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The Little Clay Cart, by Shudraka, tr. Arthur William Ryder, [1905], at

p. 6



[Enter, with a cloak in his hand, Maitreya.]


YOU must invite some other Brahman. I am busy." And yet I really ought to be seeking invitations from a stranger. Oh, what a wretched state of affairs! When good Chārudatta was still wealthy, I used to eat my fill of the most deliciously fragrant sweetmeats, prepared day and night with the greatest of care. I would sit at the door of the courtyard, where I was surrounded by hundreds of dishes, and there, like a painter with his paint-boxes, I would simply touch them with my fingers and thrust them aside. I would stand chewing my cud like a bull in the city market. And now he is so poor that I have to run here, there, and everywhere, and come home, like the pigeons, only to roost. Now here is this jasmine-scented cloak, which Chārudatta's good friend Jūrnavriddha has sent him. He bade me give it to Chārudatta, as soon as he had finished his devotions. So now I will look for Chārudatta. [He walks about and looks around him.] Chārudatta has finished his devotions, and here he comes with an offering for the divinities of the house.

[Enter Chārudatta as described, and Radanikā.]

Chārudatta. [Looking up and sighing wearily.]

Upon my threshold, where the offering
  Was straightway seized by swans and flocking cranes,
The grass grows now, and these poor seeds I fling
  Fall where the mouth of worms their sweetness stains.9

[He walks about very slowly and seats himself.]

Maitreya. Chārudatta is here. I must go and speak to him. [Approaching.] My greetings to you. May happiness be yours.

p. 7

Chārudatta. Ah, it is my constant friend Maitreya. You are very welcome, my friend. Pray be seated.

Maitreya. Thank you. [He seats himself.] Well, comrade, here is a jasmine-scented cloak which your good friend Jūrnavriddha has sent. He bade me give it you as soon as you had finished your devotions. [He presents the cloak. Chārudatta takes it and remains sunk in thought.] Well, what are you thinking about?

Chārudatta. My good friend,

A candle shining through the deepest dark
  Is happiness that follows sorrow's strife;
But after bliss when man bears sorrow's mark,
  His body lives a very death-in-life.10

Maitreya. Well, which would you rather, be dead or be poor?

Chārudatta. Ah, my friend,

Far better death than sorrows sure and slow;
Some passing suffering from death may flow,
But poverty brings never-ending woe.11

Maitreya. My dear friend, be not thus cast down. Your wealth has been conveyed to them you love, and like the moon, after she has yielded her nectar to the gods, your waning fortunes win an added charm.

Chārudatta. Comrade, I do not grieve for my ruined fortunes. But

 This is my sorrow. They whom I
 Would greet as guests, now pass me by.
"This is a poor man's house," they cry.

 As flitting bees, the season o’er,
 Desert the elephant, whose store
 Of ichor 1 spent, attracts no more.12

Maitreya. Oh, confound the money! It is a trifle not worth thinking about. It is like a cattle-boy in the woods afraid of wasps; it doesn't stay anywhere where it is used for food.

p. 8

Chārud. Believe me, friend. My sorrow does not spring

  From simple loss of gold;
For fortune is a fickle, changing thing,
  Whose favors do not hold;
But he whose sometime wealth has taken wing,
  Finds bosom-friends grow cold.13

Then too:

A poor man is a man ashamed; from shame
Springs want of dignity and worthy fame;
Such want gives rise to insults hard to bear;
Thence comes despondency; and thence, despair;
Despair breeds folly; death is folly's fruit.—
Ah! the lack of money is all evil's root!14

Maitreya. But just remember what a trifle money is, after all, and be more cheerful.

Chārudatta. My friend, the poverty of a man is to him

A home of cares, a shame that haunts the mind,
Another form of warfare with mankind;
The abhorrence of his friends, a source of hate
From strangers, and from each once-loving mate;
But if his wife despise him, then 't were meet
In some lone wood to seek a safe retreat.
The flame of sorrow, torturing his soul,
Burns fiercely, yet contrives to leave him whole.15

Comrade, I have made my offering to the divinities of the house. Do you too go and offer sacrifice to the Divine Mothers at a place where four roads meet.

Maitreya. No!

Chārudatta. Why not?

Maitreya. Because the gods are not gracious to you even when thus honored. So what is the use of worshiping?

Chārudatta. Not so, my friend, not so! This is the constant duty of a householder.

p. 9

The gods feel ever glad content
In the gifts, and the self-chastisement,
The meditations, and the prayers,
Of those who banish worldly cares.16

Why then do you hesitate? Go and offer sacrifice to the Mothers.

Maitreya. No, I'm not going. You must send somebody else. Anyway, everything seems to go wrong with me, poor Brahman that I am! It's like a reflection in a mirror; the right side becomes the left, and the left becomes the right. Besides, at this hour of the evening, people are abroad upon the king's highway—courtezans, courtiers, servants, and royal favorites. They will take me now for fair prey, just as the black-snake out frog-hunting snaps up the mouse in his path. But what will you do sitting here?

Chārudatta. Good then, remain; and I will finish my devotions.


Voices behind the scenes. Stop, Vasantasenā, stop!

[Enter Vasantasenā, pursued by the courtier, by Sansthānaka, and the servant.]

Courtier. Vasantasenā! Stop, stop!

Ah, why should fear transform your tenderness?
Why should the dainty feet feel such distress,
  That twinkle in the dance so prettily?
Why should your eyes, thus startled into fear,
Dart sidelong looks? Why, like the timid deer
  Before pursuing hunters, should you flee?17

Sansthānaka. Shtop, 1 Vasantasenā, shtop!

Why flee? and run? and shtumble in your turning?
  Be kind! You shall not die. Oh, shtop your feet!
With love, shweet girl, my tortured heart is burning,
  As on a heap of coals a piece of meat.18

p. 10

Servant. Stop, courtezan, stop!

  In fear you flee
  Away from me,
As a summer peahen should;
  But my lord and master
  Struts fast and faster,
Like a woodcock in the wood.19

Courtier. Vasantasenā! Stop, stop!

Why should you tremble, should you flee,
A-quiver like the plantain tree?
Your garment's border, red and fair,
Is all a-shiver in the air;
Now and again, a lotus-bud
Falls to the ground, as red as blood.
A red realgar 1 vein you seem,
Whence, smitten, drops of crimson stream.20

Sansthānaka. Shtop, Vasantasenā, shtop!

You wake my passion, my desire, my love;
  You drive away my shleep in bed at night;
Both fear and terror sheem your heart to move;
  You trip and shtumble in your headlong flight.
But Rāvana forced Kuntī 2 to his will;
Jusht sho shall I enjoy you to the fill.21

Courtier. Ah, Vasantasenā,

Why should your fleeter flight
  Outstrip my flying feet?
Why, like a snake in fright
Before the bird-king's might,
  Thus seek to flee, my sweet?

p. 11

Could I not catch the storm-wind in his flight?
Yet would not seize upon you, though I might.22

Sansthānaka. Lishten to me, shir!

Thish whip of robber Love, thish dancing-girl,
Eater of fish, deshtroyer of her kin,
Thish shnubnose, shtubborn, love-box, courtezan,
Thish clothes-line, wanton creature, maid of sin—
I gave her ten shweet names, and shtill
She will not bend her to my will.23

Courtier. As courtier's fingers strike the lute's tense string,

The dancing ear-ring smites your wounded cheek.
Why should you flee, with dreadful terror weak,
As flees the crane when heaven's thunders ring?24

Sansth. Your jingling gems, girl, clink like anything;

Like Draupadī you flee, when Rāma kisshed her.
I'll sheize you quick, as once the monkey-king
Sheized Subhadrā, Vishvāvasu's shweet shishter.25

Servant. He's the royal protégé;

Do whatever he may say,
And you shall have good fish and flesh to eat.
For when dogs have all the fish
And the flesh that they can wish,
Even carrion seems to them no longer sweet.26

Courtier. Mistress Vasantasenā,

The girdle drooping low upon your hips
Flashes as brilliant as the shining stars;
The wondrous terror of your fleeing mars
Your charms; for red realgar, loosened, slips
As on an imaged god, from cheek and lips.27

Sansth. We're chasing you with all our main and might,

As dogs a jackal when they hunt and find it;
But you are quick and nimble in your flight,
And shteal my heart with all the roots that bind it.28

p. 12

Vasantasenā. Pallavaka! Parabhritikā!

Sansthānaka. Mashter! a man! a man!

Courtier. Don't be a coward.

Vasantasenā. Mādhavikā! Mādhavikā!

Courtier. [Laughing.] Fool! She is calling her servants.

Sansthānaka. Mashter! Is she calling a woman?

Courtier. Why, of course.

Sansthānaka. Women! I kill hundreds of ’em. I'm a brave man.

Vasantasenā. [Seeing that no one answers.] Alas, how comes it that my very servants have fallen away from me? I shall have to defend myself by mother-wit.

Courtier. Don't stop the search.

Sansthānaka. Shqueal, Vasantasenā, shqueal for your cuckoo Parabhritikā, or for your blosshom Pallavaka or for all the month of May! Who's going to save you when I'm chasing you?

Why shpeak of Bhīmasena? Or the shon
Of Jamadagni, that thrice-mighty one?
The ten-necked ogre? Shon of Kuntī fair?
Jusht look at me! My fingers in your hair,
Jusht like Duhshāsana, I'll tear, and tear.29

Look, look!

My shword is sharp; good-by, poor head!
Let's chop it off, or kill you dead.
Then do not try my wrath to shun;
When you musht die, your life is done.30

Vasantasenā. Sir, I am a weak woman.

Courtier. That is why you are still alive.

Sansthānaka. That is why you're not murdered.

Vasantasenā. [Aside.] Oh! his very courtesy frightens me. Come, I will try this. [Aloud.] Sir, what do you expect from this pursuit? my jewels?

p. 13

Courtier. Heaven forbid! A garden creeper, mistress Vasantasenā, should not be robbed of its blossoms. Say no more about the jewels.

Vasantasenā. What is then your desire?

Sansthānaka. I'm a man, a big man, a regular Vāsudeva. 1 You musht love me.

Vasantasenā. [Indignantly.] Heavens! You weary me. Come, leave me! Your words are an insult.

Sansthānaka. [Laughing and clapping his hands.] Look, mashter, look! The courtezan's daughter is mighty affectionate with me, isn't she? Here she says "Come on! Heavens, you're weary. You're tired!" No, I haven't been walking to another village or another city. No, little mishtress, I shwear by the gentleman's head, I shwear by my own feet! It's only by chasing about at your heels that I've grown tired and weary.

Courtier. [Aside.] What! is it possible that the idiot does not understand when she says "You weary me"? [Aloud.] Vasantasenā, your words have no place in the dwelling of a courtezan,

Which, as you know, is friend to every youth;
  Remember, you are common as the flower
That grows beside the road; in bitter truth,
  Your body has its price; your beauty's dower
Is his, who pays the market's current rate:
Then serve the man you love, and him you hate.31

And again:

The wisest Brahman and the meanest fool
Bathe in the selfsame pool;
Beneath the peacock, flowering plants bend low,
No less beneath the crow;
The Brahman, warrior, merchant, sail along
With all the vulgar throng.
You are the pool, the flowering plant, the boat;
And on your beauty every man may dote.32

p. 14

Vasantasenā. Yet true love would be won by virtue, not violence.

Sansthānaka. But, mashter, ever since the shlave-wench went into the park where Kāma's 1 temple shtands, she has been in love with a poor man, with Chārudatta, and she doesn't love me any more. His house is to the left. Look out and don't let her shlip out of our hands.

Courtier. [Aside.] Poor fool, he has said the very thing he should have concealed. So Vasantasenā is in love with Chārudatta? The proverb is right. Pearl suits with pearl. Well, I have had enough of this fool. [Aloud.] Did you say the good merchant's house was to the left, you jackass?

Sansthānaka. Yes. His house is to the left.

Vasantasenā. [Aside.] Oh, wonderful! If his house is really at my left hand, then the scoundrel has helped me in the very act of hurting me, for he has guided me to my love.

Sansthānaka. But mashter, it's pitch dark and it's like hunting for a grain of soot in a pile of shpotted beans. Now you shee Vasantasenā and now you don't.

Courtier. Pitch dark it is indeed.

The sudden darkness seems to steal
  The keenness of my sight;
My open eyes, as with a seal,
  Are closed by blackest night.33

And again:

Darkness anoints my body, and the sky
Drops ointment of thick darkness, till mine eye
  Is all unprofitable grown to me,
Like service done to them who cheat and lie.34

Sansthānaka. Mashter, I'm looking for Vasantasenā.

Courtier. Is there anything you can trace her by, jackass?

Sansthānaka. Like what, for inshtance?

p. 15

Courtier. Like the tinkling of her jewels, for instance, or the fragrance of her garlands.

Sansthānaka. I hear the shmell of her garlands, but my nose is shtuffed so full of darkness that I don't shee the shound of her jewels very clearly.

Courtier. [To Vasantasenā. Aside.] Vasantasenā,

’Tis true, the night is dark, O timid maid,
  And like the lightning hidden in the cloud,
You are not seen; yet you will be betrayed
  By fragrant garlands and by anklets loud.35

Have you heard me, Vasantasenā?

Vasantasenā. [To herself.] Heard and understood. [She removes the ankle-rings, lays aside the garlands, and takes a few steps, feeling her way.] I can feel the wall of the house, and here is a side-entrance. But alas! my fingers tell me that the door is shut.


Chārudatta [who is within the house]. Comrade, my prayer is done. Go now and offer sacrifice to the Mothers.

Maitreya. No, I'm not going.

Chārudatta. Alas!

The poor man's kinsmen do not heed his will;
  The friends who loved him once, now stand afar;
His sorrows multiply; his strength is nil;
  Behold! his character's bright-shining star
Fades like the waning moon; and deeds of ill
That others do, are counted to him still.36

And again:

No man holds converse with him; none will greet
With due respect the poor man when they meet.
Where rich men hold a feast, if he draw near,
He meets with scornful looks for looks of cheer. p. 16

Where vulgar throngs are gathered, ’tis the same;
His scanty raiment wakes his heartfelt shame.
Five are the deadly sins 1 we knew before;
Alas! I find the sixth is—to be poor.37

And yet again:

Ah, Poverty, I pity thee, that so
To me thou clingest, as thy dearest friend;
When my poor life has met its woeful end,
I sadly wonder, whither thou wilt go.38

Maitreya. [Betraying his embarrassment.] Well, comrade, if I must go, at least let Radanikā go with me, to keep me company.

Chārudatta. Radanikā, you are to accompany Maitreya.

Radanikā. Yes, sir.

Maitreya. Mistress Radanikā, do you take the offering and the candle while I open the side-door. [He does so.]

Vasantasenā. It seems as if the door took pity on me and opened of itself. I will lose no time, but enter. [She looks in.] What? a candle? Oh dear, oh dear! [She puts it out with her skirt and enters.]

Chārudatta. What was that, Maitreya?

Maitreya. I opened the side-door and the wind came through all in a lump and blew out the candle. Suppose you go out by the side-door, Radanikā, and I will follow as soon as I have gone into the courtyard and lighted the candle again.


Sansthānaka. Mashter! mashter! I'm looking for Vasantasenā.

Courtier. Keep on looking, keep on looking!

Sansthānaka. [Does so.] Mashter! mashter! I've caught her! I've caught her!

Courtier. Idiot, you've caught me.

Sansthānaka. You shtand right here, mashter, and shtay where you're put. [He renews the search and seizes the servant.] Mashter!

p. 17

mashter! I've caught her! I've caught her!

Servant. Master, you've caught me, your servant.

Sansthānaka. Mashter here, shervant here! Mashter, shervant; shervant, mashter. Now shtay where you're put, both of you. [He renews the search and seizes Radanikā by the hair.] Mashter! mashter! Thish time I've caught her! I've caught Vasantasenā!

Through the black night she fled, fled she;
  Her garland's shmell betrayed her;
Like Chānakya caught Draupadī,
  I caught her hair and shtayed her.39

Courtier. Ah, proud to be so young, so fair!

  Too high thy love must not aspire;
For now thy blossom-fragrant hair,
That merits richest gems and rare,
  Serves but to drag thee through the mire.40

Sansth. I've got your head, girl, got it tight,

  By the hair, the locks, and the curls, too.
Now shcream, shqueak, shqueal with all your might
  "Shiva! Ishvara! Shankara! Shambhu!" 141

Radanikā. [In terror.] Oh, sirs, what does this mean?

Courtier. You jackass! It's another voice.

Sansthānaka. Mashter, the wench has changed her voice, the way a cat changes her voice, when she wants shome cream of curdled milk.

Courtier. Changed her voice? Strange! Yet why so strange?

She trod the stage; she learned the arts;
She studied to deceive our hearts;
And now she practises her parts.42

[Enter Maitreya.]

Maitreya. Look! In the gentle evening breeze the flame of the candle is fluttering like the heart of a goat that goes to the altar. [He approaches and discovers Radanikā.] Mistress Radanikā!

p. 18

Sansthānaka. Mashter, mashter! A man! a man!

Maitreya. This is right, this is perfectly right, that strangers should force their way into the house, just because Chārudatta is poor.

Radanikā. Oh, Maitreya, see how they insult me.

Maitreya. What! insult you? No, they are insulting us.

Radanikā. Very well. They are insulting you, then.

Maitreya. But they aren't using violence?

Radanikā. Yes, yes!

Maitreya. Really?

Radanikā. Really.

Maitreya. [Raising his staff angrily.] No, sir! Man, a dog will show his teeth in his own kennel, and I am a Brahman! My staff is crooked as my fortunes, but it can still split a dry bamboo or a rascal's pate.

Courtier. Have mercy, O great Brahman, have mercy.

Maitreya. [Discovers the courtier.] He is not the sinner. [Discovers Sansthānaka.] Ah, here is the sinner. Well, you brother-in-law to the king, Sansthānaka, you scoundrel, you coward, this is perfectly proper, isn't it? Chārudatta the good is a poor man now—true, but are not his virtues an ornament to Ujjayinī? And so men break into his house and insult his servants!

Insult not him, laid low by poverty;
For none are counted poor by mighty fate:
Yet he who falls from virtue's high estate,
Though he be rich, no man is poor as he.43

Courtier. [Betraying his embarrassment.] Have mercy, O great Brahman, have mercy. We intended no insolence; we merely mistook this lady for another. For

We sought an amorous maiden,

Maitreya. What! this one?

Courtier. Heaven forbid!

                               one whose youth
Is in the guidance of her own sweet will; p. 19
She disappeared; unconscious of the truth,
  We did what seems a purposed deed of ill.44

I pray you, accept this all-in-all of humblest supplication. [He drops his sword, folds his hands, and falls at Maitreya's feet.]

Maitreya. Good man, rise, rise. When I reviled you, I did not know you. Now I know you and I ask your pardon.

Courtier. It is I who should ask pardon. I will rise on one condition.

Maitreya. And that is—

Courtier. That you will not tell Chārudatta what has happened here.

Maitreya. I will be silent.

Courtier. Brahman, this gracious act of thine

  I bow my neck to bear;
For never could this sword of mine
  With virtue's steel compare.45

Sansthānaka. [Indignantly.] But mashter, what makes you fold your hands sho helplesshly and fall at the feet of thish manikin?

Courtier. I was afraid.

Sansthānaka. What were you afraid of?

Courtier. Of Chārudatta's virtues.

Sansthānaka. Virtues? He? You can go into his houshe and not find a thing to eat.

Courtier. No, no.

His loving-kindness unto such as we
  Has brought him low at last;
From him could no man learn what insults be,
  Or e’er his wealth was past.
This well-filled pool, that in its summer day
Gave others drink, itself is dried away.46

Sansthānaka. [Impatiently.] Who is the shon of a shlave-wench anyway?

Brave Shvetaketu is he, Pāndu's child?
Or Rādhā's shon, the ten-necked ogre wild? p. 20
Or Indradatta? or again, is he
Shon of brave Rāma and of fair Kuntī?
Or Dharmaputra? Ashvatthāman bold?
Perhaps Jatāyu's shelf, that vulture old?47

Courtier. Fool! I will tell you who Chārudatta is.

A tree of life to them whose sorrows grow,
Beneath its fruit of virtue bending low;
Father to good men; virtue's touchstone he;
The mirror of the learned; and the sea
Where all the tides of character unite;
A righteous man, whom pride could never blight;
A treasure-house, with human virtues stored;
Courtesy's essence, honor's precious hoard.
He doth to life its fullest meaning give,
So good is he; we others breathe, not live.48!

Let us be gone.

Sansthānaka. Without Vasantasenā?

Courtier. Vasantasenā has disappeared.

Sansthānaka. How?

Courtier. Like sick men's strength, or like the blind man's sight,

Like the fool's judgment, like the sluggard's might,
Like thoughtless scoundrels' store of wisdom's light,
Like love, when foemen fan our slumbering wrath,
So did she vanish, when you crossed her path.49

Sansthānaka. I'm not going without Vasantasenā.

Courtier. And did you never hear this?

To hold a horse, you need a rein;
To hold an elephant, a chain;
To hold a woman, use a heart;
And if you haven't one, depart.50

Sansthānaka. If you're going, go along. I'm not going.

Courtier. Very well. I will go.


p. 21

Sansthānaka. Mashter's gone, sure enough. [To Maitreya.] Well, you man with the head that looks like a caret, you manikin, take a sheat, take a sheat.

Maitreya. We have already been invited to take a seat.

Sansthānaka. By whom?

Maitreya. By destiny.

Sansthānaka. Shtand up, then, shtand up!

Maitreya. We shall.

Sansthānaka. When?

Maitreya. When fate is kind again.

Sansthānaka. Weep, then, weep!

Maitreya. We have wept.

Sansthānaka. Who made you?

Maitreya. Poverty.

Sansthānaka. Laugh, then, laugh!

Maitreya. Laugh we shall.

Sansthānaka. When?

Maitreya. When Chārudatta is happy once more.

Sansthānaka. You manikin, give poor little Chārudatta thish messhage from me. "Thish wench with golden ornaments and golden jewels, thish female shtage-manager looking after the rehearsal of a new play, thish Vasantasenā—she has been in love with you ever shince she went into the park where Kāma's temple shtands. And when we tried to conciliate her by force, she went into your houshe. Now if you shend her away yourshelf and hand her over to me, if you reshtore her at once, without any lawshuit in court, then I'll be friends with you forever. But if you don't reshtore her, there will be a fight to the death." Remember:

Shmear a pumpkin-shtalk with cow-dung;
  Keep your vegetables dried;
Cook your rice in winter evenings; p. 22
  And be sure your meat is fried.
Then let ’em shtand, and they will not
Bothershomely shmell and rot.51

Tell it to him prettily, tell it to him craftily. Tell it to him sho that I can hear it as I roosht in the dove-cote on the top of my own palace. If you shay it different, I'll chew your head like an apple caught in the crack of a door.

Maitreya. Very well. I shall tell him.

Sansthānaka. [Aside.] Tell me, shervant. Is mashter really gone?

Servant. Yes, sir.

Sansthānaka. Then we will go as quickly as we can.

Servant. Then take your sword, master.

Sansthānaka. You can keep it.

Servant. Here it is, master. Take your sword, master.

Sansthānaka. [Taking it by the wrong end.]

My shword, red as a radish shkin,
Ne’er finds the time to molder;
Shee how it shleeps its sheath within!
I put it on my shoulder.
While curs and bitches yelp at me, I roam,
Like a hunted jackal, home.52

[Sansthānaka and the servant walk about, then exeunt.

Maitreya. Mistress Radanikā, you must not tell good Chārudatta of this outrage. I am sure you would only add to the poor man's sorrows.

Radanikā. Good Maitreya, you know Radanikā. Her lips are sealed.

Maitreya. So be it.


Chārudatta. [To Vasantasenā.] Radanikā, Rohasena likes the fresh air, but he will be cold in the evening chill. Pray bring him into the house, and cover him with this mantle. [He gives her the mantle.]

p. 23

Vasantasenā. [To herself.] See! He thinks I am his servant. [She takes the mantle and perceives its perfume. Ardently to herself.] Oh, beautiful! The mantle is fragrant with jasmine. His youthful days are not wholly indifferent to the pleasures of the world. [She wraps it about her, without letting Chārudatta see.]

Chārudatta. Come, Radanikā, take Rohasena and enter the heart of the house.

Vasantasenā. [To herself.] Ah me unhappy, that have little part or lot in your heart!

Chārudatta. Come, Radanikā, will you not even answer? Alas!

When man once sees that miserable day,
When fate almighty sweeps his wealth away,
Then ancient friendships will no longer hold,
Then all his former bosom-friends grow cold.53

Maitreya. [Drawing near to Radanikā.] Sir, here is Radanikā.

Chārudatta. Here is Radanikā? Who then is this—

This unknown lady, by my robe
  Thus clinging, desecrated,

Vasantasenā. [To herself.] Say rather "consecrated."


Until she seems the crescent moon,
  With clouds of autumn 1 mated?54

But no! I may not gaze upon another's wife.

Maitreya. Oh, you need not fear that you are looking at another man's wife. This is Vasantasenā, who has been in love with you ever since she saw you in the garden where Kāma's temple stands.

Chārudatta. What! this is Vasantasenā? [Aside.]

My love for whom—my fortune spent—
My wretched self in twain has rent,
Like coward's anger, inward bent.55

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Maitreya. My friend, that brother-in-law of the king says—

Chārudatta. Well?

Maitreya. "This wench with golden ornaments and golden jewels, this female stage-manager looking after the rehearsal of a new play, this Vasantasenā—she has been in love with you ever since she went into the park where Kāma's temple stands. And when we tried to conciliate her by force, she went into your house."

Vasantasenā. [To herself.] "Tried to conciliate me by force"—truly, I am honored by these words.

Maitreya. "Now if you send her away yourself and hand her over to me, if you restore her at once, without any lawsuit in court, then I'll be friends with you forever. Otherwise, there will be a fight to the death."

Chārudatta. [Contemptuously.] He is a fool. [To himself.] How is this maiden worthy of the worship that we pay a goddess! For now

Although I bade her enter, yet she seeks
To spare my poverty, nor enters here;
Though men are known to her, yet all she speaks
Contains no word to wound a modest ear.56

[Aloud.] Mistress Vasantasenā, I have unwittingly made myself guilty of an offense; for I greeted as a servant one whom I did not recognize. I bend my neck to ask your pardon.

Vasantasenā. It is I who have offended by this unseemly intrusion. I bow my head to seek your forgiveness.

Maitreya. Yes, with your pretty bows you two have knocked your heads together, till they look like a couple of rice-fields. I also bow my head like a camel colt's knee and beseech you both to stand up. [He does so, then rises.]

Chārudatta. Very well, let us no longer trouble ourselves with conventions.

Vasantasenā. [To herself.] What a delightfully clever hint! But it would hardly be proper to spend the night, considering how I

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came hither. Well, I will at least say this much. [Aloud.] If I am to receive thus much of your favor, sir, I should be glad to leave these jewels in your house. It was for the sake of the jewels that those scoundrels pursued me.

Chārudatta. This house is not worthy of the trust.

Vasantasenā. You mistake, sir! It is to men that treasures are entrusted, not to houses.

Chārudatta. Maitreya, will you receive the jewels?

Vasantasenā. I am much indebted to you. [She hands him the jewels.]

Maitreya. [Receiving them.] Heaven bless you, madam.

Chārudatta. Fool! They are only entrusted to us.

Maitreya. [Aside.] Then the thieves may take them, for all I care.

Chārudatta. In a very short time—

Maitreya. What she has entrusted to us, belongs to us.

Chārudatta. I shall restore them.

Vasantasenā. I should be grateful, sir, if this gentleman would accompany me home.

Chārudatta. Maitreya, pray accompany our guest.

Maitreya. She walks as gracefully as a female swan, and you are the gay flamingo to accompany her. But I am only a poor Brahman, and wherever I go, the people will fall upon me just as dogs will snap at a victim dragged to the cross-roads.

Chārudatta. Very well. I will accompany her myself. Let the torches be lighted, to ensure our safety on the highway.

Maitreya. Vardhamānaka, light the torches.

Vardhamānaka. [Aside to Maitreya.] What! light torches without oil?

Maitreya. [Aside to Chārudatta.] These torches of ours are like courtezans who despise their poor lovers. They won't light up unless you feed them.

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Chārudatta. Enough, Maitreya! We need no torches. See, we have a lamp upon the king's highway.

Attended by her starry servants all,
And pale to see as a loving maiden's cheeks,
Rises before our eyes the moon's bright ball,
Whose pure beams on the high-piled darkness fall
Like streaming milk that dried-up marshes seeks.57

[His voice betraying his passion.] Mistress Vasantasenā, we have reached your home. Pray enter. [Vasantasenā gazes ardently at him, then exit.] Comrade, Vasantasenā is gone. Come, let us go home.

All creatures from the highway take their flight;
The watchmen pace their rounds before our sight;
To forestall treachery, is just and right,
For many sins find shelter in the night.58

[He walks about.] And you shall guard this golden casket by night, and Vardhamānaka by day.

Maitreya. Very well.

[Exeunt ambo.


7:1 During the mating season, a fragrant liquor exudes from the forehead of the elephant. Of this liquor bees are very fond.

9:1 The most striking peculiarity of Sansthānaka's dialect—his substitution of sh for s—I have tried to imitate in the translation.

10:1 Red arsenic, used as a cosmetic.

10:2 Here, as elsewhere, Sansthānaka's mythology is wildly confused. To a Hindu the effect must be ludicrous enough; but the humor is necessarily lost in a translation. It therefore seems hardly worth while to explain his mythological vagaries in detail.

13:1 A name of Krishna, who is perhaps the most amorous character in Indian story.

14:1 Cupid.

16:1 The five deadly sins are: the slaying of a Brahman, the drinking of wine, theft, adultery with the wife of one's teacher, and association with one guilty of these crimes.

17:1 These are all epithets of the same god.

23:1 Which look pretty, but do not rain. He doubtless means to suggest that the cloak, belonging to a strange man, is as useless to Vasantasenā as the veil of autumn clouds to the earth.

Next: Act the Second: The Shampooer Who Gambled