Thursday, 14 June 2018

Kumudvati's wedding - Kālidāsa

I have no king; my towers and terraces
Crumble and fall; my walls are overthrown;
As when the ugly winds of evening seize
The rack of clouds in helpless darkness blown.

In streets where maidens gaily passed at night,
Where once was known the tinkle and the shine
Of anklets, jackals slink, and by the light
Of flashing fangs, seek carrion, snarl, and whine.

The water of the pools that used to splash
With drumlike music, under maidens' hands,
Groans now when bisons from the jungle lash
It with their clumsy horns, and roil its sands.

The peacock-pets are wild that once were tame;
They roost on trees, not perches; lose desire
For dancing to the drums; and feel no shame
For fans singed close by sparks of forest-fire.

On stairways where the women once were glad
To leave their pink and graceful footprints, here
Unwelcome, blood-stained paws of tigers pad,
Fresh-smeared from slaughter of the forest deer.

Wall-painted elephants in lotus-brooks,
Receiving each a lily from his mate,
Are torn and gashed, as if by cruel hooks,
By claws of lions, showing furious hate.

I see my pillared caryatides
Neglected, weathered, stained by passing time,
Wearing in place of garments that should please,
The skins of sloughing cobras, foul with slime.

The balconies grow black with long neglect,
And grass-blades sprout through floors no longer tight;
They still receive but cannot now reflect
The old, familiar moonbeams, pearly white.

The vines that blossomed in my garden bowers,
That used to show their graceful beauty, when
Girls gently bent their twigs and plucked their flowers,
Are broken by wild apes and wilder men.

The windows are not lit by lamps at night,
Nor by fair faces shining in the day,
But webs of spiders dim the delicate, light
Smoke-tracery with one mere daub of grey.

The river is deserted; on the shore
No gaily bathing men and maidens leave
Food for the swans; its reedy bowers no more
Are vocal: seeing this, I can but grieve.

Kālidāsa (4th Century AD) India
Translated by Arthur W. Ryder
Source: Kalidasa Translations of Shakuntala & other works by Arthur W. Ryder, E.P. Dutton & Co.,  1912
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As Kusha lies awake one night, a female figure appears in his chamber; and in answer to his question, declares that she is the presiding goddess of the ancient capital Ayodhya, which has been deserted since Rama's departure to heaven. She pictures the sad state of the city in this poem.

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