Part Four - The Going-Forth

THE PROCESSION TO THE GARDEN

Part Four - The Going-Forth

Then through the whole town the king’s proclamation was heard in the ringing of bells:

That on the seventh day, the glorious prince, with his retinue,

Would proceed to the royal gardens; that every beggar, those aged or maimed,

Each of the hundred ills, all who were blind, were to be removed from the city;

Suffering, disease, and pain were to be hid completely.  At least for that day,

Untamed or underfed animals were to be kept off the main highway.

The streets of the city were swept clean and sprinkled with clear water.

Lamps of various precious metals, and crucibles of smoldering sandalwood,

Were hung from dwarfed plantains.  Jewelled bells and garlands

Were hung from the high towers.  Fabrics woven completely from flowers

Were causing a rain of petals. Everywhere the way was strewn with colorful pastilles;

When crushed, these pastilles gave off a lingering fragrance.

Like stars following the constellation-king, in pure white robes,

Their eyes longing to see him, the people crowded the roads.

Draped with flowery coverings, the stately horses strode,

Majestically pacing, with the chariot

Never has there been such festivity commingled with such reverence!

Never in the lives of a thousand rajas, has there been such a procession!

Having obtained the leave of their lords, the women hurried out of the mansions.

The noise of their girdles and the jingling of their anklets resounded on the staircases.

Crowded together, their earrings polished by continual collisions,

Their full bosoms swaying, and their lotus-like faces

Fully attending on his beauty, they strained to be near him.

Never in the lives of a thousand rajas, has there been such exultation!

THE EXULTATION OF THE LADIES

Men from all stations, and the six kinds of creatures that wander free in the city

Poured along the highway.  There was no tower and no balcony vacant.

The humble and exalted, those from village and farm, and from far countries,

The rich, hurrying to high grounds, unattended by their servants;

All pressed on, desiring to see him.

Never in the lives of a thousand rajas, has there been such jubilation!

How beautiful was the scene!  How pure his form shone, under the sun glowing;

And all the people praising him; and the women whispering,

“Fortunate is Yasodhara”

And the prince exclaimed: Channa, my heart soars!

Never in the lives of a thousand rajas, has there been such a procession!

How can I help, but to be happy, when I am surrounded with such devotion!

THE APPEARANCE OF THE PREDESTINED SIGNS

But suddenly there appeared on the road

A broken, aged man, who to the throng appealed:

Oh! pity me! For I am old;

Deep in the withered bough, my cold body is sealed!

Only the aged heart knows how the blood runs cold;

The sun has left its scar, before the scar is healed;

The second: In decay,

Was my lone flowering.  I lifted toward the sun

But the sunlit sky was gray.

My opening petals, all fell away.  If any can

Who still can pray,

Pray that the black hand end my pain today!

And then a third, where dawn had seen him die

Upon that very bed that day,

As if to mock their bold festivity

And couple death, the lover, and the bride,

Jounced forward in oblivious ecstasy

All garlanded with his pride.

And the red tongues lashed at the sky!

It is death, they were crying,

Again at his treachery; blame those who are blameworthy!

No, a voice replied, Death

Followed us on our journey;

It was the darkness of the passage, which betrayed me.

WHAT THE AIR SAID

We die in fire or flood

And come again.

The thick layers of mud

Shall turn to stone.

And in the night

The ocean of existence moves

Along the channels

Of the earthly zone:

The only sound,

The silent respirations

Of the moon.

Cattle or hound

Crossing the desert in the sun

Shall find

Their scattered bones

Upon the ground;

And dying women

Crawling home,

Shall gather

From their tombs

The weathered trinkets

Which the rain has sown.

Indifferent and gray,

A gate

Stands on the plain;

And generations

Come on it and go.

Wars, underneath its arches,

Take their place;

The rites of love,

(Heaving of bodies)

Know,

The cool earth at its feet.

Slowly,

Life paces after life,

Across the stone;

The torrents

Of our generations

Come.

The mango leaves fall

Whispering,

What we have been,

What we shall be,

Has no ending.

THE PRINCE FACES REALITY

And the prince, full of compassion, said:

Oh Channa, tell me, for I do not know:

Shall all men go so silently to burn

As this one now?  Shall age be known

To only this one man, or are all backs to bow?

And sickness, does it greet all men,

Shall all men share in pain?

If this is so:

Why does the wind with such fragrance blow?

Why does the bird, on tattered wing, although its wing is worn,

Pursue the yellow offering for its young?  For if it knew,

How could it sing?

And could the branch swing upward even though

The branches down below are gray and withering?

Do these conditions always wait for man?

His death grow, in his ripening?

THE CHARIOTEER EXPLAINS

And Channa said: Ah Prince, they wait for man;

For it is said that age is like the storm

And always in it looms

The thunder in the slow and creeping wind

Wherein all torments which delight the body are.

Cold death is but the flashing of our doom,

For all day long its fires have fought the sun.

picture - THE STORMS OF EXISTENCE       1390

Our dance is but the dance of a short day.

And who would say that time is merciful,

For under those far blue skies the fires rage;

Who has not seen die, that which is most beautiful.

The hands of fever and death delight in their ravage;

And age is cruel.

Pitiful is the hard fight which our hearts wage.

Our bodies wither still in love,

Again the dry throat swells and heaves,

The breath comes short and passionate.

To other sounds the ear grows dim;

The stiffening form is bent again;

Remembering its tears, the eye is watering.

And the lips, loose-lying, as in lovers, part;

The legs, as though in love, draw taut,

The body mimes its art, in strange shakings.

And careless of the flowers as we go,

In formal gaiety we tread our streets, although,

A dark bird hovers in the sky.