Saturday, 21 May 2016

The Boar Hunt - Bhāravi

The Boar with wondrous strength endowed
     In its deep tusks and mighty jaw, —
As if to tear the firm set rocks, —
     With glaring eyes great Arjun saw!
“Uprooting trees with his great tusks.
     And piercing rocks with dreadful might,
He comes at me,”— thus Arjun thought, —
     “As if to challenge me to fight!
Beasts of prey forget their strife
     In this my peaceful hermitage,
Wherefore then on death intent
     Intrudes this wild boar in its rage?
Was he my foe in previous life?
     Does cherished hatred speed him still?
Despising every living creature
     Death to me he seeks to deal!
Much my doubting heart misgives, —
     No beast, — he is a deadly foe!
Spontaneously a friend or foe
     The instincts of our nature know!”

Pondering thus he took his bow,
     Fit emblem of his matchless might,
And on it quickly placed his arrow,
     Ever true in many a fight!
Admiring Siva marked his mien,
     His circling bow, his stately height, —
“The mortal stands, as once I stood,
     And slew Tripurâ in my might!”
And Siva bent his sounding bow,
     The mountain sank beneath his tread!
And the snake that formed the bowstring
     Shot forth sparks, all flaming red!
Frightened tuskers fled the sound
     Of Siva's bow, terrific, high,
As lightning from rain-cloud falls.
     The arrow shot across the sky!
The Boar's tough hide, like seasoned Tamâl,
     Pierced the dart like flakes of snow!
Unchecked, in earth it disappeared
     As sharks in water sink below!
That instant as the lightning's radiance
     Shortening distance, as by spell.
And quick as thought, great Arjun's arrow
     On the mighty wild boar fell!
Red in hot blood fell the Boar,
     Tearing rocks in rage and pride;
Glared at Arjun in its anger,
     Groaned in agony, and died.

Though rich in darts, great Arjun sought
     The shaft the mighty prize had won;
For noble hearts are grateful ever.
     And remember service done!
He saw a hunter near the beast,
     A bow across his ample chest, —
A messenger who came to tell
     His mighty Leader's high behest!

“Thy gentle mien thy worth proclaims,
     These rites proclaim thy holy peace,
And aye, thy lofty presence speaketh
     Of a glorious god-like race!
Thy glory shames the sun's bright ray,
     Thy mighty power is known to men.
Then wherefore takest thou this dart
     With which our Chief this boar hath slain?
Or perchance our Leader's arrow
     To thy arrow is akin,
And unconscious thou proceedest,
     Erring, into paths of sin!
But not alone 'tis base to steal
     Another's arrow from the field,
A chief like thee might blush to send
     His shaft on game by others killed!
Or if, in sooth, thou seek'st this dart,
     Come, ask our Leader openly;
Mighty Ruler! — he will yield
     His dart to gain a friend like thee!
Unto our kind and gracious Chief
     A humble prayer is never lost,
He knows the pain the lowly suffer,
     When their humble prayer is crossed.
Or hast thou with a Brahman's folly
     On dead beast thy arrow driven?
Ignorance doth cover sin,
     Our Chief thy folly hath forgiven!
Beshrew such folly, honest friend!
     Depart in peace, nor sin again,
For who will pardon frequent sins, —
     Incessant winds stir up the main!
My Chief forgives this foolish act,
     Nor seeks to cause a hermit pain;
Come, yield this arrow to our Lord,
     And from him wealth and grace obtain!
Yonder, by that lofty tree.
     Stands he, — our Chief, thou mark'st him plain,
Obey his will, his favours seek.
     And thou shalt all thy wish obtain!”

Like a rock by surges beaten.
     Angered by this bitter taunt,
Arjun still thus gently answered.
     Great in patience and restraint!

“Well skilled in words! Why seek'st thou not
     To turn thy master from this strife?
Knowest thou not that menials perish
     When their chief surrenders life?
Thy Leader's arrow may have gone
     Among yon rugged rocks astray; —
Nor insult thus an anchorite.
     For pride to ruin leads the way!
Many a bright and piercing arrow
     In my ample quiver lies;
I value not celestial darts,
     And scarce a mountaineer's would prize!
Beasts range the wood, to none belong,
     Whoever kills them takes the game;
Then let thy Chief his pride forego,
     And peacefully forego his claim.
You counselled me to beg the dart
     As favour from your Chief in peace;
To win by prowess, not to ask,
     Is the proud custom of my race.
You counselled friendship; — Kshatriya I, —
     And he a hunter in this range!
Mighty tuskers scarce would seek
     In skulking jackals friendship strange!
You counselled me to court his grace,
     Presumptuous words! — I pardon free;
Then let thy Chief give up this shaft,
     Nor seek with taunts to anger me!"

Thus unto the hunter wild
     Arjun spoke in angry mood,
And the forest messenger
     Went where mighty Siva stood!
And the ample chested Chief,
     With the bow across his breast,
Stood against the lofty sky,
     Seemed the Lord of all the host!
Stood before him warlike Arjun,
     Pale with penances, but proud,
Swelling with a mighty passion.
     Like a fire in smoky shroud!
Resting on his mighty bow,
     Calm in strength, and patiently.
Mighty in his matchless power,
     Like the calm inviolate sea!
With a more than mortal form,
     Dark in hue, of stately size,
Like the world-protecting Vishnu,
     Hidden in a mortal's guise!

Saintly in his penance and his rite,
Glorious in his prowess and his might!
To him the Lord of arméd hunters came,
As comes the dark cloud with the lightning's gleam!

Bhāravi (6th century) India
Translated by Romesh Chunder Dutt (From "The Hunter and the Hero", or "Kirdtdrjuniyam" - Book X)

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