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

p. 75



[The love-lorn Chārudatta appears, seated.]

Chārudatta. [Looks up.]

AN untimely storm 1 is gathering. For see!

The peacocks gaze and lift their fans on high;
  The swans forget their purpose to depart;
The untimely storm afflicts the blackened sky,
  And the wistful lover's heart.1

And again:

The wet bull's belly wears no deeper dye;
  In flashing lightning's golden mantle clad,
  While cranes, his buglers, make the heaven glad,
The cloud, a second Vishnu, 2 mounts the sky.2

And yet again:

As dark as Vishnu's form, with circling cranes
To trumpet him, instead of bugle strains,
  And garmented in lightning's silken robe,
Approaches now the harbinger of rains.3

When lightning's lamp is lit, the silver river
  Impetuous falls from out the cloudy womb;
  Like severed lace from heaven-cloaking gloom,
It gleams an instant, then is gone forever.4

Like shoaling fishes, or like dolphins shy,
Or like to swans, toward heaven's vault that fly,
  Like paired flamingos, male and mate together,
Like mighty pinnacles that tower on high, p. 76
  In thousand forms the tumbling clouds embrace,
  Though torn by winds, they gather, interlace,
And paint the ample canvas of the sky.5

The sky is black as Dhritarāshtra's face;
Proud as the champion of Kuru's race,
  The haughty peacock shrills his joy abroad;
The cuckoo, in Yudhishthira's sad case,
  Is forced to wander if he would not die;
  The swans must leave their forest-homes and fly,
Like Pāndu's sons, to seek an unknown place.6

[Reflecting.] It is long since Maitreya went to visit Vasantasenā. And even yet he does not come.

[Enter Maitreya.]

Maitreya. Confound the courtezan's avarice and her incivility! To think of her making so short a story of it! Over and over she repeats something about the affection she feels, and then without more ado she pockets the necklace. She is rich enough so that she might at least have said: "Good Maitreya, rest a little. You must not go until you have had a cup to drink." Confound the courtezan! I hope I'll never set eyes on her again. [Wearily.] The proverb is right. " It is hard to find a lotus-plant without a root, a merchant who never cheats, a goldsmith who never steals, a village-gathering without a fight, and a courtezan without avarice." Well, I'll find my friend and persuade him to have nothing more to do with this courtezan. [He walks about until he discovers Chārudatta.] Ah, my good friend is sitting in the orchard. I'll go to him. [Approaching.] Heaven bless you! May happiness be yours.

Chārudatta. [Looking up.] Ah, my friend Maitreya has returned. You are very welcome, my friend. Pray be seated.

Maitreya. Thank you.

Chārudatta. Tell me of your errand, my friend.

Maitreya. My errand went all wrong.

p. 77

Chārudatta. What! did she not accept the necklace?

Maitreya. How could we expect such a piece of luck? She put her lotus-tender hands to her brow, 1 and took it.

Chārudatta. Then why do you say "went wrong"?

Maitreya. Why not, when we lost a necklace that was the pride of the four seas for a cheap golden casket, that was stolen before we had a bite or a drink out of it?

Chārudatta. Not so, my friend.

She showed her trust in leaving us her treasure;
The price of confidence has no less measure.7

Maitreya. Now look here! I have a second grievance. She tipped her friend the wink, covered her face with the hem of her dress, and laughed at me. And so, Brahman though I am, I hereby fall on my face before you and beg you not to have anything more to do with this courtezan. That sort of society does any amount of damage. A courtezan is like a pebble in your shoe. It hurts before you get rid of it. And one thing more, my friend. A courtezan, an elephant, a scribe, a mendicant friar, a swindler, and an ass—where these dwell, not even rogues are born.

Chārudatta. Oh, my friend, a truce to all your detraction! My poverty of itself prevents me. For consider:

The horse would gladly hasten here and there,
  But his legs fail him, for his breath departs.
So men's vain wishes wander everywhere,
  Then, weary grown, return into their hearts.8

Then too, my friend:

If wealth is thine, the maid is thine,
  For maids are won by gold;

[Aside. And not by virtue cold. Aloud.]

But wealth is now no longer mine,
  And her I may not hold.9

p. 78

Maitreya. [Looks down. Aside.] From the way he looks up and sighs, I conclude that my effort to distract him has simply increased his longing. The proverb is right. "You can't reason with a lover." [Aloud.] Well, she told me to tell you that she would have to come here this evening. I suppose she isn't satisfied with the necklace and is coming to look for something else.

Chārudatta. Let her come, my friend. She shall not depart unsatisfied.

[Enter Kumbhīlaka.]

Kumbhīlaka. Listen, good people.

The more it rains in sheets,
  The more my skin gets wet;
The more the cold wind beats,
  The more I shake and fret.10

[He bursts out laughing.]

I make the sweet flute speak from seven holes,
  I make the loud lute speak on seven strings;
In singing, I essay the donkey's rôles:
  No god can match my music when he sings.11

My mistress Vasantasenā said to me "Kumbhīlaka, go and tell Chārudatta that I am coming." So here I am, on my way to Chārudatta's house. [He walks about, and, as he enters, discovers Chārudatta.] Here is Chārudatta in the orchard. And here is that wretched jackanapes, too. Well, I'll go up to them. What! the orchard-gate is shut? Good! I'll give this jackanapes a hint. [He throws lumps of mud.]

Maitreya. Well! Who is this pelting me with mud, as if I were an apple-tree inside of a fence?

Chārudatta. Doubtless the pigeons that play on the roof of the garden-house.

Maitreya. Wait a minute, you confounded pigeon! With this stick I'll bring you down from the roof to the ground, like an over-ripe mango. [He raises his stick and starts to run.]

p. 79

Chārudatta. [Holding him back by the sacred cord.] Sit down, my friend. What do you mean? Leave the poor pigeon alone with his mate.

Kumbhīlaka. What! he sees the pigeon and doesn't see me? Good! I'll hit him again with another lump of mud. [He does so.]

Maitreya. [Looks about him.] What! Kumbhīlaka? I'll be with you in a minute. [He approaches and opens the gate.] Well, Kumbhīlaka, come in. I'm glad to see you.

Kumbhīlaka. [Enters.] I salute you, sir.

Maitreya. Where do you come from, man, in this rain and darkness?

Kumbhīlaka. You see, she's here.

Maitreya. Who's she? Who's here?

Kumbhīlaka. She. See? She.

Maitreya. Look here, you son of a slave! What makes you sigh like a half-starved old beggar in a famine, with your "shesheshe"?

Kumbhīlaka. And what makes you hoot like an owl with your "whowhowho"?

Maitreya. All right. Tell me.

Kumbhīlaka. [Aside.] Suppose I say it this way. [Aloud.] I'll give you a riddle, man.

Maitreya. And I'll give you the answer with my foot on your bald spot.

Kumbhīlaka. Not till you've guessed it. In what season do the mango-trees blossom?

Maitreya. In summer, you jackass.

Kumbhīlaka. [Laughing.] Wrong!

Maitreya. [Aside.] What shall I say now? [Reflecting.] Good! I'll go and ask Chārudatta. [Aloud.] Just wait a moment. [Approaching Chārudatta.] My friend, I just wanted to ask you in what season the mango-trees blossom.

p. 80

Chārudatta. You fool, in spring, in vasanta.

Maitreya. [Returns to Kumbhīlaka.] You fool, in spring, in vasanta.

Kumbhīlaka. Now I'll give you another. Who guards thriving villages?

Maitreya. Why, the guard.

Kumbhīlaka. [Laughing.] Wrong!

Maitreya. Well, I'm stuck. [Reflecting.] Good! I'll ask Chārudatta again. [He returns and puts the question to Chārudatta.]

Chārudatta. The army, my friend, the senā.

Maitreya. [Comes back to Kumbhīlaka.] The army, you jackass, the senā.

Kumbhīlaka. Now put the two together and say ‘em fast.

Maitreya. Senā-vasanta.

Kumbhīlaka. Say it turned around.

Maitreya. [Turns around.] Senā-vasanta.

Kumbhīlaka. You fool! you jackanapes! Turn the parts of the thing around!

Maitreya. [Turns his feet around.] Senā-vasanta.

Kumbhīlaka. You fool! Turn the parts of the word around!

Maitreya. [After reflection.] Vasanta-senā.

Kumbhīlaka. She's here.

Maitreya. Then I must tell Chārudatta. [Approaching.] Well, Chārudatta, your creditor is here.

Chārudatta. How should a creditor come into my family?

Maitreya. Not in the family perhaps, but at the door. Vasantasenā is here.

Chārudatta. Why do you deceive me, my friend?

Maitreya. If you can't trust me, then ask Kumbhīlaka here. Kumbhīlaka, you jackass, come here.

p. 81

Kumbhīlaka. [Approaching.] I salute you, sir.

Chārudatta. You are welcome, my good fellow. Tell me, is Vasantasenā really here?

Kumbhīlaka. Yes, she's here. Vasantasenā is here.

Chārudatta. [Joyfully.] My good fellow, I have never let the bearer of welcome news go unrewarded. Take this as your recompense. [He gives him his mantle.]

Kumbhīlaka. [Takes it and bows. Gleefully.] I'll tell my mistress.


Maitreya. Do you see why she comes in a storm like this?

Chārudatta. I do not quite understand, my friend.

Maitreya. I know. She has an idea that the pearl necklace is cheap, and the golden casket expensive. She isn't satisfied, and she has come to look for something more.

Chārudatta. [Aside.] She shall not depart unsatisfied.

[Then enter the love-lorn Vasantasenā, in a splendid garment, fit for a woman who goes to meet her lover, a maid with an umbrella, and the courtier.]

Courtier. [Referring to Vasantasenā.]

Lakshmī 1 without the lotus-flower is she,
  Loveliest arrow of god Kāma's bow, 2
The sweetest blossom on love's magic tree.

See how she moves, so gracefully and slow!
  In passion's hour she still loves modesty;
In her, good wives their dearest sorrow know.

When passion's drama shall enacted be,
  When on love's stage appears the passing show,
  A host of wanderers shall bend them low,
Glad to be slaves in such captivity.12

p. 82

See, Vasantasenā, see!

The clouds hang drooping to the mountain peaks,
Like a maiden's heart, that distant lover seeks:
The peacocks startle, when the thunder booms,
And fan the heaven with all their jeweled plumes.13

And again:

Mud-stained, and pelted by the streaming rain,
To drink the falling drops the frogs are fain;
Full-throated peacocks love's shrill passion show,
And nīpa flowers like brilliant candles glow;
Unfaithful clouds obscure the hostage moon,
Like knaves, unworthy of so dear a boon;
Like some poor maid of better breeding bare,
The impatient lightning rests not anywhere.14

Vasantasenā1 Sir, what you say is most true. For

The night, an angry rival, bars my way;
Her thunders fain would check and hinder me:
"Fond fool! with him I love thou shalt not stay,
’Tis I, ’tis I, he loves," she seems to say,
"Nor from my swelling bosom shall he flee."15

Courtier. Yes, yes. That is right. Scold the night.

Vasantasenā. And yet, sir, why scold one who is so ignorant of woman's nature? For you must remember:

The clouds may rain, may thunder ne’er so bold,
  May flash the lightning from the sky above;
That woman little reeks of heat or cold,
  Who journeys to her love.16

Courtier. But see, Vasantasenā! Another cloud,

Sped by the fickle fury of the air
  A flood of arrows in his rushing streams,
His drum, the roaring thunder's mighty blare,
  His banner, living lightning's awful gleams—p. 83

Rages within the sky, and shows him bold
  ’Mid beams that to the moon allegiance owe,
Like a hero-king within the hostile hold
  Of his unwarlike foe.17

Vasantasenā. True, true. And more than this:

As dark as elephants, these clouds alone
  Fall like a cruel dart—
With streaks of lightning and with white birds strewn—
  To wound my wretched heart.
But, oh, why should the heron, bird of doom,
  With that perfidious sound 1
Of "Rain! Rain! Rain!"—grim summons to the tomb
  For her who spends her lonely hours in gloom—
Strew salt upon the wound?18

Courtier. Very true, Vasantasenā. And yet again:

It seems as if the sky would take the guise
  Of some fierce elephant to service bred;
The lightning like a waving streamer flies,
  And white cranes serve to deck his mighty head.19

Vasantasenā. But look, sir, look!

Clouds, black as wet tamāla-leaves, the ball
  Of heaven hide from our sight;
Rain-smitten homes of ants decay and fall
  Like beasts that arrows smite;
Like golden lamps within a lordly hall
  Wander the lightnings bright;
As when men steal the wife of some base thrall,
Clouds rob the moon of light.20

Courtier. See, Vasantasenā, see!

Clouds, harnessed in the lightning's gleams,
  Like charging elephants dash by; p. 84
At Indra's bidding, pour their streams,
Until with silver cords it seems
  That earth is linked with sky.21

And look yonder!

As herds of buffaloes the clouds are black;
  The winds deny them ease;
They fly on lightning wings and little lack
  Of seeming troubled seas.

Smitten with falling drops, the fragrant sod,
Upon whose bosom greenest grasses nod,
Seems pierced with pearls, each pearl an arrowy rod.22

Vasantasenā. And here is yet another cloud.

The peacock's shrill-voiced cry
Implores it to draw nigh;
And ardent cranes on high
Embrace it lovingly.

The wistful swans espy
The lotus-sweeter sky;
The darkest colors lie
On heaven clingingly.23

Courtier. True. For see!

A thousand lotuses that bloom by night,
A thousand blooming when the day is bright,
Nor close nor ope their eyes to heaven's sight;
  There is no night nor day.

The face of heaven, thus shrouded in the night,
Is only for a single instant bright,
When momentary lightning gives us sight;
  Else is it dark alway.

Now sleeps the world as still as in the night
Within the house of rain where naught is bright, p. 85
Where hosts of swollen clouds seem to our sight
  One covering veil of gray.24

Vasantasenā. True. And see!

The stars are lost like mercies given
  To men of evil heart;
Like lonely-parted wives, the heaven
  Sees all her charms depart.
And, molten in the cruel heat
  Of Indra's bolt, it seems
As if the sky fell at our feet
  In liquid, flowing streams.25

And yet again:

The clouds first darkly rise, then darkly fall,
Send forth their floods of rain, and thunder all;
Assuming postures strange and manifold,
Like men but newly blest with wealth untold.26

Courtier. True.

The heaven is radiant with the lightning's glare;
  Its laughter is the cry of myriad cranes;
Its voice, the bolts that whistle through the air;
  Its dance, that bow whose arrows are the rains.
It staggers at the winds, and seems to smoke
With clouds, which form its black and snaky cloak.27

Vasantasenā. O shameless, shameless sky!

      To thunder thus, while I
      To him I love draw nigh.
Why do thy thunders frighten me and pain?
Why am I seized upon by hands of rain?28

O Indra, mighty Indra!

Did I then give thee of my love before,
That now thy clouds like mighty lions roar?
Ah no! Thou shouldst not send thy streaming rain,
To fill my journey to my love with pain.29

p. 86


For Ahalyā's sweet sake thou once didst lie;
  Thou knowest lover's pain.
As thou didst suffer then, now suffer I;
  O cruel, cease thy rain.30

And yet:

Thunder and rain and lighten hundredfold
  Forth from thy sky above;
The woman canst thou not delay nor hold
  Who journeys to her love.31

Let thunders roar, for men were cruel ever;
But oh, thou maiden lightning! didst thou never
Know pains that maidens know?32

Courtier. But mistress, do not scold the lightning. She is your friend,

This golden cord that trembles on the breast
Of great Airāvata; 1 upon the crest
  Of rocky hills this banner all ablaze;
This lamp in Indra's palace; but most blest
  As telling where your most belovèd stays.33

Vasantasenā. And here, sir, is his house.

Courtier. You know all the arts, and need no instruction now. Yet love bids me prattle. When you enter here, you must not show yourself too angry.

Where anger is, there love is not;
Or no! except for anger hot,
  There is no love.

Be angry! make him angry then!
Be kind! and make him kind again
  The man you love.34

So much for that. Who is there? Let Chārudatta know, that

p. 87

While clouds look beautiful, and in the hour
Fragrant with nīpa and kadamba flower,
She comes to see her lover, very wet,
With dripping locks, but pleased and loving yet.
Though lightning and though thunder terrifies,
She comes to see you; ’tis for you she sighs.
The mud still soils the anklets on her feet,
But in a moment she will have them sweet.35

Chārudatta. [Listening.] My friend, pray discover what this means.

Maitreya. Yes, sir. [He approaches Vasantasenā. Respectfully.] Heaven bless you!

Vasantasenā. I salute you, sir. I am very glad to see you. [To the courtier.] Sir, the maid with the umbrella is at your service.

Courtier. [Aside.] A very clever way to get rid of me. [Aloud.] Thank you. And mistress Vasantasenā,

Pride and tricks and lies and fraud
  Are in your face;
False playground of the lustful god,
  Such is your face;
The wench's stock in trade, in fine,
  Epitome of joys divine,
I mean, your face
  For sale! the price is courtesy.
I trust you'll find a man to buy
  Your face.36


Vasantasenā. Good Maitreya, where is your gambler?

Maitreya. [Aside.] "Gambler"? Ah, she's paying a compliment to my friend. [Aloud.] Madam, here he is in the dry orchard.

Vasantasenā. But sir, what do you call a dry orchard?

Maitreya. Madam, it's a place where there's nothing to eat or drink. [Vasantasenā smiles.] Pray enter, madam.

Vasantasenā. [Aside to her maid.] What shall I say when I enter?

p. 88

Maid. "Gambler, what luck this evening?"

Vasantasenā. Shall I dare to say it?

Maid. When the time comes, it will say itself.

Maitreya. Enter, madam.

Vasantasenā. [Enters, approaches Chārudatta, and strikes him with the flowers which she holds.] Well, gambler, what luck this evening?

Chārudatta. [Discovers her.] Ah, Vasantasenā is here. [He rises joyfully.] Oh, my belovèd,

My evenings pass in watching ever,
  My nights from sighs are never free;
This evening cannot else than sever
  In bringing you—my grief and me.37

You are very, very welcome. Here is a seat. Pray be seated.

Maitreya. Here is a seat. Be seated, madam. [Vasantasenā sits, then the others.]

Chārudatta. But see, my friend,

The dripping flower that decks her ear, droops down,
               And one sweet breast
Anointed is, like a prince who wears the crown,
               With ointment blest.38

My friend, Vasantasenā's garments are wet. Let other, and most beautiful, garments be brought.

Maitreya. Yes, sir.

Maid. Good Maitreya, do you stay here. I will wait upon my mistress. [She does so.]

Maitreya. [Aside to Chārudatta.] My friend, I'd just like to ask the lady a question.

Chārudatta. Then do so.

Maitreya. [Aloud.] Madam, what made you come here, when it is so stormy and dark that you can't see the moon?

Maid. Mistress, the Brahman is very plain-spoken.

p. 89

Vasantasenā. You might better call him clever.

Maid. My mistress came to ask how much that pearl necklace is worth.

Maitreya. [Aside to Chārudatta.] There! I told you so. She thinks the pearl necklace is cheap, and the golden casket is expensive. She isn't satisfied. She has come to look for something more. Maid. For my mistress imagined that it was her own, and gambled it away. And nobody knows where the gambling-master has gone, for he is employed in the king's business.

Maitreya. Madam, you are simply repeating what somebody said before.

Maid. While we are looking for him, pray take this golden casket. [She displays the casket. Maitreya hesitates.] Sir, you examine it very closely. Did you ever see it before?

Maitreya. No, madam, but the skilful workmanship captivates the eye.

Maid. Your eyes deceive you, sir. This is the golden casket.

Maitreya. [Joyfully.] Well, my friend, here is the golden casket, the very one that thieves stole from our house.

Chārudatta. My friend,

The artifice we tried before,
Her stolen treasure to restore,
Is practised now on us. But no,
I cannot think ’tis really so.39

Maitreya. But it is so. I swear it on my Brahmanhood.

Chārudatta. This is welcome news.

Maitreya. [Aside to Chārudatta.] I'm going to ask where they found it.

Chārudatta. I see no harm in that.

Maitreya. [Whispers in the maid's ear.] There!

Maid. [Whispers in Maitreya's ear.] So there!

p. 90

Chārudatta. What is it? and why are we left out?

Maitreya. [Whispers in Chārudatta's ear.] So there!

Chārudatta. My good girl, is this really the same golden casket?

Maid. Yes, sir, the very same.

Chārudatta. My good girl, I have never let the bearer of welcome news go unrewarded. Take this ring as your recompense. [He looks at his finger, notices that the ring is gone, and betrays his embarrassment.]

Vasantasenā. [To herself.] I love you for that.

Chārudatta. [Aside to Maitreya.] Alas,

When in this world a man has lost his all,
  Why should he set his heart on longer life?
His angers and his favors fruitless fall,
  His purposes and powers are all at strife.40

Like wingless birds, dry pools, or withered trees,
Like fangless snakes—the poor are like to these.41

Like man-deserted houses, blasted trees,
Like empty wells—the poor are like to these.
For them no pleasant hours serve happy ends;
They are forgotten of their sometime friends.42

Maitreya. But you must not grieve thus beyond reason. [He bursts out laughing. Aloud.] Madam, please give me back my bath-clout.

Vasantasenā. Chārudatta, it was not right that you should show your distrust of me by sending me this pearl necklace.

Chārudatta. [With an embarrassed smile.] But remember, Vasantasenā,

Who will believe the truth?
  Suspicion now is sure.
This world will show no ruth
  To the inglorious poor.43

p. 91

Maitreya. Tell me, girl, are you going to sleep here to-night?

Maid. [Laughing.] But good Maitreya, you show yourself most remarkably plain-spoken now.

Maitreya. See, my friend, the rain enters again in great streams, as if it wanted to drive people away when they are sitting comfortably together.

Chārudatta. You are quite right.

The falling waters pierce the cloud,
  As lotus-shoots the soil;
And tears the face of heaven shroud,
  Who weeps the moon's vain toil.44

And again:

In streams as pure as thoughts to good men given,
  But merciless as darts that Arjun hurls,
And black as Baladeva's cloak, the heaven
  Seems to pour out all Indra's hoarded pearls.45

See, my belovèd, see!

The heaven is painted with the blackest dye,
  And fanned by cool and fragrant evening airs;
Red lightning, glad in union, clasps the sky
With voluntary arms, and shows on high
  The love that maiden heart to lover bears.46

[Vasantasenā betrays her passion, and throws her arms about Chārudatta. Chārudatta feels her touch, and embraces her.]

Chārudatta. More grimly yet, O thunder, boom;

  For by thy grace and power
My love-distracted limbs now bloom
  Like the kadamba flower.
  Her dear touch all my being thrills,
And love my inmost spirit fills.47

Maitreya. Confound you, storm! You are no gentleman, to frighten the lady with the lightning.

p. 92

Chārudatta. Do not rebuke the storm, my friend.

Let ceaseless rain a hundred years endure,
  The lightning quiver, and the thunder peal;
For what I deemed impossible is sure:
  Her dear-loved arms about my neck I feel.48

And oh, my friend,

He only knows what riches are,
Whose love comes to him from afar,
Whose arms that dearest form enfold,
While yet with rain ’tis wet and cold.49

Vasantasenā, my belovèd,

The masonry is shaken; and so old
The awning, that ’twill not much longer hold.
Heavy with water is the painted wall,
From which dissolving bits of mortar fall.50

[He looks up.] The rainbow! See, my belovèd, see!

See how they yawn, the cloudy jaws of heaven,
As by a tongue, by forkèd lightning riven;
  And to the sky great Indra's fiery bow
In lieu of high-uplifted arms is given.51

Come, let us seek a shelter. [He rises and walks about.]

On palm-trees shrill,
On thickets still,
On boulders dashing,
On waters splashing,
Like a lute that, smitten, sings,
The rainy music rings.52

[Exeunt omnes.


75:1 In Indian love-poetry, the rainy season is the time when lovers most ardently long to be united.

75:2 In allusion to Vishnu's name, Krishna, "black."

77:1 A gesture of respect.

81:1 The goddess of wealth and beauty, usually represented with a lotus.

81:2 Kāma's (Cupid's) arrows are flowers.

82:1 Throughout this scene, Vasantasenā's verses are in Sanskrit. Compare note 1 on page 73.

83:1 The cry of the heron resembles the Sanskrit word for "rain." Indian love-poetry often paints the sorrow, even unto death, of her whose belovèd does not return before the rainy season.

86:1 The elephant of Indra. Indra is the god of the thunderstorm.

Next: Act the Sixth: The Swapping of the Bullock-Carts