Love and Death [1921]

—By Sri Aurobindo

This is a blank-verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter) retelling of a popular story from the Mahabharata, the tale of Ruru and Priyumvada. The hero, Ruru, quests into the afterlife to beg for the resurrection of his beloved bride, Priyumvada, killed by snake-bite. Death's bargain with Ruru is that he is to give up half his life so that Priyumvada can live again. This is a common theme in world mythology: Orpheus, Gilgamesh, and many others take the same journey.


IN woodlands of the bright and early world, When love was to himself yet new and warm And stainless, played like morning with a flower Ruru with his young bride Priyumvada. Fresh-cheeked and dew-eyed white Priyumvada Opened her budded heart of crimson bloom To love, to Ruru; Ruru, a happy flood Of passion round a lotus dancing thrilled, Blinded with his soul's waves Priyumvada. To him the earth was a bed for this sole flower, To her all the world was filled with his embrace. Wet with new rains the morning earth, released From her fierce centuries and burning suns, Lavished her breath in greenness; poignant flowers Thronged all her eager breast, and her young arms Cradled a childlike bounding life that played And would not cease, nor ever weary grew Of her bright promise; for all was joy and breeze And perfume, colour and bloom and ardent rays Of living, and delight desired the world. Then Earth was quick and pregnant tamelessly; A free and unwalled race possessed her plains Whose hearts uncramped by bonds, whose unspoiled thoughts At once replied to light. Foisoned (sic) the fields; Lonely and rich the forests and the swaying Of those unnumbered tops affected men With thoughts to their vast music kin. Undammed The virgin rivers moved towards the sea, And mountains yet unseen and peoples vague Winged young imagination like an eagle To strange beauty remote. And Ruru felt The sweetness of the early earth as sap All through him, and short life an aeon made


By boundless possibility, and love, Sweetest of all unfathomable love, A glory untired. As a bright bird comes flying From airy extravagance to his own home, And breasts his mate, and feels her all his goal, So from boon sunlight and the fresh chill wave Which swirled and lapped between the slumbering fields, From forest pools and wanderings mid leaves Through emerald ever-new discoveries, Mysterious hillsides ranged and buoyant-swift Races with our wild brothers in the meads, Came Ruru back to the white-bosomed girl, Strong-winged to pleasure. She all fresh and new Rose to him, and he plunged into her charm. For neither to her honey and poignancy Artlessly interchanged, nor any limit To the sweet physical delight of her He found. Her eyes like deep and infinite wells Lured his attracted soul, and her touch thrilled Not lightly, though so light; the joy prolonged And sweetness of the lingering of her lips Was every time a nectar of surprise To her lover; her smooth-gleaming shoulder bared In darkness of her hair showed jasmine-bright, While her kissed bosom by rich tumults stirred Was a moved sea that rocked beneath his heart, Then when her lips had made him blind, soft siege Of all her unseen body to his rule Betrayed the ravishing realm of her white limbs, An empire for the glory of a God. He knew not whether he loved most her smile, Her causeless tears or little angers swift, Whether held wet against him from the bath Among her kindred lotuses, her cheeks Soft to his lips and dangerous happy breasts That vanquished all his strength with their desire, Meeting his absence with her sudden face, Or when the leaf-hid bird at night complained Near their wreathed arbour on the moonlit lake, Sobbing delight out from her heart of bliss,


Or in his clasp of rapture laughing low Of his close bosom bridal-glad and pleased With passion and this fiery play of love, Or breaking off like one who thinks of grief, Wonderful melancholy in her eyes Grown liquid and with wayward sorrow large, Thus he in her found a warm world of sweets, And lived of ecstasy secure, nor deemed Any new hour could match that early bliss. But Love has joys for spirits born divine More bleeding-lovely than his thornless rose. That day he had left, while yet the east was dark, Rising, her bosom and into the river Swam out, exulting in the sting and swift Sharp-edged desire around his limbs, and sprang Wet to the bank, and streamed into the wood. As a young horse upon the pastures glad Feels greensward and the wind along his mane And arches as he goes his neck, so went In an immense delight of youth the boy And shook his locks, joy-crested. Boundlessly He revelled in swift air of life, a creature Of wide and vigorous morning. Far he strayed Tempting for flower and fruit branches in heaven, And plucked, and flung away, and brighter chose, Seeking comparisons for her bloom; and followed New streams, and touched new trees, and felt slow beauty And leafy secret change; for the damp leaves, Grey-green at first, grew pallid with the light And warmed with consciousness of sunshine near; Then the whole daylight wandered in, and made Hard tracts of splendour, and enriched all hues. But when a happy sheltered heat he felt And heard contented voice of living things Harmonious with the noon, he turned and swiftly Went homeward yearning to Priyumvada, And near his home emerging from green leaves He laughed towards the sun: "O father Sun," He cried, "how good it is to live, to love! Surely our joy shall never end, nor we


Grow old, but like bright rivers or pure winds Sweetly continue, or revive with flowers, Or live at least as long as senseless trees." He dreamed, and said with a soft smile: "Lo, she! And she will turn from me with angry tears Her delicate face more beautiful than storm Or rainy moonlight. I will follow her, And soothe her heart with sovereign flatteries; Or rather all tyranny exhaust and taste The beauty of her anger like a fruit, Vexing her soul with helplessness; then soften Easily with quiet undenied demand Of heart insisting upon heart; or else Will reinvest her beauty bright with flowers, Or with my hands her little feet persuade. Then will her face be like a sudden dawn, And flower compelled into reluctant smiles." He had not ceased when he beheld her. She, Tearing a jasmine bloom with waiting hands, Stood drooping, petulant, but heard at once His footsteps and before she was aware, A sudden smile of exquisite delight Leaped to her mouth, and a great blush of joy Surprised her cheeks. She for a moment stood Beautiful with her love before she died; And he laughed towards her. With a pitiful cry She paled; moaning, her stricken limbs collapsed. But petrified, in awful dumb surprise, He gazed; then waking with a bound was by her, All panic expectation. As he came, He saw a brilliant flash of coils evade The sunlight, and with hateful gorgeous hood Darted into green safety, hissing, death. Voiceless he sank beside her and stretched out His arms and desperately touched her face, As if to attract her soul to live, and sought Beseeching with his hands her bosom. O, she Was warm, and cruel hope pierced him; but pale As jasmines fading on a girl's sweet breast Her cheek was, and forgot its perfect rose.


Her eyes that clung to sunlight yet, with pain Were large and feebly round his neck her arms She lifted and, desiring his pale cheek Against her bosom, sobbed out piteously, "Ah, love!" and stopped heart-broken; then, "O Love! Alas the green dear home that I must leave So early! I was so glad of love and kisses, And thought that centuries would not exhaust The deep embrace. And I have had so little Of joy and the wild day and throbbing night, Laughter, and tenderness, and strife and tears. I have not numbered half the brilliant birds In one green forest, nor am familiar grown With sunrise and the progress of the eves, Nor have with plaintive cries of birds made friends, Cuckoo and rainlark and love-speak-to-me. I have not learned the names of half the flowers Around me; so few trees know me by my name; Nor have I seen the stars so very often That I should die. I feel a dreadful hand Drawing me from the touch of thy warm limbs Into some cold vague mist, and all black night Descends towards me. I no more am thine, But go I know not where, and see pale shapes And gloomy countries and that terrible stream. O Love, O Love, they take me from thee far, And whether we shall find each other ever In the wide dreadful territory of death, I know not. Or thou wilt forget me quite, And life compel thee into other arms. Ah, come with me! I cannot bear to wander In that cold cruel country all alone, Helpless and terrified, or sob by streams Denied sweet sunlight and by thee unloved." Slower her voice came now, and over her cheek Death paused; then, sobbing like a little child Too early from her bounding pleasures called, The lovely discontented spirit stole From her warm body white. Over her leaned Ruru, and waited for dead lips to move.


Still in the greenwood lay Priyumvada, And Ruru rose not from her, but with eyes Emptied of glory hung above his dead, Only, without a word, without a tear. Then the crowned wives of the great forest came, They who had fed her from maternal breasts, And grieved over the lovely body cold, And bore it from him; nor did he entreat One last look nor one kiss, nor yet denied What he had loved so well. They the dead girl Into some distant greenness bore away.

But Ruru, while the stillness of the place Remembered her, sat without voice. He heard Through the great silence that was now his soul, The forest sounds, a squirrel's leap through leaves, The cheeping of a bird just overhead, A peacock with his melancholy cry Complaining far away, and tossings dim And slight unnoticeable stir of trees. But all these were to him like distant things And he alone in his heart's void. And yet No thought he had of her so lately lost, Rather far pictures, trivial incidents Of that old life before her delicate face Had lived for him, dumbly distinct like thoughts Of men that die, kept with long pomps his mind Excluding the dead girl. So still he was, The birds flashed by him with their swift small wings, Fanning him. Then he moved, then rigorous Memory through all his body shuddering Awoke, and he looked up and knew the place, And recognised greenness immutable, And saw old trees and the same flowers still bloom. He felt the bright indifference of earth And all the lonely uselessness of pain. Then lifting up the beauty of his brow He spoke, with sorrow pale: "O grim cold Death! But I will not like ordinary men Satiate thee with cries, and falsely woo thee,


And make my grief thy theatre, who lie Prostrate beneath thy thunderbolts and make Night witness of their moans, shuddering and crying When sudden memories pierce them like swords, And often starting up as at a thought Intolerable, pace a little, then Sink down exhausted by brief agony. O secrecy terrific, darkness vast, At which we shudder! Somewhere, I know not where, Somehow, I know not how, I shall confront Thy gloom, tremendous spirit, and seize with hands And prove what thou art and what man." He said, And slowly to the forests wandered. There Long months he travelled between grief and grief, Reliving thoughts of her with every pace, Measuring vast pain in his immortal mind. And his heart cried in him as when a fire Roars through wide forests and the branches cry Burning towards heaven in torture glorious. So burned, immense, his grief within him; he raised His young pure face all solemnised with pain, Voiceless. Then Fate was shaken, and the Gods Grieved for him, of his silence grown afraid. Therefore from peaks divine came flashing down Immortal Agni and to the Uswuttha-tree Cried in the Voice that slays the world: "O tree That liftest thy enormous branches able To shelter armies, more than armies now Shelter, be famous, house a brilliant God. For the grief grows in Ruru's breast up-piled, As wrestles with its anguished barricades In silence an impending flood, and Gods Immortal grow afraid. For earth alarmed Shudders to bear the curse lest her young life Pale with eclipse and all-creating love Be to mere pain condemned. Divert the wrath Into thy boughs, Uswuttha—thou shalt be My throne—glorious, though in eternal pain, Yet worth much pain to harbour divine fire." So ended the young pure destroyer's voice,


And the dumb god consented silently. In the same noon came Ruru; his mind had paused, Lured for a moment by soft wandering gleams Into forgetfulness of pain; for thoughts Gentle and near-eyed whispering memories So sweetly came, his blind heart dreamed she lived. Slow the Uswuttha-tree bent down its leaves, And smote his cheek, and touched his heavy hair. And Ruru turned illumined. For a moment, One blissful moment he had felt 'twas she. So had she often stolen up and touched His curls with her enamoured fingers small, Lingering, while the wind smote him with her hair And her quick breath came to him like spring. Then he, Turning, as one surprised with heaven, saw Ready to his swift passionate grasp her bosom And body sweet expecting his embrace. Oh, now saw her not, but the guilty tree Shrinking; then grief back with a double crown Arose and stained his face with agony. Nor silence he endured, but the dumb force Ascetic and inherited, by sires Fierce-musing earned, from the boy's bosom blazed. "O Uswuttha-tree, wantonly who hast mocked My anguish with the wind, but thou no more Have joy of the cool wind nor green delight, But live thy guilty leaves in fire, so long As Aryan wheels by thy doomed shadow vast Thunder to war, nor bless with cool wide waves Lyric Saruswathi nations impure." He spoke, and the vast tree groaned through its leaves, Recognising its fate; then smouldered; lines Of living fire rushed up the girth and hissed Serpentine in the unconsuming leaves; Last, all Hutashan in his chariot armed Sprang on the boughs and blazed into the sky, And wailing all the great tormented creature Stood wide in agony; one half was green And earthly, the other a weird brilliance Filled with the speed and cry of endless flame.


But he, with the fierce rushing-out of power Shaken and that strong grasp of anguish, flung His hands out to the sun; "Priyumvada!" He cried, and at that well-loved sound there dawned With overwhelming sweetness miserable Upon his mind the old delightful times When he had called her by her liquid name, Where the voice loved to linger. He remembered The chompuc bushes where she turned away Half-angered, and his speaking of her name Masterfully as to a lovely slave Rebellious who has erred; at that the slow Yielding of her small head, and after a little Her sliding towards him and beautiful Propitiating body as she sank down With timid graspings deprecatingly In prostrate warm surrender, her flushed cheeks Upon his feet and little touches soft; Or her long name uttered beseechingly, And the swift leap of all her body to him, And eyes of large repentance, and the weight Of her wild bosom and lips unsatisfied; Or hourly call for little trivial needs, Or sweet unneeded wanton summoning, Daily appeal that never staled nor lost Its sudden music, and her lovely speed, Sedulous occupation left, quick-breathing, With great glad eyes and eager parted lips; Or in deep quiet moments murmuring That name like a religion in her ear, And her calm look compelled to ecstasy; Or to the river luring her, or breathed Over her dainty slumber, or secret sweet Bridal outpantings of her broken name. All these as rush unintermitting waves Upon a swimmer overborne, broke on him Relentless, things too happy to be endured, Till faint with the recalled felicity Low he moaned out: "O pale Priyumvada! O dead fair flower! yet living to my grief!


But I could only slay the innocent tree, Powerless when power should have been. Not such Was Bhrigu from whose sacred strength I spring, Nor Bhrigu's son, my father, when he blazed Out from Puloma's side, and burning, blind, Fell like a tree the ravisher unjust. But I degenerate from such sires. O Death That showest not thy face beneath the stars, But comest masked, and on our dear ones seizing Fearest to wrestle equally with love! Nor from thy gloomy house any come back To tell thy way. But O, if any strength In lover's constancy to torture dwell Earthward to force a helping god and such Ascetic force be born of lover's pain, Let my dumb pangs be heard. Whoe’er thou art, O thou bright enemy of Death descend And lead me to that portal dim. For I Have burned in fires cruel as the fire And lain upon a sharper couch than swords." He ceased, and heaven thrilled, and the far blue Quivered as with invisible downward wings.

But Ruru passioned on, and came with eve To secret grass and a green opening moist In a cool lustre. Leaned upon a tree That bathed in faery air and saw the sky Through branches, and a single parrot loud Screamed from its top, there stood a golden boy, Half-naked, with bright limbs all beautiful— Delicate they were, in sweetness absolute: For every gleam and every soft strong curve Magically compelled the eye, and smote The heart to weakness. In his hands he swung A bow—not such as human archers use: For the string moved and murmured like many bees, And nameless fragrance made the casual air A peril. He on Ruru that fair face Turned, and his steps with lovely gesture chained. "Who art thou here, in forests wandering,


And thy young exquisite face is solemnised With pain? Luxuriously the Gods have tortured Thy heart to see such dreadful glorious beauty Agonize in thy lips and brilliant eyes: As tyrants in the fierceness of others' pangs Joy and feel strong, clothing with brilliant fire, Tyrants in Titan lands. Needs must her mouth Have been pure honey and her bosom a charm, Whom thou desirest seeing not the green And common lovely sounds hast quite forgot." And Ruru, mastered by the God, replied: "I know thee by thy cruel beauty bright, Kama, who makest many worlds one fire. Ah, wherefore wilt thou ask of her to increase The passion and regret? Thou knowest, great love! Thy nymph her mother, if thou truly art he And not a dream of my disastrous soul." But with the thrilled eternal smile that makes The spring, the lover of Rathi golden-limbed Replied to Ruru, "Mortal, I am he; I am that Madan who inform the stars With lustre and on life's wide canvas fill Pictures of light and shade, of joy and tears, Make ordinary moments wonderful And common speech a charm: knit life to life With interfusions of opposing souls And sudden meetings and slow sorceries: Wing the boy bridegroom to that panting breast, Smite Gods with mortal faces, dreadfully Among great beautiful kings and watched by eyes That burn, force on the virgin's fainting limbs And drive her to the one face never seen, The one breast meant eternally for her. By me come wedded sweets, by me the wife's Busy delight and passionate obedience, And loving eager service never sated, And happy lips, and worshipping soft eyes: And mine the husband's hungry arms and use Unwearying of old tender words and ways, Joy of her hair, and silent pleasure felt


Of nearness to one dear familiar shape. Nor only these, but many affections bright And soft glad things cluster around my name. I plant fraternal tender yearnings, make The sister's sweet attractiveness and leap Of heart towards imperious kindred blood, And the young mother's passionate deep look, Earth's high similitude of One not earth, Teach filial heart-beats strong. These are my gifts For which men praise me, these my glories calm: But fiercer shafts I can, wild storms blown down Shaking fixed minds and melting marble natures, Tears and dumb bitterness and pain unpitied, Racked thirsting jealousy and kind hearts made stone: And in undisciplined huge souls I sow Dire vengeance and impossible cruelties, Cold lusts that linger and fierce fickleness, The loves close kin to hate, brute violence And mad insatiable longings pale, And passion blind as death and deaf as swords. O mortal, all deep-souled desires and all Yearnings immense are mine, so much I can." So as he spoke, his face grew wonderful With vast suggestion, his human-seeming limbs Brightened with a soft splendour: luminous hints Of the concealed divinity transpired. But soon with a slight discontented frown: "So much I can, as even the great Gods learn. Only with death I wrestle in vain, until My passionate godhead all becomes a doubt. Mortal, I am the light in stars, of flowers The bloom, the nameless fragrance that pervades Creation: but behind me, older than me, He comes with night and cold tremendous shade. Hard is the way to him, most hard to find, Harder to tread, for perishable feet Almost impossible. Yet, O fair youth, If thou must needs go down, and thou art strong In passion and in constancy, nor easy The soul to slay that has survived such grief


Steel then thyself to venture, armed by Love. Yet listen first what heavy trade they drive Who would win back their dead to human arms." So much the God; but swift, with eager eyes And panting bosom and glorious flushed face, The lover: "O great Love! O beautiful Love! But if by strength is possible, of body Or mind, battle or spirit or moving speech, Sweet speech that makes even cruelty grow kind, Or yearning melody—for I have heard That when Saruswathi in heaven her harp Has smitten, the cruel sweetness terrible Coils taking no denial through the soul, And tears burst from the hearts of Gods—then I, Making great music, or with perfect words, Will strive, or staying him with desperate hands Match human strength ’gainst formidable Death. But if with price, ah God! what easier! Tears Dreadful, innumerable I will absolve, Or pay with anguish through the centuries, Soul's agony and torture physical, So her small hands about my face at last I feel, close real hair sting me with life, And palpable breathing bosom on me press." Then with a lenient smile the mighty God: "O ignorant fond lover, not with tears Shalt thou persuade immitigable Death. He will not pity all thy pangs: nor know His stony eyes with music to grow kind, Nor lovely words accepts. And how wilt thou Wrestle with that grim shadow, who canst not save One bloom from fading? A sole thing the Gods Demand from all men living, sacrifice: Nor without this shall any crown be grasped. Yet many sacrifices are there, oxen, And prayers, and Soma wine, and pious flowers, Blood and the fierce expense of mind, and pure Incense of perfect actions, perfect thoughts, Or liberality wide as the sun's, Or ruthless labour or disastrous tears,


Exile or death or pain more hard than death, Absence, a desert, from the faces loved; Even sin may be a sumptuous sacrifice Acceptable for unholy fruits. But none Of these the inexorable shadow asks: Alone of gods Death loves not gifts: he visits The pure heart as the stained. Lo, the just man Bowed helpless over his dead, nor all his virtues Shall quicken that cold bosom: near him the wild Marred face and passionate and will not leave Kissing dead lips that shall not chide him more. Life the pale ghost requires: with half thy life Thou mayst protract the thread too early cut Of that delightful spirit—half sweet life. O Ruru, lo, thy frail precarious days, And yet how sweet they are! simply to breathe How warm and sweet! And ordinary things How exquisite, thou then shalt learn when lost, How luminous the daylight was, mere sleep How soft and friendly clasping tired limbs, And the deliciousness of common food. And things indifferent thou then shalt want, Regret rejected beauty, brightnesses Bestowed in vain. Wilt thou yield up, O lover, Half thy sweet portion of this light and gladness, Thy little insufficient share, and vainly Give to another? She is not thyself: Thou dost not feel the gladness in her bosom, Nor with the torture of thy body will she Throb and cry out: at most with tender looks And pitiful attempt to feel move near thee, And weep how far she is from what she loves. Men live like stars that see each other in heaven, But one knows not the pleasure and the grief The others feel: he lonely rapture has, Or bears his incommunicable pain. O Ruru, there are many beautiful faces, But one thyself. Think then how thou shalt mourn When thou hast shortened joy and feelst at last The shadow that thou hadst for such sweet store."


He ceased with a strange doubtful look. But swift Came back the lover's voice, like passionate rain. "O idle words! For what is mere sunlight? Who would live on into extreme old age, Burden the impatient world, a weary old man, And look back on a selfish time ill-spent Exacting out of prodigal great life Small separate pleasures like an usurer, And no rich sacrifice and no large act Finding oneself in others, nor the sweet Expense of Nature in her passionate gusts Of love and giving, first of the soul's needs? Who is so coldly wise, and does not feel How wasted were our grandiose human days In prudent personal unshared delights? Why dost thou mock me, friend of all the stars? How canst thou be love's god and know not this, That love burns down the body's barriers cold And laughs at difference—playing with it merely To make joy sweeter? O too deeply I know, The lover is not different from the loved, Nor is their silence dumb to each other. He Contains her heart and feels her body in his, He flushes with her heat, chills with her cold. And when she dies, oh! when she dies, oh me, The emptiness, the maim! the life no life, The sweet and passionate oneness lost! And if By shortening of great grief won back, O price Easy! O glad briefness, aeons may envy! For we shall live not fearing death, nor feel As others yearning over the loved at night When the lamp flickers, sudden chills of dread Terrible; nor at short absence agonise, Wrestling with mad imagination. Us Serenely when the darkening shadow comes, One common sob shall end and soul clasp soul, Leaving the body in a long dim kiss. Then in the joys of heaven we shall consort, Amid the gladness often touching hands To make bliss sure; or in the ghastly stream


If we must anguish, yet it shall not part Our passionate limbs inextricably locked By one strong agony, but we shall feel Hell's pain half joy through sweet companionship. God Love, I weary of words. O wing me rather To her, my eloquent princess of the spring, In whatsoever wintry shores she roam." He ceased with eager forward eyes; once more A light of beauty immortal through the limbs Gleaming of the boy-god and soft sweet face, Glorifying him, flushed, and he replied: "Go then, O thou dear youth, and bear this flower In thy hand warily. For thou shalt come To that high meeting of the Ganges pure With vague and violent Ocean. There arise And loudly appeal my brother, the wild sea." He spoke and stretched out his immortal hand, And Ruru's met it. All his young limbs yearned With dreadful rapture shuddering through them. He Felt in his fingers subtle uncertain bloom, A quivering magnificence, half fire, Whose petals changed like flame, and from them breathed Dangerous attraction and alarmed delight, As at a peril near. He raised his eyes, But the green place was empty of the God. Only the faery tree looked up at heaven Through branches, and with recent pleasure shook. Then over fading earth the night was lord.

But from Shatudru and Bipasha, streams Once holy, and loved Iravathi and swift Clear Chandrabhaga and Bitosta's toil For man, went Ruru to bright sumptuous lands By Aryan fathers not yet paced, but wild, But virgin to our fruitful human toil, Where nature lay reclined in dumb delight Alone with woodlands and the voiceless hills. He with the widening yellow Ganges came, Amazed, to trackless countries where few tribes, Kirath and Poundrian, warred, worshipping trees


And the great serpent. But robust wild earth, But forests with their splendid life of beasts Savage mastered those strong inhabitants. Thither came Ruru. In a thin soft eve Ganges spread far her multitudinous waves, A glimmering restlessness with voices large, And from the forests of that half-seen bank A boat came heaving over it, white-winged, With a sole silent helmsman marble-pale. Then Ruru by his side stepped in; they went Down the mysterious river and beheld The great banks widen out of sight. The world Was water and the skies to water plunged. All night with a dim motion gliding down He felt the dark against his eyelids; felt, As in a dream more real than daylight, The helmsman with his dumb and marble face Near him and moving wideness all around, And that continual gliding dimly on, As one who on a shoreless water sails For ever to a port he shall not win. But when the darkness paled, he heard a moan Of mightier waves and had the wide great sense Of ocean and the depths below our feet. But the boat stopped; the pilot lifted on him His marble gaze cheval with the stars. Then in the white-winged boat the boy arose And saw around him the vast sea all grey And heaving in the pallid dawning light. Loud Ruru cried across the murmur: "Hear me, O inarticulate grey Ocean, hear. If any cadence in thy infinite Rumour was caught from lover's moan, O Sea, Open thy abysses to my mortal tread. For I would travel to the despairing shades, The spheres of suffering where entangled dwell Souls unreleased and the untimely dead Who weep remembering. Thither, O guide me, No despicable wayfarer, but Ruru, But son of a great Rishi, from all men


On earth selected for peculiar pangs, Special disaster. Lo, this petalled fire, How freshly it blooms and lasts with my great pain!" He held the flower out subtly glimmering. And like a living thing the huge sea trembled, Then rose, calling, and filled the sight with eaves, Converging all its giant crests; towards him Innumerable waters loomed and heaven Threatened. Horizon on horizon moved Dreadfully swift; then with a prone wide sound All Ocean hollowing drew him swiftly in, Curving with monstrous menace over him. He down the gulf where the loud waves collapsed Descending, saw with floating hair arise The daughters of the sea in pale green light, A million mystic breasts suddenly bare, And came beneath the flood and stunned beheld A mute stupendous march of waters race To reach some viewless pit beneath the world. Ganges he saw, as men predestined rush Upon a fearful doom foreseen, so ran, Alarmed, with anguished speed, the river vast. Veiled to his eyes the triple goddess rose. She with a sound of water cried to him, A thousand voices moaning with one pain: "Lover, who fearedst not sunlight to leave, With me thou mayst behold that helpless spirit Lost in the gloom, if still thy burning bosom Have courage to endure great Nature's night In the dire lands where I, a goddess, mourn Hurting my heart with my own cruelty." She darkened to the ominous descent, Unwilling, and her once so human waves Sent forth a cry not meant for living ears. And Ruru chilled; but terrible strong love Was like a fiery finger in his breast Pointing him on; so he through horror went Conducted by inexorable sound. For monstrous voices to his ear were close, And bodiless terrors with their dimness seized him


In an obscurity phantasmal. Thus With agony of soul to the grey waste He came, glad of the pain of passage over, As men who through the storms of anguish strive Into abiding tranquil dreariness And draw sad breath assured; to the grey waste, Hopeless Patal, the immutable Country, where neither sun nor rain arrives, Nor happy labour of the human plough Fruitfully turns the soil, but in vague sands And indeterminable strange rocks and caverns That into silent blackness huge recede, Dwell the great serpent and his hosts, writhed forms, Sinuous, abhorred, through many horrible leagues Coiling in a half darkness. Shapes he saw, And heard the hiss and knew the lambent light Loathsome, but passed compelling his strong soul. At last through those six tired hopeless worlds, Too hopeless far for grief, pale he arrived Into a nether air by anguish moved, And heard before him cries that pierced the heart, Human, not to be borne, and issued shaken By the great river accursed. Maddened it ran, Anguished, importunate, and in its waves The drifting ghosts their agony endured. There Ruru saw pale faces float of kings And grandiose victors and revered high priests And famous women. Now rose from the wave A golden shuddering arm and now a face. Torn piteous sides were seen and breasts that quailed. Over them moaned the penal waters on, And had no joy of their fierce cruelty. Then Ruru, his young cheeks with pity wan, Half moaned: "O miserable race of men, With violent and passionate souls you come Foredoomed upon the earth and live brief days In fear and anguish, catching at stray beams Of sunlight, little fragrances of flowers, Then from your spacious earth in a great horror Descend into this night, and here too soon


Must expiate your few inadequate joys. O bargain hard! Death helps us not. He leads Alarmed, all shivering from his chill embrace, The naked spirit here. Oh my sweet flower, Art thou too whelmed in this fierce wailing flood? Ah me! But I will haste and deeply plunge Into its hopeless pools and either bring Thy old warm beauty back beneath the stars, Or find thee out and clasp thy tortured bosom And kiss thy sweet wrung lips and hush thy cries. Love shall draw half thy pain into my limbs; Then we shall triumph glad of agony." He ceased and one replied close by his ear: "O thou who troublest with thy living eyes Established death, pass on. She whom thou seekest Rolls not in the accursèd tide. For late I saw her mid those pale inhabitants Whom bodily anguish visits not, but thoughts Sorrowful and dumb memories absolve, And martyrdom of scourged hearts quivering." He turned and saw astride the dolorous flood A mighty bridge paved with mosaic fire, All restless, and a woman clothed in flame, With hands calamitous that held a sword, Stood of the quaking passage sentinel. Magnificent and dire her burning face. "Pass on," she said once more, "O Bhrigu's son; The flower protects thee from my hands." She stretched One arm towards him and with violence Majestic over the horrid arch compelled. Unhurt, though shaking from her touch, alone He stood upon an inner bank with strange Black dreary mosses covered and perceived A dim and level plain without one flower. Over it paced a multitude immense With gentle faces occupied by pain; Strong men were there and grieving mothers, girls With early beauty in their limbs and young Sad children of their childlike faces robbed. Naked they paced with falling hair and gaze


Drooping upon their bosoms, weak as flowers That die for want of rain unmurmuring. Always a silence was upon the place. But Ruru came among them. Suddenly One felt him there and looked, then as a wind Moves over a still field of patient corn, And the ears stir and shudder and look up And bend innumerably flowing, so All those dumb spirits stirred and through them passed One shuddering motion of raised faces; then They streamed towards him without sound and caught With desperate hands his robe or touched his hair Or strove to feel upon them living breath. Pale girls and quiet children came and knelt And with large sorrowful eyes into his looked. Yet with their silent passion the cold hush Moved not; but Ruru's human heart half burst With burden of so many sorrows; tears Welled from him; he with anguish understood That terrible and wordless sympathy Of dead souls for the living. Then he turned His eyes and scanned their lovely faces strange For that one face and found it not. He paled, And spoke vain words into the listless air: "O spirits once joyous, miserable race, Happier if the old gladness were forgot! My soul yearns with your sorrow. Yet ah! reveal If dwell my love in your sad nation lost. Well may you know her, O wan beautiful spirits! But she most beautiful of all that died, By sweetness recognisable. Her name The sunshine knew." Speaking his tears made way: But they with dumb lips only looked at him, A vague and empty mourning in their eyes. He murmured low: "Ah, folly! were she here, Would she not first have felt me, first have raised Her lids and run to me, leaned back her face Of silent sorrow on my breast and looked With the old altered eyes into my own And striven to make my anguish understand?


Oh joy, had she been here! for though her lips Of their old excellent music quite were robbed, Yet her dumb passion would have spoken to me; We should have understood each other and walked Silently hand in hand, almost content." He said and passed through those untimely dead. Speechless they followed him with clinging eyes. Then to a solemn building weird he came With grave colossal pillars round. One dome Roofed the whole brooding edifice, like cloud, And at the door strange shapes were pacing, armed. Then from their fear the sweet and mournful dead Drew back, returning to their wordless grief. But Ruru to the perilous doorway strode, And those disastrous shapes upon him raised Their bows and aimed; but he held out Love's flower, And with stern faces checked they let him pass. He entered and beheld a silent hall Dim and unbounded; moving then like one Who up a dismal stair seeks ever light, Attained a dais brilliant doubtfully With flaming pediment and round it coiled Python and Naga monstrous, Joruthcaru, Tuxuc and Vasuki himself, immense, Magic Carcotaca all flecked with fire; And many other prone destroying shapes Coiled. On the wondrous dais rose a throne, And he its pedestal whose lotus hood With ominous beauty crowns his horrible Sleek folds, great Mahapudma; high displayed He bears the throne of Death. There sat supreme With those compassionate and lethal eyes, Who many names, who many natures holds; Yama, the strong pure Hades sad and subtle, Dharma, who keeps the laws of old untouched, Critanta, who ends all things and at last Himself shall end. On either side of him The four-eyed dogs mysterious rested prone, Watchful, with huge heads on their paws advanced; And emanations of the godhead dim


Moved near him, shadowy or serpentine, Vast Time and cold irreparable Death. Then Ruru came and bowed before the throne; And swaying all those figures stirred as shapes Upon a tapestry moved by the wind, And the sad voice was heard: "What breathing man Bows at the throne of Hades? By what force, Spiritual or communicated, troubles His living beauty the dead grace of Hell?" And one replied who seemed a neighbouring voice: "He has the blood of Gods and Titans old. An Apsara his mother liquid-orbed Bore to the youthful Chyavan's strong embrace This passionate face of earth with Eden touched. Chyavan was Bhrigu's child, Puloma bore, The Titaness,—Bhrigu, great Brahma's son. Love gave the flower that helps by anguish; therefore He chilled not with the breath of Hades, nor The cry of the infernal stream made stone." But at the name of Love all hell was moved. Death's throne half faded into twilight; hissed The phantoms serpentine as if in pain, And the dogs raised their dreadful heads. Then spoke Yama: "And what needs Love in this pale realm, The warm great Love? All worlds his breath confounds, Mars solemn order and old steadfastness. But not in hell his legates come and go; His vernal jurisdiction to bare Hell Extends not. This last world resists his power Youthful, anarchic. Here will he enlarge Tumult and wanton joys?" The voice replied: "Menaca momentary on the earth, Heaven's Apsara by the fleeting hours beguiled Played in the happy hidden glens; there bowed To yoke of swift terrestrial joys she bore, Immortal, to that fair Gundhurva king A mortal blossom of delight. That bloom Young Ruru found and plucked, but her too soon Thy fatal hooded snake on earth surprised, And he through gloom now travels armed by Love."


But then all Hades swaying towards him cried: "O mortal, O misled! But sacrifice Is stronger, nor may law of Hell or Heaven Its fierce effectual action supersede. Thy dead I yield. Yet thou bethink thee, mortal, Not as a tedious evil nor to be Lightly rejected gave the gods old age, But tranquil, but august, but making easy The steep ascent to God. Therefore must Time Still batter down the glory and form of youth And animal magnificent strong ease, To warn the earthward man that he is spirit Dallying with transience, nor by death he ends, Nor to the dumb warm mother's arms is bound, But called unborn into the unborn skies. For body fades with the increasing soul And wideness of its limit grown intolerant Replaces life's impetuous joys by peace. Youth, manhood, ripeness, age, four seasons Twixt its return and pale departing life Describes, O mortal,—youth that forward bends Midst hopes, delights and dreamings; manhood deepens To passions, toils and thoughts profound; but ripeness For large reflective gathering-up of these, As on a lonely slope whence men look back Down towards the cities and the human fields Where they too worked and laughed and loved; next age, Wonderful age with those approaching skies. That boon wilt thou renounce? Wherefore? To bring For a few years—how miserably few!— Her sunward who must after all return. Ah, son of Rishis, cease, Lo, I remit Hell's grasp, not oft-relinquished, and send back Thy beautiful life unborrowed to the stars. Or thou must render to the immutable Total all thy fruit-bearing years; then she Reblossoms." But the Shadow antagonist: "Let him be shown the glory he would renounce." And over the flaming pediment there moved, As on a frieze a march of sculptures, carved


By Phidias for the Virgin strong and pure, Most perfect once of all things seen in earth Or Heaven, in Athens on the Acropolis, But now dismembered, now disrupt! or as In Buddhist cavern or Orissan temple, Large aspirations architectural, Warrior and dancing-girl, adept and king, And conquering pomps and daily peaceful groups Dream delicately on, softening with beauty Great Bhuvanayshwar, the Almighty's house, With sculptural suggestion so were limned Scenes future on a pediment of fire. There Ruru saw himself divine with age, A Rishi to whom infinity is close, Rejoicing in some green song-haunted glade Or boundless mountain-top where most we feel Wideness, not by small happy things disturbed. Around him, as around an ancient tree Its seedlings, forms august or flame-like rose; They grew beneath his hands and were his work; Great kings were there whom time remembers, fertile Deep minds and poets with their chanting lips Whose words were seed of vast philosophies These worshipped; above this earth's half-day he saw Amazed the dawn of that mysterious Face And all the universe in beauty merge. Mad the boy thrilled upwards, then spent ebbed back. Over his mind, as birds across the sky Sweep and are gone, the vision of those fields And drooping faces came; almost he heard The burdened river with human anguish wail. Then with a sudden fury gathering His soul he hurled out of it half its life, And fell, like lightning, prone. Triumphant rose The Shadow chill and deepened giant night. Only the dais flickered in the gloom, And those snake-eyes of cruel fire subdued. But suddenly a bloom, a fragrance. Hell Shuddered with bliss: resentful, overborne, The world-besetting Terror faded back


Like one grown weak by desperate victory, And a voice cried in Ruru's tired soul: "Arise! the strife is over, easy now The horror that thou hast to face, the burden Now shared." And with a sudden burst like spring Life woke in the strong lover over-tired. He rose and left dim Death. Twelve times he crossed Boithorini, the river dolorous, Twelve times resisted Hell and hurried down Into the ominous pit where plunges black The vast stream thundering, saw, led puissantly From night to unimaginable night, As men oppressed in dreams, who cannot wake, But measure penal visions,—punishments Whose sight pollutes, unheard-of tortures, pangs Monstrous, intolerable mute agonies, Twisted unmoving attitudes of pain, Like thoughts inhuman in statuary. A fierce And iron voicelessness had grasped those worlds. No horror of cries expressed their endless pain, No saving struggle, no breathings of the soul. And in the last hell irremediable Where Ganges clots into that fatal pool, Appalled he saw her; pallid, listless, bare— O other than that earthly warmth and grace In which the happy roses deepened and dimmed With come-and-go of swift enamoured blood! Dumb drooped she; round her shapes of anger armed Stood dark like thunder-clouds. But Ruru sprang Upon them, burning with the admitted God. They from his touch like ineffectual fears Vanished; then sole with her, trembling he cried The old glad name and crying bent to her And touched, and at the touch the silent knots Of Hell were broken and its sombre dream Of dreadful stately pains at once dispersed. Then as from one whom a surpassing joy Has conquered, all the bright surrounding world Streams swiftly into distance, and he feels His daily senses slipping from his grasp,


So that unbearable enormous world Went rolling mighty shades, like the wet mist From men on mountain-tops; and sleep outstretched Rising its soft arms towards him and his thoughts, As on a bed, sank to ascending void.

But when he woke, he heard the koïl insist On sweetness and the voice of happy things Content with sunlight. The warm sense was round him Of old essential earth, known hues and custom Familiar tranquillising body and mind, As in its natural wave a lotus feels. He looked and saw all grass and dense green trees, And sunshine and a single grasshopper Near him repeated fierily its note. Thrilling he felt beneath his bosom her; Oh, warm and breathing were those rescued limbs Against the greenness, vivid, palpable, white, With great black hair and real and her cheek's Old softness and her mouth a dewy rose. For many moments comforting his soul With all her jasmine body sun-ensnared He fed his longing eyes and, half in doubt, With touches satisfied himself of her. Hesitating he kissed her eyelids. Sighing With a slight sob she woke and earthly large Her eyes looked upward into his. She stretched Her arms up, yearning, and their souls embraced; Then twixt brief sobbing laughter and blissful tears, Clinging with all her limbs to him, "O love, The green green world! the warm sunlight!" and ceased, Finding no words; but the earth breathed round them, Glad of her children and the koïl's voice Persisted in the morning of the world.