SCENE -The PALACE.
An old Chamberlain, sighing.
ALAS! What a decrepit old age have I attained! -This wand, which I first held for the discharge of my customary duties in the secret apartments of my prince, is now my support, whilst I walk feebly through the multitude of years which I have passed. -I must now mention to the king, as he goes through the palace, an event which concerns himself: it must not be delayed. -[Advanced slowly] -What is it? -Oh? I recollect: the devout pupils of Kanva desire an audience. -How strange a thing is human life? -The intellects of an old man seem at one time luminous, and then on a sudden are involved in darkness, like the flame of a lamp at the point of extinction.
-[He walks round and looks.] -There is Dushyanta: he has been attending to his people, as to his own family; and now with a tranquil heart seeks a solitary chamber; as an elephant chief of his herd, having grazed the whole morning, and being heated by the meridian sun, repairs to a cool station during the oppressive heats. -Since the king is just risen from his tribunal, and must be fatigued, I am almost afraid to inform him at present that Kanva’s pupils are arrived: yet how should they who support nations enjoy rest? -The sun yokes his bright steeds for the labour of many hours; the gale breathes by night and by day; the prince of serpents continually sustains the weight of this earth; and equally incessant is the toil of that man, whose revenue arises from a sixth part of his people’s income. [He walks about.]
Enter Dushyanta, Madhavya, and Attendants.
King Dushyant: [Looking oppressed with business.] Every petitioner having attained justice, is departed happy; but kings who perform their duties conscientiously are afflicted without end. -The anxiety of acquiring dominion gives extreme pain; and when it is firmly established, the cares of supporting the nation incessantly harass the sovereign; as a large umbrella, of which a man carries the staff in his own hand, fatigues while it shades him.
Behind the Scenes. May the king be victorious!
Two Bards repeat stanzas.
First Bard: Thou seekest not thy own pleasure: no; it is for the people that thou art harassed from day to day. Such, when thou wast created, was the disposition implanted in thy soul! Thus a branchy tree bears on his head the scorching sunbeams, while his broad shade allays the fever of those who seek shelter under him.
Second Bard. When thou wieldest the rod of justice, thou bringest to order all those who have deviated from the path of virtue thou biddest contention cease: thou wast formed for the preservation of thy people: thy kindred possess, indeed, considerable wealth; but so boundless is thy affection, that all thy subjects are considered by thee as thy kinsmen.
King Dushyant: [Listening.] That sweet poetry refreshes me after the toil of giving judgements and public orders.
Madhavya: Yes; as a tired bull is refreshed when the people say, “There goes the lord of cattle.”
King Dushyant: [Smiling.] Oh! art thou here, my friend: let us take our seats together. [The king and Madhavya sit down.] Music behind the scenes.
Madhavya: Listen, my royal friend. I hear a well tuned Veena sounding, as if it were in concert with the lutes of the gods, from yonder apartment. -The queen Hansamati is preparing, I imagine, to greet you with a new song.
King Dushyant: Be silent, that I may listen.
Cham: [Aside.] The king’s mind seems intent on some other business. I must wait his leisure. [Retiring on one side.]
SONG [Behind the scenes.]
“Sweet bee, who, desirous of extracting fresh honey, wast wont to kiss the soft border of the new-blown Amra flower, how canst thou now be satisfied with the water lily, and forget the first object of thy love?”
King Dushyant: The ditty (short simple song) breathes a tender passion.
Madhavya: Does the king know its meaning? It is too deep for me.
King Dushyant: [Smiling.] I was once in love with Hansamati, and am now reproved for continuing so long absent from her. -Friend Madhavya, inform the queen in my name that I feel the reproof.
Madhavya: As the king commands; but -[Rising slowly.] -My friend, you are going to seize a sharp lance with another man’s hand. I cannot relish your commission to an enraged woman. -A hermit cannot be happy till he has taken leave of all passions whatever.
King Dushyant: Go. my kind friend: the urbanity of thy discourse will appease her.
Madhavya: What an errand! [He goes out.]
King Dushyant: [Aside.] Ah! what makes me so melancholy on hearing a mere song on absence, when I am not in fact separated from any real object of my affection? -Perhaps the sadness of men, otherwise happy, on feeling beautiful forms and listening to sweet melody, arises from some faint remembrance of past joys and the traces of connections in a former state of existence. [He sits pensive and sorrowful.]
Cham: [Advancing humbly.] May our sovereign be victorious! -Two religious men, with some women, are come from their abode in a forest near the Snowy Mountains, and bring a message from Kanva. -The king will command.
King Dushyant: [Surprised.] What? Are pious hermits arrived in the company of women?
Cham. It is even so.
King Dushyant: Order the priest S
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