Kalidasa Poems >>
Shakuntala Act III

ACT III

SCENE -The HERMITAGE in a Grove.

The Hermit's Pupil bearing consecrated grass.

Pupil. [Meditating with wonder.]

HOW great is the power of Dushyanta! -The monarch and his charioteer had no sooner entered the grove than we continued our holy rites without interruption. -What words can describe him? -By his barely aiming a shaft, by the mere sound of his bow-string, by the simple murmur of his vibrating bow, he disperses at once our calamities. -Now then I deliver to the priests this bundle of fresh Kusha grass to be featured round the place of sacrifice -[Looking behind the scenes.] -Ah! Priyamvada, for whom are you carrying that ointment of Usira root, and those leaves of water lilies? -[Listening attentively.] -What say you? -That Shakuntala is extremely disordered by the sun's heat, and that you have procured for her a cooling medicine! Let her, my Priyamvada be diligently attended; for she is the darling of our venerable father Kanva, -I will administer, by the hand of Gautami some healing water consecrated in the ceremony called Vaitana. [He goes out.]

Dushyanta enters, expressing the distraction of a lover.

King Dushyanta: I well know the power of her devotion: that she will suffer none to dispose of her but Kanva, I too well know. Yet my heart can no more return to its former placid state, than water can reascend the steep, down which it has fallen. -O God of Love, how can thy darts be so keen, since they are pointed with flowers? Yes, I discover the reason of their keenness. They are tipped with the flames which the wrath of Hara (Rudra or Siva) kindled, and which blaze at this moment, like the Barava fire under the waves: how else could it thou, who wast consumed even to ashes, be still the inflamer of our souls By thee and by the moon, though each of you seems worthy of confidence, we lovers are cruelly deceived.

They who love as I do, ascribe flowery shafts to thee, and cool beams to the moon, with equal impropriety; for the moon sheds fire on them with her dewy rays, and thou pointest with sharp diamonds those arrows which seem to be barbed with blossoms.

Yet this god, who bears a fish on his banners, and who wounds me to the soul, will give me real delight, if he destroy me with the aid of my beloved, whose eyes beautiful as those of a roe. - O powerful divinity, even when I thus adore thy attributes, hast thou no compassion? Thy fire, O Love, is fanned into a blaze by a hundred of my vain thoughts. -Does it become thee to draw thy bow even to thy ear, that the shaft, aimed at my bosom, may inflict a deeper wound? Where now can I recreate my afflicted soul by the permission of those pious men whose uneasiness I have removed by dismissing my train? -[Sighing.] -I can have no relief but from a sight of my beloved!

- [Looking up.] This intensely hot noon must, no doubt, be passed by Shakuntala with her damsels on the banks of this river over-shadowed with Tamalas. -It must be so: -I will advance thither. -[Walking round and looking.] -My sweet friend has, I guess, been lately walking under that row of young trees; for I see the stalks of some flowers, which probably she gathered, still unshrivelled; and some fresh leaves, newly plucked, still dropping milk. -[Feeling a breeze.] -Ah! this bank has a delightful air! -Here may the gale embrace me, wafting odours from the water lilies, and cool my breast, inflamed by the bodiless god, with the liquid particles which it catches from the waves of the Malini. -[looking down.] -Happy lover! Shakuntala must be somewhere in this grove of flowering creepers; for I discern on the yellow sand in the vicinity of yon arbour some recent footsteps, raised a little before, and depressed behind by the weight of her elegant limbs. -I shall have a better view from behind this thick foliage. -[He conceals himself, looking vigilantly.] -Now are my eyes fully gratified. The darling of my heart, with her two faithful attendants, reposes on a smooth rock strewn with fresh flowers. -Their branches will hide me, whislt I hear their charming conversation. [He stands concealed, and gazes.]

Shakuntala and her two Damsels discovered.

Both: [Fanning her.] Say, beloved Shakuntala, does the breeze, raised by our fans of broad lotus leaves, refresh you?

Shakuntala: [Mournfully.] Why, alas, do my dear friends take this trouble? [Both look sorrowfully at each other.]

King Dushyant: [Aside.] Ah! she seems much indisposed. What can have been the fatal cause of so violent a fever -Is it what my heart suggests? Or -[Musing] -I am perplexed with doubts. -The medicine extracted from the balmy Usira has been applied, I see, to her bosom: her only bracelet is made of thin filaments from the stalks of a water lily, and even that is loosely bound on her arm. Yet, even thus disordered, she is exquisitely beautiful. -Such are the hearts of the young! Love and the fun equally inflame us; but the scorching heat of summer leads not equally to happiness with the ardour of youthful desires.

Priyamvada: [Aside to Anusu