T. Ramakrishna.

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TALES OF IND

_AND OTHER POEMS_


BY

T. RAMAKRISHNA



1896




TO
THE MEMORY OF
MY DEAR DAUGHTER
KAMALA.


The star that rose to cheer our humble life,
And make a little heaven of our home,
Shall rise again - yes, surely rise again
To give us everlasting joy divine.






CONTENTS.


TO MY DAUGHTER

LORD TENNYSON

SEETA AND RAMA - A TALE OF THE INDIAN FAMINE

THE STORY OF PRINCE DÉSING

THE STORY OF RUDRA

THE STORY OF THE ROYAL HUNTRESS

CHANDRA - A TALE OF THE FIELD OF TELLIKÓTA

THE KORATHY'S LULLABY




_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 ennobled 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 God 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 lustre 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 God'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 passed 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 lustre 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 gods
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 passion suddenly blazed forth
In brighter lustre, 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 Gods 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 DÉSING_.


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 Désing 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 noble 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 hoarded 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 Désing came his loyal spy and said -
"My noble 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 God 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 noble prince
To kiss the jewelled arm of his fair spouse
Which through the screen she offered to her lord.
Prince Désing 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.
My foe hath come; fear not; I go to fight,
And come with honours loaded from the field,
A victor to rejoice with thee to-night
At the propitious hour which, by the aid
Of all his starry lore, our Brahmin sage
Hath for our nuptials named, - to gaze and scan
In silent joy what charms, what beauties rare
The hand divine has showered upon thy face,
And to recount to thee, when with thine own
My arm in friendship plays, what blood it shed,
What havoc in the Moslem camp it wrought.
So let me now depart." To which the Queen:
"I was the only daughter of my sire,
And cradled in his sinewy arms I grew;
And when upon his warrior breast I laid
My head to sleep, my mother by his side
Lulled me with songs of how in days gone by
The martial women of our noble race
Went with their husbands by their side to fight;
And one so nursed fears not the Moslem foe.
But now, alas! some evil it forebodes
That thou shouldst on this day go forth to fight."

And as she spoke tears trickled down his eyes,
And one, a pearly drop, stole to her palm.
She felt it: instantly her hand withdrew,
And then began to speak in words like these:
"It is not meet that Jinji's valiant prince
Should like a child at this last hour shed tears
And fear to meet his foe; fear not, my lord,
To meet him like a soldier on the field.
If thou a victor comest from the fight,
We shall in joy spend our first nuptial night,
But if thou comest routed from the field,
I never more will see thy timid face
Or think that thou art born of Kshatriya race.
And if thou fallest bravely fighting, then
Remember, Prince, thou hast in me a wife
Who will not let thee pass from earth alone.
Go forth and like a warrior meet the foe.
But fear not; Runga will be on our side,
So ere thou goest kiss this hand of mine
Which from thine eyes that precious tear has sought."
So saying, this brave Rajput girl once more
To Désing offered through the screen her hand.
He lifted it and reverently kissed,
Then sallied forth resolved to win or die.

Fierce raged the battle, but the hapless prince
Was weak to meet his foeman's myriad host;
And Mamood Khan fell bravely lighting there,
And with him many of his valiant men.
The faithful steed that through all perils bore
The prince was slain, and soon he fought on foot.
But ere the foe could capture him alive,
He hurled his heavy dagger, bared his breast,
And instantly a lifeless corpse he fell.
A few brave soldiers bore him from the field.
They hastened to the castle and before
The widowed Queen their precious burden laid.
She, nothing daunted, orders gave at once
That her attendants should prepare the pyre;
And then to her assembled men thus spake:
"My faithful men and my brave soldiers! you
Who with my lord fought nobly on the field,
I see you all weep at our hapless fate.
'Tis God has willed we thus should end our lives.
But a worse fate shall surely soon befall
Our cruel foe - howe'er exulting now.
Weep not - there soon shall dawn another day
When from the farthest end of this vast globe
A race for valour and for virtue famed
Shall wrest his kingdom from his ruthless hands,
And everywhere your sons and your sons' sons
Shall lasting peace and happiness enjoy.
Be witness to the curse pronounced by me,
A widowed maiden at the hour of death,
Thou setting Sun and thou, O rising Moon!"

Then as a bride in all her glory decked
Approaches with a gladdened heart t' embrace
Th' expectant bridegroom on the nuptial bed,
E'en so ascended this fair Queen the pyre,
And there embracing lay by her dear lord.
The fire was lighted and the pyre was closed,
And speedily to ashes were reduced
The lifeless husband and the living wife.
The Moslem came - heard of the death she died
Amid the flames, repented of his deed,
And, it is said, he built a lordly town[1]
In honour of the Queen, who counted it,
A sin her noble husband to survive,
And in a moment flung her life away.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 1: Ranipett.]




_THE STORY OF RUDRA_.


A deep calm sea; on the blue waters toiled,
From morn till eve, the simple fishermen;
And, on the beach, there stood a group of huts
Before whose gates old men sat mending nets
And eyed with secret joy the little boys
That gaily gambolled on the sandy beach
Regardless of their parents' daily toils.
And all the busy women left their homes
And their young ones with baskets on their heads
Filled with the finny treasures of the deep.

A thousand yards to landward rose a town
With its broad streets, high roofs, and busy marts.
An ancient temple in the centre stood,
Where to his servant Nandi once appeared
Great Siva, it is said, in human frame.
E'en learned saints sang of the holy shrine;
And to this sacred spot from far-off lands
For adoration countless pilgrims came
And men to buy all rarest things that poured
Into her busy marts from foreign parts.

Here in this ancient port of Nundipore
In royal splendour lived a merchant youth,
Who scarce had reached his one-and-twentieth year.
His aged father had but lately died
And left him the sole heir of all his wealth.
And Rudra - for that was the brave youth's name -
Had heard from infant days full many tales
Of how his grandsire and his sire had braved
The perils of the deep in search of gold,
And in his bosom fondly nurtured hopes
To travel likewise on the dang'rous sea.
And oft would he to Rati, his fair wife,
Exulting tell how wisely he would trade
In foreign shores and with rare gems return;
How even princes, by those gems allured,
To court his friendship come from distant lands,
And he dictate his own high terms to them,
And thus add glory to his glorious house.
And often would she vainly plead in turn
Her desolate position and her youth.
And her dear lord implore upon her knees
For ever to dismiss his cherished thoughts
And turn to her and to their lordly wealth
Which God had given them, to live in peace.
Thus wrangled for some months the timid wife
And he whom woman's charms could not subdue
Until at last arrived th' appointed day.
The little ship was waiting in the port,
And Rudra to his youthful wife repaired
His purpose to disclose; and as at times
Clouds hover over us and darken all
The sky for days, and still no rain descends -
But suddenly when least expected comes -
So she to whom her husband's parting lay
In words saw it burst in reality.

He said, "Dear Rati! well thou knowest how
I fondly wish to trade in distant realms.
The time has come for me to part from thee.
This morn a little ship was sighted here,
And she is riding yonder on the sea.
And ere the setting sun sinks down to rest
Into the western waves the little bark
Now destined to take me will leave the port;
And I have therefore one, but one short hour.
'Tis willed by Him above that I should soon
Bid farewell to the place where I was born,
Where all my thoughts for ever centred lie, -
Soon part from all that to my heart is dear,
But soon come richer, greater to my home,
To spend my days in joy and happiness.
Dear wife! allow me therefore to depart."

To which the wife - "Dear husband, sad it is
To me to think that thou shouldst part from me;
But sadder still the thought that thou shouldst go
On seas to roam in lands unknown and strange,
And canst not tell when to this spot return.
There is our lordly mansion here; there is
Our wealth, and here I am thy youthful wife.
Why go away and risk thy precious life
While we enjoy our days like king and queen?
Why leave me here to pine away in grief
And loneliness? Without my lord it is
Half death to me, and I would rather die
Than see him part; hence banish from thy mind
All thoughts of going and stay here with me."

"My wife!" he said, "why cherish idle fears?
The holy Brahmin whom thou knowest well,
So deeply versed in all the starry lore,
Tells me that I am fated to return.
It is an evil omen that thou shouldst,
Lamenting, hinder me at this last hour
And tell me not to go. Send me away
With thy good wishes, I will soon return.
By Him above that rules man's destinies,
By mother earth, by yonder setting sun,
The moon that shines up in the starry heav'ns,
By all that to his heart is sacred deemed,
And lastly by his sire whose picture hangs
On the wall there, thy husband Rudra swears
That after he returns he'll stay with thee,
And nevermore e'en think of leaving thee,
And let him therefore go in peace of mind."

"If it is true," replied the crying maid,
"That Sita followed Rama to the woods,
And that she of the Pandus also shared
With them their toils - if ever woman's charms
Had power to move the adamantine heart
Of man, then let thy Rati go with thee
To share with thee thy joys and woes as well.
If thou shouldst go alone, remember then,
Dear lord, the sin rests solely on thy head
That a young maiden has been left alone
To mourn for ever for her husband on
The seas - and all for gold and for a name."

"A _name_ thou sayest - never, never would


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