, which at that time comprehended almost all the South of India. But it added little to the territories of the victors; their mutual jealousies prevented each from much extending his frontier; and the country fell into the hands of petty princes, or of those insurgent officers of the old government, since so well known as zemindars or poligars.

The brother of the late raja removed his residence further east, and finally settled at Chandragiri, about seventy miles north-west of Madras, at which last place his descendant first granted a settlement to the English.–_Elphinstone_.

The setting sun sank slowly in the west, The village labourer from the threshing-floor Hied home full laden with the gathered corn, When soon there came, as from a cage just freed, Two lovely doves intent to peck the grain That scattered lay upon the vacant field.

Between these birds, by instinct closely linked, Attachment fond had grown. It seemed, indeed, That G.o.d for speech denied to them had given Sense exquisite to know each other’s ways.

Not all the speech of favoured man in truth Could meaning make more clear or deeply felt Than one soft motion of the slender frame, One gentle murmur from the tiny throat.

The wife more bold, yet pausing oft to scan Her lord, adventurous strayed with timid steps, Unconscious all of aught to mar their joys.

Just then with steady poise on outstretched wing A hungry falcon hovered over her, Resolved with one fell swoop to seize his prey, His talons bury in her tender flesh, Lift her away to some sequestered spot, There drink her blood in leisure undisturbed, And break her bones and her torn flesh devour.

At early morn upon that selfsame day A huntsman sallied forth in search of food, And, wandering luckless all day long, at last Did chance upon this bird. Behind a bush He quickly crept, and straightway strung his bow.

A gladsome vision suddenly appeared– He saw his wife and children in their home Enjoy the dove’s well spiced and roasted flesh.

But lo! a gentle flutter of the leaves By eagerness unconscious caused, to her Revealed the huntsman take his deadly aim.

With head uplifted and with wings outstretched She flight essayed, but saw the falcon near.

Thus scared and terror-struck she lay resigned To fall by deadly arrow pierced, and give Her lifeless form to feed the hungry bird.

The keen-eyed huntsman saw that lifted head And open wings meant flight and sure escape.

He therefore quickly aimed his arrow high, Which flying pierced the falcon nearing down.

That selfsame moment when the arrow flew, When all his thoughts were centred on the bird, The huntsman pressed his foot upon a snake That in the bush lay coiled. Writhing with pain, The snake poured deadly poison from its fangs.

The huntsman and the falcon both fell dead Before the helpless dove; and foes that came To work her woe had worked each other woe.

The loving pair together flew away, Their life of joy and freedom to renew.

Tales Of Ind, And Other Poems Part 4

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Now, therefore, let a silken veil be drawn, And underneath a bowl of oil be placed, And the reflection of thy face therein Let Bukka see and Timmaraj be saved.”

To this the queen consent unwilling gave, And Bukka to the palace gladly came, Resolved to freedom give to Timmaraj, If Chandra were like other maidens fair, But sure possess her, if she shone among The daughters of the earth surpa.s.sing fair, And like the moon among the stars of heav’n.

The veil was drawn, the bowl of oil was placed, And lo! was seen therein a face, whose like The royal Bukka ne’er had seen before In all his life; like lightning it appeared, Bright’ning the surface for an instant, and Like lightning vanished, planting in his breast Impa.s.sioned love for Chandra, and a love Too deeply rooted to be rooted out.

Then Chandra through the screen impatient said: “Now that this deed is done, delay no more My long lost husband to restore to me.”

And Bukka made reply–“O maiden fair, O Chandra! I am smitten by thy charms, Thy wondrous face is ever in my mind, And nought can now induce me to restore Thy Timmaraj to thee, to gaze upon Thy wondrous beauty and enjoy those charms.

My kingdom broad is at thy feet, and there Enthroned as queen my riches and my all Shall be at thy command, and therefore hear,– If, by to-morrow eve, thou dost not reach My tent pitched yonder, Timmaraj shall die, And to the pyre, if thou dost follow him, Sure I will myself die with thee, and thus A double sin will rest upon thy head.”

As the fond mother of an only child, When sick, clings closely to it, and for days And nights incessant watches it with care, When he, well versed in all the healing lore, Gives but to please her hopes of cure complete, But suddenly the dang’rous malady New shape a.s.sumes, the symptoms serious grow, The healer himself breaks at last the news Unto the anxious mother, who stands mute, And knows not what to do in blank despair– So felt the hapless Chandra when these words The treach’rous Bukka spake and left the scene.

Now ’twas her holy Brahmin priest appeared, And counsel gave again in words like these: “Grieve not, but well rejoice that Bukka builds His future hope on base dishonesty.

His fall is near, and Timma’s safe return Henceforth is sure, for he that hopes to win By treach’ry and deceit, fails sorely in This world of G.o.d, and therefore fear him not; It is the foe magnan’mous thou shouldst fear.

Our holy ancient writings say it is No sin deceit to conquer by deceit; And hence fail not to send immediate word That Bukka should to-morrow eve expect Thee as befits a woman of thy rank, And with a hundred maidens in his tent.

Take twenty litters, and let one appear More gorgeous than the rest, for thee to sit, Take but a hundred of thy faithful men, All armed to fight for their dear king and queen.

Thou art a kshatriya girl, thou knowest well To fight, and therefore take thy fav’rite bow And arrows and conceal thy person with A maiden’s veil, armed fully as thou art, And likewise let thy men be covered too, To look like thine own maids of honour, let Each litter, with a man inside, be borne By four, go forth equipped likewise, surprise The foe, bring him a prisoner, or upon The field of battle die a n.o.ble death.

And death need have no horrors unto thee, But unto those to whom this world is bright, Its prospects hopeful and its pleasures keen, And to the healthy and the young death’s pangs Are most severe when life is plucked, and from Sere age, when all is ready for the end, Life unperceived goes as from one that sleeps.

The gentlest wind brings down the serest leaf.

To sever from the parent stem by force The freshest must be plucked, and so with man.

And by the righteous and the just, when sore Oppressed with grief, dear death is welcomed most.

When the eruptions on the skin pain most, By cutting them relief at once is sought; E’en so, if n.o.ble Timmaraj is killed, Court instant death, thy dagger hurl, and bare Thy breast and lifeless by thy husband fall, Like that same bird that, full up to the throat, Swallows the little pebbles of the sand, And, soaring high aloft upon her wings, Suddenly closes them and drops down dead Near her dead lover, where the body bursts.

But this, if you find hard, run with thy life To this our safe abode, where willingly The fun’ral pyre we, with our hands, will raise And feed the flames thy body to consume.

Hence soon depart and Krishna will help thee.”

The morrow came, and Chandra sallied forth And, as directed by her Brahmin sage, Went with a hundred of her armed men, All veiled, surprised the foe, who, flushed with hope, Unguarded waited but to welcome her: Then safely rescued her lost Timmaraj; The fatal jav’lin wrung from Bukka’s hands, And himself too a prisoner brought in chains.

Then in the s.p.a.cious palace hall, amidst Her faithful men, the n.o.ble queen sat veiled With Timmaraj, long absent from the throne, And spake to Bukka, standing in the front With folded hands, in angry words like these: “By treach’ry thrice thou triedst to win, and thrice Hast failed, and, when my n.o.ble Timmaraj Went singly forth to bring the maddened beast, Concealed thou didst aim at his life and failed.

The hand of G.o.d had otherwise decreed.

And when upon the bridal seat we sat, And all were merry in my father’s home, Thou camest with a story, false and base, And for our lives we had to flee, and now Are strangers here, and when upon thy steed Unjustly thou pursuedst us both, it was My hand that stayed my husband killing thee, Else long ago the worms had eaten thee; Thy bones the jackals of the earth had tak’n; And nothing left of thee but thine own sins.

It was thy charger innocent that paid For them the penalty instead. Once more You came, and, like a lawless thief concealed, Carried my lord, when helpless and alone, And for his freedom vile proposals made, And for so many days these troubles wrought On me and these my faithful loyal men.

Know well, ’tis virtue that is sure to win, And truth and justice will prevail at last.

This very jav’lin will put thine eyes out; But pity for thy present state prompts me To let thee now alone–go safely home, And henceforth never even sin in thought.”

And like a criminal who, by pity freed, At once goes forth worse sins to perpetrate, So Bukka, vowing vengeance, left the hall, And henceforth love and hate alternate played In his dark breast–hate for this grave insult, And by a woman offered, and love too, A b.e.s.t.i.a.l pa.s.sion for her wondrous charms; And from that selfsame moment various plans His head devised her pride to humble and Her purity to sully, when alas!

The Moslems’ greed of power gave him sure hopes At last her Timma’s ruin to complete.

Unto the aged king of Vijiapore His only warrior’s and his only child’s Escape brought many toils and endless woe.

That Bukka, with a perjured tale, came on The day of marriage was made known to all, Soon after they had left their native home.

The aged monarch knew not where they lived, But sent his faithful servants far and wide To bring them home; the cruel Moslems, too, Aware that Timma’s absence weakened him, Combined a sudden rush to make upon The royal city, kill her ruler, and Divide the spoils and take his vast domains.

And now the wily Bukka with those foes Of foreign faith conspired; what though he fought As usual in the ranks of Vijiapore, Under the banner of her Hindu king!

To them he would run in the thickest of The fight and sudden turn the tide of war, And, from the conquered spoils, for his own share, He wanted neither lands nor riches, but Demanded Chandra and her lord alive.

And news of instant war had travelled far And wide, the princes and the chieftains poured Their loyal forces, ready to avenge Their Moslem foes, who, for no cause, thus dared Their city to invade so suddenly.

And Timma hastened with his wife at last, And was with joy received by all, who lost All hopes of ever seeing them alive.

And soon a council in the royal hall Was held, to name a leader and decide How best to strike at once th’ advancing foes.

Many felt proud by Timma to be led To victory in the field or glorious death, And many too in that a.s.sembly said That Bukka should not join their Hindu ranks, For he would, in the midst of battle, join The Moslem ranks and surely bring defeat And ruin too upon their aged king, The n.o.ble Ramaraj of Vijiapore, And cause their ancient kingdom’s overthrow.

But said one counted high for wisdom there: “_Do good, and so chide him that evil does_, Is the oft-quoted saying of our true And ancient faith, and this is but the war For mastery ‘tween different creeds and faiths, And hence let Bukka forthwith come to fight Against the common foes, who thus combined To mar our ancient faith and change our lives, And let our Ramaraj himself go forth And lead, and everlasting glory win, And in defence of our old Hindu faith, Or, if he falls, let him to _Swarga_ go To join th’ immortals there; and one word more To thee, O Timma,–bury all the past, And Bukka for his sins forgive, and both Go hand in hand to fight the Moslem foes.

To pardon is the spirit of our faith.”

To this consent was gladly giv’n by all, And the propitious day and hour to march Was soon named by the holy Brahmin priest, So deeply versed in all the starry lore.

Brave Timma sought his anxious wife ere he Went forth to fight, and thus took leave of her.

“Dear wife! the day to march is named at last.

Your aged sire and our dear monarch leads The war, and Bukka, as a Hindu true, Joins us to fight against the Moslem horde, And doubly glad I am that in this war, With Bukka vying in the field with me, And in the very presence of our king, Who well rewards the val’rous and the brave, The place of honour I will there attain For courage true, and prove once more before The world I am a worthy husband of A n.o.ble wife; so let me now depart.”

She made reply–“Some evil it forebodes That Bukkaraj should thus be madly told To join our ranks, for what is truth and G.o.d To one so steeped in sin? And sad it is My aged father goes with him to fight.

Trust not in him and keep a steady eye On him, e’en if within the thickest of The fight thou art, for any moment he May turn the tide of war; fight till the last, And, if thou comest back victorious from The field, I’ll be the first to welcome thee, But, if thou fallest fighting in the field, Or if, perhaps, it chances otherwise, Thou art left helpless and alone, here is Our ever ready jav’lin to kill thee.

Thy body forthwith shall be n.o.bly borne Unto the pyre by thine own faithful men, And I will gladly leap upon the flames.

But if thou comest routed and alive, Then Chandra nevermore shall see thy face.”

At early morn, upon th’ appointed day, The king his faithful servants summoned, and Before them all his only brother named To rule the kingdom and confided all His subjects to his care; then, at the head Of his brave troops, out of the city marched, Amidst the royal bards recounting in Sweet tones the glories of his kingdom’s past, His holy priests invoking Krishna’s help And chanting sacred hymns, and in the midst Of maidens of the martial Kshatrya race, Proceeding to the very city gates, And singing to their fathers, brothers, and Their husbands in shrill notes heard far and wide, That Swarga’s gates are ever ready to Receive the faithful if they bravely fall, The flames are ready to take their proud wives, But burning h.e.l.l gapes wide for to devour The cowards that run routed and alive; Their maidens’ sweet embrace awaits them not.

At last, upon the plains of Talicot, The armies met, fierce raged the battle, and Old Ramaraj fought n.o.bly in the field; And Timma too wrought dreadful havoc on The Moslems and their ranks oft shattered, but Alas! the ever treach’rous Bukka pounced Sudden on his own ranks; the king was slain; His ghastly head upon a pole was shown, And helpless and forlorn the Hindus stood; But, ere perfidious Bukka could run with The Moslem foes, to capture him alive, A faithful soldier Timma called, gave him His Chandra’s jav’lin, in his steady grip To hold, then boldly ran his body through And instantly fell lifeless to the ground.

A faithful few the body bore, and laid Before the orphaned and the widowed maid Their precious charge, and soon the pyre was raised.

Then, near the flames that brightened her bright face, Her uncle and her people shedding tears, Her n.o.ble husband lying cold and still, The story of her father’s cruel death Still ringing in her ears, she took farewell.

“Dear uncle and my faithful men! grieve not: I see a cloud, now looming yonder there, No bigger than the hand of man, that shall Expand and rain and water to purge all The land of th’ innocent blood shed on it, For mother India’s cup of woe is full, And but three decades more,–there will come from The far-off ends of this vast globe of ours,– A little island planted in the sea,– A handful of a n.o.ble race to trade, And shall from thee ask for a plot of land, And they shall prosper for their valour and Shall be exalted for their righteousness.

They shall befriend the helpless and the poor, And like the streams that seek the ocean broad, The chickens that run to their mothers wings, The maidens helpless and forlorn, that court The succour of the chivalrous and the brave, The orphans poor, the bounty of the kind, All men of Ind, all races and all creeds Shall to their banner flock, to live in peace And amity; the tiger and the lamb Their thirst shall quench both from the selfsame brook.

The giant brute before the weakly sage Shall bow, and men shall fear to even gaze Upon the maidens that go forth alone, Adorned with naught but chast.i.ty, and from All lands the wisest shall revere our faith.

He that desires our homes to plunder and Sully the honour of our women, him Punishment terrible shall sure await.

Three hundred years more and the little plot Of land thou gavest shall grow and expand Into an empire huge, unwritten yet On hist’ry’s page, and shall surpa.s.s the dreams Of warriors bold in times of old, and like The creepers that, entwined around the oak, Luxuriant grow, safe from the storms that blow, And flow’rs give forth to beautify the scene, Her sons shall everlasting peace enjoy, And blessings, hitherto unknown to man– The grandest scene for G.o.d to ever cast His loving eyes upon, and for the world Of man to wonder at, and there shall be One sway, the sway of reason and of truth; One creed, the creed of righteousness and love; And mercy for all living things on earth; One brotherhood, the brotherhood of man; One fatherhood, the fatherhood of G.o.d.

But hark! there comes a shout, and yonder runs Exulting Bukka to seize me alive.

But these kind flames are ready to save me.

Run, uncle, run at once to far-off lands And continue thy sway in safer climes.”

So saying, she leapt on the fun’ral pyre, And speedily to ashes were consumed The faithful wife and her departed lord.

The monarch, who thus from the Moslem ran, In honour of this n.o.ble maiden, reared A princely town,[5] and here the Saxon came, And mother India was for ever blest.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 2: Vijianagar is here called Vijiapore.]

[Footnote 3: Literally, the moon.]

[Footnote 4: The allusion here is to the ancient custom of _Swayamvara_ (self-choice), which is the election of a husband by a princess or a daughter of a kshatriya at a public a.s.sembly of suitors for the purpose.]

[Footnote 5: Chandragiri.]

_THE KORATHY’S LULLABY._

The Korathy is the tattooer of the Indian village, who offers her services for a small fee. Hindu females are very fond of having their bodies tattooed. The Korathy first makes a sketch of the figure of a scorpion or a serpent on the part of the body offered to her for tattooing, then takes a number of sharp needles, dips them in some liquid preparation which she has ready, and p.r.i.c.ks the flesh most mercilessly. In a few days the whole appears green. This is considered a mark of beauty among the Hindus. While the tattooing takes place the Korathy sings a crude song, so as to make the person undergoing the process forget the pain. The following is as nearly as possible a translation of the song which I myself heard:–

Stay, darling, stay–’tis only for an hour, And you will be the fairest of the fair.

Your lotus eyes can soothe the savage beast, Your lips are like the newly blossomed rose, Your teeth–they shine like pearls; but what are they Before the beauties of my handiwork?

Stay, darling, stay–’tis only for an hour, And you will be the fairest of the fair.

I’ve left my home, and all day hard I toil So to adorn the maidens of the land That erring husbands may return to them; Such are the beauties of my handiwork.

Stay, darling, stay–’tis only for an hour, And you will be the fairest of the fair; In days of old fair Seeta laid her head Upon the lap of one of our own clan, When with her lord she wandered in the wilds, And like the emerald shone her beauteous arms.

Stay, darling, stay–’tis only for an hour, And you will be the fairest of the fair.

And often in the wilds, so it is said, She also of the Pandus went in quest Of one of us, but found not even one, And sighed she was not like her sisters blest.

Stay, darling, stay–’tis only for an hour, And you will be the fairest of the fair.

My work is done; rejoice, for you will be The fairest of your sisters in the land.

Rejoice for evermore, among them you Will shine as doth the moon among the stars.

TALES OF IND,

Tales Of Ind, And Other Poems Part 3

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Tales Of Ind, And Other Poems is a Webnovel created by T. Ramakrishna Pillai.
This lightnovel is currently completed.

Lo such the story of two human lives!

To them, as happens oft, abundant share Of Nature’s choicest gifts brought many ills.

But n.o.ble lives are thus more n.o.ble made, As shining gold oft-heated shines the more.

Over the ancient land of Vijiapore[2]

There reigned a king for truth and valour known.

The lovely Chandra[3] was his only child, Who like the moon among the stars of heaven Shone fairest ‘mong the daughters of the land.

The father fondly hoped his child would wed A neighbouring prince, the mighty ruler of An ancient kingdom richer than his own; The mother she would be the worthy spouse Of him who was her brother’s only son And trusted minister of Vijiapore.

But one there was, a courtier of the land, A youth, yet full of counsel wise and true, And ever ready to obey his master’s will.

The terror of his foes, a hunter bold, He rode the fleetest horse with ease and grace, The wildest elephant his might could tame, And horned bulls knew well his steady grip.

Him Chandra wished to wed, and in her breast With silent hope her love for him kept warm.

The years sped on, the father fondly dreamt She soon would be the queen of two proud realms, The mother that her future lord would be Both king and minister of state. Meanwhile Fair Chandra and her n.o.ble Timmaraj Longed for the consummation of their love.

A flower there is, the fairest flower in Ind, A flower beloved by poets of all time, Whose beauties lovers ever love to tell, And liken oft to woman’s thousand charms.

This flower, the stately lotus of our Ind, Its petals closes to the moon at eve, And all its beauties hides through silent night, But with the rising of the morning sun Opens and swells, its beauty full displays, And sweetest fragrance breathes when fiercest beat The rays. E’en so fair Chandra, though oft told She womanhood had long ago attained, And soon must wed one worthy of her race, Nought heeded when alternate to her view Were brought the prowess of the neighbouring king, The wisdom of the pilot of the state.

To wean her love from n.o.ble Timmaraj, He forth was sent against his country’s foes, With his small band to fall, and ne’er return.

But oft as he was sent, as often he Returned victorious with fresh laurels gained.

And when the bards before the king and queen Recited in the ancient palace hall The battles bravely won, the glories of The war, fair Chandra’s face with joy, e’en like The lotus, beamed, and as by magic charmed, Disclosed a thousand beauties centred there.

Though silent she, her looks to all made known Her love for Timmaraj, the author brave Of all his country’s good. Yet still she kept A seal upon her lips, until by chance An incident occurred which sealed her fate.

As on the sand near by the water’s edge One thoughtless stands to watch with eager eyes The surf that beats continuous on the sh.o.r.e, And suddenly when least expected flows A wave that reaches far beyond the rest, So stood the king and queen of Vijiapore In parents’ place, tempting their daughter fair To marry whom she loved not, could not love, When Chandra suddenly her mind declared.

Down through the stillness of a narrow vale The lovely Pampa flows, whose course is shaped By hills that lift their summits to the sky.

On either side, her course is like the life Inconstant of the daughters of this land, Who lived in times of old in castles set Amidst rich groves and cool, pellucid streams, And woodlands broad and fair to roam at will; But these by moats and battlements enclosed Were made impa.s.sable that the eyes impure Of man might not upon their beauty gaze, And so defile their virgin purity.

For all that here delighted woman’s eyes Was freely lavished by their royal sires; And countless guards to watch all day were there, And maidens numberless to sport with them And while away their tedious hours of life With tales of youth, who, bolder than the rest, Leapt over moats and scaled steep battlements To have a glimpse of those more dear than life, But who, alas! were doomed to endless woe, And sent to pine away in dungeons dark For tainting with their feet forbidden ground.

But soon their life was changed–the royal bride, Before the happy bridal hour began, Was first by all her kindred freely seen, And straightway taken to the palace hall To choose and then make known her future lord From anxious suitors there, and thenceforth spend With him her days of freedom and of joy.[4]

E’en so, none dared, so fearful is the gorge, To gaze upon the river’s loveliness, Except those inmates of the mountain caves, That in the noontide hour, to quench their thirst, Climb down, regardless of the huntsman’s bow, Or save the vultures of the air, those birds Which, soaring on majestic wings aloft, Alight, as if by instinct drawn, upon Her shady margins, there to feast upon The carca.s.s of some beast that died of age.

But soon the valley widens, and she flows At will, her waters sparkle in the sun, And on her margins for grim hills are seen Green fields, deep shady groves, and peaceful homes.

‘Tis here those mountains, that kept zealous guard O’er Pampa, fade away from view, as if To make amends for past unkindliness, So leaving her to shoot into the plain And watering Vijiapore and countless lands: ‘Twas here the village stood of Chengalpore, The scene of many n.o.ble deeds of man And woman’s high devotion to her lord.

‘Twas here one crowded hour of Timma’s life Was worth his country’s brightest annals, rich In spoils of war and deeds of valiant men.

In that one hour of all his glorious life He won a kingdom and a bride, for whom He left that kingdom never to return; And this the story of that glorious hour.

One day the news to Vijiapore was brought: The elephant whose rich caparisoned back The king, to please his subjects, once a year Rode on, his keeper in a sudden fit Of frenzy killed, and dreadful havoc wrought Amongst the royal steeds in Chengalpore; And now the mandate from the king went forth That Timmaraj should slay his fav’rite beast, For e’en the stoutest warrior of the land Dared not approach him in his frenzied mood.

Then ’twas that Chandra suddenly her mind Declared and boldly spake in words like these: “It is not meet, dear father, that thou shouldst So lightly use our only warrior’s life, Who won so many battles for his king And added nought but glory and renown Unto his country, and bid him thus fling His life away before a beast insane.

Thou knowest well thy foes are ever bent On wresting from thine hands this ancient crown, And he alone it is that often curbs Their pride. Yes, Timmaraj shall slay the beast, But grant my pray’r that he shall marry me, For often hast thou said that womanhood I long ago attained, and soon should wed One, therefore, worthy of our ancient house, And gladly will I wed that warrior bold, That shall, before to-morrow’s sun has set, Unto the portals of thy palace here Bring dead the beast, that now at Chengalpore Is working havoc on thy n.o.ble steeds.”

The king to this his consent gladly gave, a.s.sured that Timma by the angry beast Would be destroyed and never would return; And so the second mandate was proclaimed And sent to Chandra’s other suitors too, _That he shall win the daughter of the king Who slays the beast before the morrow’s close._ The morrow came, and, ere the warrior youth Leapt on his faithful steed, at early morn, A maiden stood before his gate and said, “Brave youth! thy Chandra sent me here to say Thou shouldst not fear to boldly face the beast; Shouldst thou come victor back, she will be thine And thine for ever even after death.

But shouldst thou flee from him to save thy life, Think then thou art unworthy of her love, And she shall not e’en see thy coward face; But, if perchance thou fallest by the beast, Vouchsafe to her through me with thine own hand One javelin of the eight which now thou hast, For she will not outlive her Timmaraj, But straightway bare her breast and plunge the dart And lifeless fall a corpse.” The youth replied, “I gladly send this javelin, but tell her She shall not need its use, for Timmaraj Will surely come victorious with the beast.”

With javelins seven then he sallied forth Upon his steed to win his bride or die.

Meanwhile the news was spread that Timmaraj And that young min’ster, who these many years Was seeking through her mother Chandra’s hand, And Bukka, ruler of the neighbouring state, Whom she her father fondly wished should wed, Had started on their steeds to Chengalpore; Each vowed to be the first to drag the beast Unto the royal city for six miles, And there slay him before the palace gate.

The city poured her sons the sight to see, For in the annals of their country’s past Not e’en the brightest page contained one deed That could this glorious feat of man surpa.s.s; And Timma was the people’s fav’rite, and They dearly wished that he should slay the beast, Win Chandra, and become their future king.

But soon the thought of that mad beast unnerved Both Bukka and the minister of the state.

The royal Bukka thus to himself said: “A richer kingdom than this Vijiapore I own, and why should I now madly stake My life in this hard feat; ’tis easier far To gain this Chandra and her father’s throne.

I will sit hidden in the thickest bush, Near yonder stream, by which the pathway runs– For Timmaraj is sure to pa.s.s that way– And with this arrow I will end his life.

Thereafter Chandra’s love for him will fade And die, and who is there to marry her But I?” So thought this foolish youth, to whom A woman’s love was as inconstant as His own resolve to fight a savage beast, And sat within a bush to watch his prey.

He too, the pilot of the state, deemed it A mad resolve to try the dang’rous feat, And silent sat unnoticed and unknown Upon the other side of that same path, Within a secret bush by that same stream.

The one knew not the other was concealed The fatal blow upon the selfsame prey To deal, but fearless Timma on his horse Approached the beast, which madly rushed on them, To force both horse and rider to the ground With his huge leg, and then to tear them both.

The horse was fleeter than the elephant, Which thus the chase gave up, but still the youth Undaunted neared the beast a second time, And hurled with all his might a jav’lin, which Pierced deep the temple. Thus enraged, the beast Began the chase again, but still the steed Was fleeter than the wearied elephant, And once again he stopped, but Timma hurled A second, which went deeper than the first, And roused him all the more–and nevermore He stopped, but towards Vijiapore the chase Continued; for in due succession flew Six jav’lins, lightning-like, with deadly aim.

Thus, by the angry beast pursued, he neared At last the little stream that must perforce Be crossed to reach the royal city gate.

Then from the pouch that dangled on his back, His only jav’lin, with his utmost might, Discharged, that so enraged the maddened beast, With fury rushing, that his writhing trunk Had all but touched the rider and his horse In one embrace to crush them both; but soon The keen-eyed youth the danger saw, and spurred His horse, which bounded o’er the stream, when lo!

Two arrows crossed each other underneath.

One pierced the min’ster dead; the other pierced The royal Bukka, who unconscious fell.

One moment more, and at the palace gate The wearied rider on his foaming steed Stood, like a warrior coming with his spoils, The beast beside him, which, worn out, fell dead.

And as the tall and ma.s.sive gate of some Old fort with spikes deep driven to withstand The foe, who battered it incessant, falls, And, powerless to stand the shock, at last Falls with a crash that far and wide was heard, So fell the beast, his ma.s.sive corpse all torn And mangled, and with jav’lins planted deep, And when he fell from his huge throat went forth A wail, his last, like roaring thunder, that Resounded through the hills of Vijiapore.

Another moment and brave Timma sat Upon the bridal seat, the veil was drawn, And, through the veil, the sacred knot was tied Round Chandra’s neck, and all was merry there.

And still another moment when–alas!

For that strange fickleness of human life Whose joys and griefs each other follow like The spokes of some fast-going wheel–there came The wounded Bukka with a violent wail That Timma had the king’s adviser slain, Whose body lay upon the riverside, Exposed to all the carrion birds of prey, And him too wounded, but the arrow pierced Not deep, but laid him senseless for awhile; But soon, with consciousness restored, his wound He washed, and straightway hastened on his steed, In time to tell the story, sad but true, And stop the marriage of that coward with The fairest and the n.o.blest of the land.

As when upon a tree, whose boughs with fruits Are laden, birds innumerable sit, Them to enjoy and to be merry there, The cruel hand of man to mar their joys Hurls suddenly a stone, and all the air Around is thick with jarring sounds of birds That in confusion fly–so fell the words Of Bukka on that scene, where all was joy, Where, like a beehive, swarmed the surging crowd, To see the marriage of their princess dear; And straightway in confusion wild they ran Without a purpose, but in various ways.

Unto their homes some ran the news t’acquaint, Some to the wounded Bukka and his horse, But many to the riverside to find Their min’ster lying dead by arrow pierced.

The sorrow-stricken king spake not a word, But like a lifeless figure stood awhile.

A sudden fit of frenzy overtook The king at last, and Timma’s awful doom He thundered forth in accents strong like these: “Be this my decree, forthwith known to all, That Timma henceforth shall be banished from My land for this dishonour brought on me.

He paved his way by murder to my throne, And sullied the fair name of my dear house.”

When these few awful words the monarch spoke, Tears trickled down his eyes, and Timma from The bridal seat received his doom, ‘stead of A blessing from the father of his bride.

A gentle touch, a whisper through the veil, Then Timma to the royal judgment bowed, And slowly moved from out those scenes of joy And merriment, and reached the palace gate, Where stood his horse by that dead elephant; And soon in that confusion that prevailed Was seen to slowly move a figure veiled, T’approach the gate, and forthwith Timma swung That figure on the saddle of his horse, Then himself leapt and vanished straight from view.

The angry monarch saw their sudden flight, And as some aged lion, when sore vexed, Like thunder roaring, musters all his strength And stands defiant to face the foe, so stood The aged warrior, whose old strength returned, His breast expanded, and his body raised Erect, and for the time his age shook off.

Then spake he forth in angry tones like these: “My only child is gone, and he that brings My daughter back shall have my highest meed– Nay, even half my kingdom I will give.”

None dared save Bukka to essay the feat, Who forthwith sprang upon his horse, and soon O’ertook the running pair, for Timma’s horse, Though deemed the fleetest in the land, now felt His double weight, his wonted speed decreased.

Then Timma said, “Our foe is nearing fast, And he is armed, while weapons I have none.

In bridal dress I cannot face the foe, And he will sure kill me and take you back Unto your angry sire. Thou art a girl Born of the martial Kshatriya race, and hence Thou knowest well to ride the wildest horse; So let me now dismount for thee t’escape.”

“‘Tis better far I die with thee,” she said, “But I have here the javelin thou didst give Before thou went’st to kill the elephant, The eighth and last, concealed within my veil.

Take this and stop the coming foe,–but oh!

Kill not the wretch who dared to follow us, And sully this our happy bridal hour By murder; only stay, oh, stay the chase!”

So said, she gave the jav’lin, which he hurled Upon the chasing charger’s breast with all His might, and straightway horse and rider fell; And, like those innocent and helpless doves, The loving pair together fled away, Their life of joy and freedom to renew.

Before the fury of an angered king For full three days and nights they ran, and found At last a safe and happy shelter in A shepherd’s cot, and in those troublous times ‘Twas easier for the brave to kingdoms found, Rear palaces, and rulers strong become, Than for the toiling peasants, from sown fields, To reap their crops and safely bear them home.

Brave Timma was a stranger ‘mongst new men; The many tigers by his arrows killed And neighboring clans and lawless robbers kept In check gave them sure hopes of future peace And future joy, and straightway they made him Their king to guard their women and their homes, While they their avocations of the soil In peace pursued, and soon was raised a fort; A stately palace too was reared within By willing hands, and safe from dang’rous foes, And far away from their dear native vale Of Vijiapore they spent their peaceful days In joy, beloved by all their loyal men.

But ’tis a saying often told in Ind, _He hath a foe who hath a lovely wife._ Her very loveliness is reason deemed To hate her lord, nay, murder him, and hence Her husband’s foe unconscious she becomes.

For Chandra’s beauty all these evils wrought Upon the youth, who for his country fought So many battles, and the Moslem kept In constant dread, and for his virtue’s sake, Though most beloved in his native land, And dreaded most for valour by his foes, He lived a stranger in a foreign land.

She, too, that maiden, ’twas her fate to share Her husband’s troubles for her beauty rare.

Still ’twas a little heav’n their new home where The halcyon days of mutual love were spent.

‘Tis sweet to love and sweeter to be loved; And thus in their new home their life of joy They spent in undisturbed solitude; But ah! this even was not long to be.

One day the news was brought to their new king, By a small troop of sorrow-stricken men, That ev’ry night a tiger from his den Came down and fearful havoc wrought amongst Their toiling cattle, and the piteous tales Of dreadful woe they poured into his ear Moved Timma’s heart, who took his trusty bow And forthwith started with a faithful band To drag the tiger from his mountain cave And then for ever stop his mad career.

For days and nights he wandered in the woods, But sad to tell found not the dreaded beast.

Still, nothing daunted, continued the search, Until at last his faithful men he missed, And wandered far into the wilds unknown, When lo! the villain Bukka, who, upon The outskirts of the newly-founded state, Was hovering like a falcon o’er his prey, Pounced suddenly upon the lonely youth And safely carried him to his abode; Then tidings sent to Chandra in these words: “Dear maid! thy Timma is a helpless slave, A humble suppliant for his life before The valiant Bukka; let thy pride now cease.

The jav’lin which thou sentest me to slay, Which killed my n.o.ble steed instead, awaits To pierce his head and forthwith end his life.

But hearken ere I strike him dead therewith, Thy matchless beauty, valour, virtue–these Are fit to shine in royal courts like mine, Add splendour to my household, where installed As queen the daughters of my land will pay Homage to thee–discard him, therefore, and Love me, and I will forthwith set him free.”

The angry maiden made reply, “Vile wretch!

Cursed be thy head to hold this evil thought.

If in my presence this request were made, Sure I to fragments would have splintered it With my own weapon, and the pieces thrown To carrion birds to feast upon withal.

Tell him ’tis better far he should be like A cur tied at my gate, for servants, as They pa.s.s, to throw a little morsel from The remnants of our feast; I fear him not, And if my lord he kills, sure I am not His wife, if forthwith I don’t leap upon The flames and then to ashes be reduced.

Begone! ’twere better far my husband dies Than be the prisoner of a grovelling wretch.”

Bukka, whose ire was roused, sent word at last– “Beware, you foolish maid! poor Timma’s life Endanger not by this refusal stern, Nor lightly treat my prowess, for to me ‘Tis easier far to take away his life Than for the lordly monarch of the woods To kill the puny, weakly lamb; and nought Prompts me to wait thus far, but pity for The daughter of a friend and neighbour-king, Else Timma’s body would have long ere this Been given to the eagles of the air.

So listen now, once more, ere I kill him, And, if at all thou carest for his life, Let me but see the beauty of thy face, And for one moment only gaze upon Its loveliness–then Timma shall be free, And I will pa.s.s in quietness to my home– Nay, henceforth I will not molest you both.

Shouldst thou this last request refuse, I swear, By all I sacred hold, the moment that Refusal comes, the jav’lin from my hand Will fly at Timma and will strike him dead.”

Meantime brave Chandra in the audience hall Of her own palace, ‘midst her faithful men, Received the news, and then in angry tones She spurned the wild request, when there appeared Her priest, who counsel gave in words like these: “It is not meet, O royal lady, that Thou shouldst this att.i.tude defiant a.s.sume, When Bukka in a moment may bereave Us all of our dear, n.o.ble Timmaraj, And drive thee, too, to fling thy life away; And, if ’tis writ thou shouldst so die with him, Our sad entreaties and our tears will nought Avail, nor alter laws thus preordained.

But haply, if it is writ otherwise, Why break the link that binds you both for life?

Call it not chance the link that binds men’s hearts, But Heaven’s sacred gift to sweeten life.

It is the hand divine that guides man’s life From the inception to the very end; Nay more, sees even after that life’s end, Its own appointed destiny is reached, To take fresh shape, its course to run anew, And reap what it had sown before, for take The tree, its fruit but falls to reach its base.

The calf his mother easily doth find Amidst a thousand cows, to suck the milk; And all our deeds doth likewise follow us, E’en after death, and they are not our own, But preordained laws, that must perforce Be anywise fulfilled, and He alone It is that sees their strict fulfilment here.

For ah! why should the n.o.blest maiden and The fairest and the wisest in the land Be mated to the meanest wretch through life?

All that is deemed the highest in the world– Beauty and honour, valour, virtue, wealth– All these availeth not, her mind is blank; She herself knows not whom to love and wed; Not e’en dear friendship kindles in her breast The lamp of love, but suddenly A pa.s.sing stranger’s glance, a simple look Instinctive plants that love, which slow takes shape, Despite a thousand counter forces, till At last the final end is reached: a look Is thus enough to bind two hearts for life, And this is but the true fulfilment of A preordained law that in the life Before had all but reached perfection full, Or their appointed shape had all but tak’n, And in the new life easily attains The end: such, then, the truth of all such things.

Call it what you will, simple tendency Inherited, the least sign gives it life, Which but leads it to its appointed end, Like powder whose combustibleness sleeps, The sudden spark to action rouses it.

And thus it was, O Chandra, thou didst share A humble courtier’s lot, and didst refuse The premier n.o.ble’s hand, or better still The queenship of two mighty states, and thus The many counter forces that were set At work but strengthened thy true love for him.

And why endanger such a husband’s life?

One wedded so to thee, and not by chance, But by the preordained law of G.o.d; For know thou livest only for thy lord.

Thy husband is thy lord, and, if perchance It is his will thou shouldst be Bukka’s queen, Thou shouldst, so knowing it, obey his will, Else, sure thou shalt be deemed nor pure nor chaste, But counted worse than e’en a faithless wife; ‘Tis not in man to alter written laws; ‘Tis hard, nay useless too to fight ‘gainst fate, And if ’tis writ that Bukka should now see Thy matchless face, thou canst not alter it, And fate’s severities good deeds alone Can soften, and our holy writings say ‘Tis sin to let another man behold Thy face, admire the beauties that enchant, And thou becomest then impure; but those Same holy books say, ’tis no sin to see The shadow for the true reality.

Tales Of Ind, And Other Poems Part 1

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Tales Of Ind, And Other Poems is a Webnovel created by T. Ramakrishna Pillai.
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Tales of Ind.

by T. Ramakrishna.

_LORD TENNYSON._

A poet of my native land has said– The life the good and virtuous lead on earth Is like the black-eyed maiden of the East, Who paints the lids to look more bright and fair.

The eyes may smart and water, but withal She loves to please them that behold her face.

E’en so, my Master, thine own life has been.

Thy songs have pleased the world, thy thoughts divine Have purified, likewise enn.o.bled man.

And what are they, those songs and thoughts divine, But sad experience of thy life, dipt deep In thine own tears, and traced on nature’s page?

To please and teach the world for two dear ones You mourned–a friend in youth, a son in age ‘Tis said the life that gives one moment’s joy To one lone mortal is not lived in vain; But lives like thine G.o.d grants as shining lights That we in darkness Him aright may see.

Nay more, such lives the more by ills beset Do shine the more and better teach His ways.

Alas! thou’rt gone that wert so kind to one Obscure–a stranger in a distant land.

Accept from him this wreath uncouth of words Which do but half express the grief he feels.

_SEETA AND RAMA_.

A TALE OF THE INDIAN FAMINE.

It was by far the loveliest scene in Ind:– A deep sunk lonely vale, ‘tween verdant hills That, in eternal friendship, seemed to hold Communion with the changing skies above; Dark shady groves the haunts of shepherd boys And wearied peasants in the midday noon; A lake that shone in l.u.s.tre clear and bright Like a pure Indian diamond set amidst Green emeralds, where every morn, with songs Of parted lovers that tempted blooming maids With pitchers on their heads to stay and hear Those songs, the busy villagers of the vale Their green fields watered that gave them sure hopes Of future plenty and of future joys.

Oh, how uncertain man’s sure hopes and joys!

In this enchanted hollow that was scooped– For so it seemed–by G.o.d’s own mighty hand, Where Nature shower’d her richest gifts to make Another paradise, stood Krishnapore With her two score and seven huts reared by The patient labour of her simple men.

In this blest hamlet one there was that owned Its richest lands: beloved by all its men, Their friend in times of need, their guide in life, Partaker of their joys and woes as well, The arbiter of all their petty strifes.

By him his friend the village master lived That at his door a group of children taught; A man he was well versed in ancient lore; And oft at night, when ended was their toil, The villagers with souls enraptured heard him In fiery accents speak of Krishna’s deeds And Rama’s warlike skill, and wondered that He knew so well the deities they adored.

One only daughter this schoolmaster had, And Seeta was her name, the prettiest maid In all the village, nursed by the fond cares Of her indulgent sire, and loved with all The tender feelings that pure love inspires By the rich villager’s only son, the heir Of all his father’s wealth; the best at school, The boldest of the village youths at play, And the delight of all those that saw him; And these seemed such a fitting pair that oft The secret whisper round the village ran That Seeta was to wed the rich man’s son.

Thus, in this Eden, its blest inmates lived And pa.s.sed their days, the villagers at the fields, Their busy women at the blazing hearths, The village master at his cottage door, And Rama and fair Seeta in true love.

Hither a monster came, that slowly sucked The vigour, the very life of Krishnapore.

The brilliant l.u.s.tre of the diamond lake, The emerald greenness of the waving fields, The shady groves and pleasant cottage grounds, And all the beauties of the happy vale Soon vanished imperceptibly, as if Some unconsuming furnace underneath Had baked the earth and rendered it all bare, Until its inmates wandered desolate, With hollow cheeks, sunk eyes, and haggard faces, Like walking skeletons pasted o’er with skin.

No more would blooming girls with pitchers laden Repair to the clear lake while curling smoke Rose from their cottage roofs; no more at morn Would Rama be the first at school to see His Seeta deck her father’s house with flowers; No more at eve the village master pour From Hindu lore the mighty deeds of G.o.ds To the delighted ears of simple men; For these have left their lands and their dear homes.

And Seeta with her father left her cot, And cast behind, with a deep, heavy sigh, One ling’ring look upon that vale where she Was born and fondly nursed,–where glided on Her days in pleasure and pure innocence,– Where Rama lived and loved her tenderly.

Her father died of hunger on the way, And the lone creature wandered in the streets Of towns from door to door, and vainly begged For food, till some, deep moved by the sad tales Of the lone straggler, safely lodged her in A famine camp, where, heavy laden with A double sorrow (for her lover too, She thought, had died), her tedious life she spent.

And days and weeks and months thus rolled away, Until at last her love for the dead youth Mysterious waned, and, like a shallow lamp, Burnt in her breast with nothing to feed it.

One day the news went through the famine shed That a lean youth, plucked from the very arms Of cruel death, was tenderly nursed there; And all its inmates hurried to the scene.

Poor Seeta saw the youth, and that sad sight She ne’er forgot; the youth was in her mind Too firmly rooted to be rooted out, Who ev’ry day in strength and beauty grew, till he Appeared the fairest youth in all the camp.

First pity for the youth, then love for him Mysterious came to her, until at last The flick’ring flame shone sudden in her breast.

“This stranger I must wed, for him I love, I know not how; that pleasant face is like The face of him I dearly loved; I see Appearing ev’ry day upon that face, As if by magic wrought, those beauties that Were seated on dead Rama’s face.” Thus mused This maiden of the camp, and the fair youth Thus kindled in her breast the hidden flame Of love and fed it ever with new strength, Which shone again in all its purity.

As the moon whose effulgence hidden lies When dimmed by clouds, suddenly blazes forth And in her wonted beauty shines again What time she darts into the cloudless vault, So shone again in lovely Seeta’s breast The lamp of love by clouds of sorrow dimmed.

The smothered pa.s.sion suddenly blazed forth In brighter l.u.s.tre, and to her returned With double force, as when the flaming fire Is smothered when more fuel is on it thrown, And straightway flames and gives a brighter light.

At last the monster left the land, the camp Was broke, its inmates left it for their homes.

England, would that one of thy sons were there To hear what words, what blessings now burst from Their inward hearts for nursing them when they From all estranged had poured into thine arms!

Poor Seeta hastened to the youth she loved, And to him with a gladdened heart thus spake:– Her rosy lips, just oped to speak, were like A half-blown rosebud blossoming all at once; Such magic was wrought on her ere she spake: “Kind stranger, whither goest thou? I am A lonely maiden, and friends I have none; And thee alone I trust as my safe guide To Krishnapore.”

“Dear maid! thy sorrows cease; My way now lies through Krishnapore: fear not, I shall restore thee to thy home and friends; Trust me as your safe guide and dearest friend.”

She, overjoyed, recounted to the youth Her tale–how she, her father’s only hope And pride, reluctant left their native vale And cottage home; how he died on the way, And she, a lonely creature, wandered in The streets from door to door and begged for food; How she was taken to the famine camp; How he, with hollow cheeks and sunken eyes, Was brought one day and there nursed tenderly; And how in beauty ev’ry day he grew Until like her dead Rama he appeared.

The village youth, unable any more Now to suppress him, suddenly exclaimed, “Look here, whose name is on this arm tattooed?”

“O Rama, Krishna, Govinda, and all Ye G.o.ds that I adore, ye have blest me; This is the happiest moment in my life, And this the happiest spot in all the earth, For now my long-lost Rama I have found.”

So saying, she intently gazed on him.

As a rich mine pours forth its hidden wealth To the delight of those that day and night Court eagerly its treasures them t’ enrich; So from this lovely pair’s deep mine of feelings, What honeyed words escaped now through their lips To their intense joy, better far than all The treasures any ample mine bestows!

With sweet talk they beguiled their tedious way; The verdant hills sublime rose to the view; The broad lake glittered diamond-like again; And wreathing smoke curled from the cottage roofs; The lovely vale became the lovely vale Again, and all the long forgotten scenes In quick succession flowed before them both; And never was a happier marriage seen In all that happy vale of Krishnapore.

_THE STORY OF PRINCE DeSING_.

It was the month of May, and glorious rose The sun on Jinji, bathing in his light Her lofty hills, her ancient walls and towers, Her battlements, and all the glittering scene That bade the stranger tell–“here lives a prince;”

And greeting late, as if too long he slept Upon his ocean bed, the eager crowd That in their best attire at early dawn Fast gathered from their hamlets far and wide, And like a hive swarmed on the castled hills.

Perhaps some village poet waited there, Who day and night toiled hard in metres rare To sing the deeds and virtues of his prince And trace them on the leaves of that lone palm Which stood close by his humble cottage home.

Perhaps with faces that bespoke deep grief A troop of farmers there had come to tell To their sport-loving prince the havoc wrought Upon their toiling cattle by wild beasts That nightly from their hill abodes came down To feast on them. And in that motley crowd Were servants of the state and many more Who long had waited merely for a glimpse Of their just ruler Desing holding court.

But soon there echoed through the lofty hills The sound of th’ Indian bugle and the drum Proclaiming the arrival of the prince; And often, as the new flood rushing down With the still waters of a sleeping stream, Leaves nought behind, and all is vacancy, Or as the dim light of a shallow lamp Suddenly blazes forth and soon is quenched, So louder rose the clamour of the crowd At the sound of the bugle and the drum, Then straightway in deep silence died away, And perfect stillness reigned everywhere.

Upon his gorgeous throne sat Jinji’s prince With servants fanning him on either side; And in a place of honour sate in that Capacious hall his holy Brahmin priest, The master of his well-trained army there, The chief and trusted min’ster of the state, The aged poet that his praises sang, The sage that, versed in all the starry lore, His royal master’s fortunes daily told; The painter that adorned those ancient walls, And countless other servants of the prince There gathered each in his accustomed seat.

Then from the gate approached a trusty page, And said with folded hands and trembling lips– “O royal master, at the gate there waits A man of n.o.ble mien from the far north Requesting audience on affairs of state.”

“Conduct him to our presence,” said the prince.

The stranger came,–upon the floor he knelt And said–“Thou mighty prince of these fair lands, I come from Arcot, and the Nabob sent His humble servant to demand of thee Thy dues which these five years thou hast not paid.

Know, then, if these are not now duly paid, From thee he will these broad dominions wrest, And give them those who will his rule obey.”

The angry prince made answer–“Go and tell Your master that his vain threats move us not, Say we will gladly meet him on the field.”

So saying, from his royal seat he rose, And to his palace instantly withdrew.

As when a stone dropped in the middle of A placid pool its slumb’ring waters wakes, And the calm surface is all ruffled seen, Or at the merest touch of ruthless man Bent on the honeyed treasures of the hive Those myriad ones leave murm’ring to the foe Their h.o.a.rded wealth to which they fondly clung, So scattered to their distant native homes The bustling crowd that met on Jinji’s hills, When he of Arcot came to mar their joys.

And days and months rolled on until one day To Desing came his loyal spy and said– “My n.o.ble ruler, on the other side Of the fair stream that runs through yonder plain, There waits our foe of Arcot with his men: Prepare to go and meet him on the field.”

‘Twas even time–the warrior prince soon wrote To Mamood Khan, the master of his troops, To hasten to his country’s duty first.

What though it was that soldier’s bridal hour, When he received his royal master’s call!

“My country’s welfare first, then my fair spouse,”

He said, and leapt upon his faithful steed And stood, ere morn had streaked the eastern sky, Before his lord his bidding to obey.

The prince rose early on that fated day And to the temple of his G.o.d repaired, There to invoke His blessing on the field.

Then to the palace hastened he to meet, Ere he went forth to fight, his youthful wife, Who day by day in beauty grew amidst A score of maidens, like the waxing moon; And, with a screen of silk between, they met.

As one lured by the fragrance of the rose Stoops down gently to lift the truant stalk That to the other side of the thick hedge Shoots out alone from its own parent stem, So fondly down stooped Jinji’s n.o.ble prince To kiss the jewelled arm of his fair spouse Which through the screen she offered to her lord.

Prince Desing was the first who silence broke.

“My dear wife! on the day when we were wed These eyes of mine had not e’en this arm seen, Although on the same bridal seat we sat.

The screen which by the custom of our race Was drawn by cruel hands hid thee from view.

So wondrous fair this arm looks that methinks Rare beauties must be seated on thy face.