Our parents long have passed away,
All old familiar faces fled,
Destruction nears us day by day,
Like trees in sandy river-bed.
Where many dwellers once were seen, one only now survives,
Again that house is filled with store of joyous human lives,
Then all are swept away again; thus wielding night and day
As dice, destruction's wedded powers with helpless mortals play.
Shall we retire to Gangâ's brink,
Or call the sweets of honeyed lays,
Or court a wife whom all men praise?
Life's short--we know not what to think.
O for those days when I shall dwell alone
Among the snowy hills by Gangâ's stream,
In stony torpor stiffened on a stone,
Inly conversing with the One Supreme,
Rapt in devotion, dead to all beside,
And deer shall fray their horns against my senseless hide.
When shall we, sick of life's entangling bands,
Sit on the holy river's moonlit sands,
Through windless nights, with rapture-streaming eyes,
And thrice on Siva call with plaintive cries?
Still Siva's arm is strong to save,
Still may we plunge in Gangâ's wave,
Still one blue heaven bends over all,
Still Time sees mortals rise and fall,
Still poverty's our best defense,
Enough--renounce the joys of sense.
Hope is a stream, its waves desires, by stormy passions tossed,
With cruel longings lurking deep, by light-winged visions crossed,
Resolves like firmly planted trees its floods uprooting bear,
Its madness swirls in eddying rings beneath its banks of care;
But those, who in devotion's bark attain its further shore,
Rejoice, for this unstable world enslaves their souls no more.
I've searched for years through earth and air and sky,
Nor yet one perfect saint hath met my eye,
Nor have I heard of one who could restrain
Desire's fierce elephant with reason's chain.
The days seem long to those who drudge for pay,
And short to those who fritter life away;
When shall I sit and think how vain their moans,
A hermit pillowed on a bed of stones?
When all our wealth is wasted, we'll seek some calm retreat,
And spend the night in thinking on Siva's holy feet,
When streams the autumn moonlight into our melting hearts,
How false that world will glimmer where once we played our parts.
Bark garments satisfy my needs,
But you are pleased with silken weeks,
Who counts you better off than me?
But woe to him whose wants are great!
Contentment equals men's estate,
And makes the rich and poor agree.
Unfettered wandering, and meals from degradation free,
The friendship of the wise and good; and sober piety,
A heart that beats not for the world--none, that my thoughts can trace,
Not e'en by strictist discipline hath gained this heavenly grace.
The hand's a lordly dish,
The mouth with alms is fed,
The sky's a glorious robe,
The earth's a sumptuous bed.
Those live in high content
Who're free from passion's chain,
And works with all their brood
Of ignorance and pain.
King's fancies swiftly pass like coursers in the race,
In vain to them we look for favour, wealth, and place,
Eld robs our frame of Strength, death slays us at a blow,
None but the hermit's life can happiness bestow.
Our joys are short-lived as the flash
That cleaves the cloudy veil,
Our life is fleeting as the mists
That drive before the gale;
Youth's pleasures fade--then fix your minds
On that untroubled peace
Which patient meditation brings
To those whose longings cease.
To roam some woodland hermitage where Brâhmans' chants resound,
And smoke of sacrificial fires blackens the trees around,
Begging one's bread from cell to cell, plants in the breast no thorns,
Like living poor amongst one's kin, bearing their hourly scorns.
While gaping idlers turn the head and say,
"What stamp of man can yonder pilgrim be,
Saint, sophist, outcast, Brâhman, slave, or free?"
Nor pleased nor wroth the hermit wends his way.
Happy are those who've ceased to walk by sight,
Slain passion's snake, and make good deeds their stay,
Who spend in woodland nooks the tranquil night
Illumined by the moon's autumnal ray.
Be still, my fluttering heart, and leave this crowded show
Of worldly toys 'midst which thou eddiest to and fro,
Abandon fleeting forms, and seek that settled state
Of grounded peace enthroned above the storms of fate.
Pillowed on banks of moss, with roots and berries fed,
Enwound with strips of bark, our wants shall all be sped--
Off to the woodland shades, and gladly leave behind
These men of stammering speech, with wealth-bewildered mind.
Abandon empty hopes, and place thy trust, my breast,
In Gangâ, and in him who bears the moony crest;
Whoe'er confides in snakes, waves, women, bubbles, flames,
Lightnings or mountain streams, his want of sense proclaims.
If song resound thy steps before,
And Dekhan' lyres behind,
And nymphs with jingling bracelets pour
The Chowri's perfumed wind,
Scorn not this world's broad easy ways,
And drink of pleasure's bowl;
If not--then fix thy steadfast gaze
On that undying soul.
Kind Fortune, seek some other love, I long not for thy dower;
And what to those whose lusts are dead avails thy golden shower?
Leave me to beg from day to day my dole of barley-meal,
The fig's broad leaf supplies a dish that none would care to steal.
Once I was thou, and thou wast I,
In perfect union blent;
Say, what hath severed friendship's tie,
And souls asunder rent?
Why sidelong cast thy languid eyne?
Vain is thy hope to tangle mine,
My nature's changed; no more a child
With every wanton toy beguiled,
To cloistered cell I'd fain withdraw,
This world's bright nets I count but straw.
'Tis sweet in palaces to dwell,
Where music's strains voluptuous swell;
'Tis sweet to hear the loved one's voice;
But wise men, of deliberate choice,
Have run from these to forest glades,
Assured all earthly pleasure fades,
Swift as the moth in heedless game
Puffs out the taper's feeble flame.
Are roots extinct in mountain caves? have streams forgot to flow?
Do vests of bark and woodland fruits on trees no longer grow?
Else why endure the haughty mien and eye-brows arched in scorn
Of men who've scraped together wealth to which they were not born?
Say, whither are those slabs of stone
All moist with Gangâ's dew,
And Dryad-haunted thickets flown,
That men can bear to sue
For alms and insults at the door of some proud parvenu?
Mount Meru's golden mass shall melt at that last awful day,
The monster-peopled seas dry up, the earth dissolve away;
What hope for feeble human frames, whose breath doth come and go,
As swiftly as the elephant flaps his ear to and fro?
When, when, O Siva, shall I be
Lonely and calm, from passion free;
My only robe the liberal air,
My hand the dish that holds my fare,
But able Action to uproot,
The tree that bears Life's bitter fruit.
Suppose thy fortune's boundless as the main,
Suppose thy years a world's great age complete,
Suppose thy foes all placed beneath thy feet,
And friends rewarded richly: where's thy gain?
The hermit's tattered patchwork robe, or courtier's silken weeds,
One wife to tend thy home, or troops of elephants and steeds,
One simple meal at close of day, or many a gorgeous feast,
It matters not, be but thy soul from earthly cares released.
My faith in Siva wavereth not, I shrink from future birth,
I care not for my friends or kin, I scorn the joys of earth,
I love the lonely forest-glades, from worldly turmoil free,
No greater bliss can fall to man than falleth unto me.
Think upon that self-developed, everlasting One Supreme,
Fling aside all vain delusions, all the worldling's baseless dream,
Pity those dull slaves of custom who are caught with empty toys,
Kingly crowns, and thrones imperial, and a round of sensual joys.
You mount to heaven, again you sink to hell,
You roam the world around with anxious breast,
And yet not e'en by chance your thought doth dwell
On Him who only gives the spirit rest.
Night follows night, and day succeedeth day,
And thoughtless men hurry to work and play,
But sages ought to blush when treading found,
Year after year, the same dull weary round.
Stretched out at ease upon the ground and pillowed on his arm,
The houseless hermit sleeps in peace, secure from nightly harm,
The breeze his fan, his lamp the moon, his canopy the sky--
What royal palace of this earth can such delights supply?
Feasts, flatteries, and idle hours
Make up a prince's day,
Let not the saint employ his powers
To compass kingly sway:
But quaff the ever-brimming stream
Of pure and holy mirth;
Who that hath tasted bliss supreme
Can sink to joys of earth?
What profit are the Vedas,
Or books of legal lore,
Or those of long-winded legends,
Repeated o'er and o'er?
What gain we by our merits?
A dwelling in the skies--
A miserable mansion,
That men of sense despise--
All these are huckstering methods--
Give me that perfect way
Of self-contained fruition,
Where pain is done away.
Our life is like th' unstable wave,
Our bloom of youth decays.
Our joys are brief as lightning flash
In summer's cloudy days,
Our riches fleet as swift as thought;
Faith in the One Supreme
Alone will bear us o'er the gulfs
Of Being's stormy stream.
Can all this earth encloses
Flutter the sage's breast?
Say, can the darting minnow
Trouble the ocean's rest?
I love the moon's soft beams, I love the grassy wood,
I love to talk of verse among the wise and good,
I love the fair one's face gleaming with angry tears,
I think how fleeting all, and pleasure disappears.
Lonely among his kind,
Breaking on alms his fast,
Free as th' unfettered wind,
The hermit wanders past,
Of tattered rags his dress,
He knows no care nor pride,
He longs for quietness,
And has no want beside.
My mother Earth,
My kinsman Fire,
Water my friend,
And Wind my sire,
My brother Heaven,
a long adieu!
By merit gained
When linked to you
I've purchased grace
To break my chains,
And merge in that
Which all sustains.
While the soul's temple still stands firm, and eld still bides afar,
While sense is keen, and Life with Death still wages equal war,
The wise to gain the spirit's peace should strive with strong desire,
What boots to dig a well when all the house is wrapped in fire?
I have not learnt the wrangler's art or less pretentious lore,
Nor cleft in fight the war-beasts' skull on Fame's broad wings to soar,
Nor sipped the fair one's honeyed lips while soft the moonbeam falls;--
My youth is wasted like a lamp in vast unpeopled halls.
Knowledge abates the wise man's pride,
But kindles it in all beside;
That loneliness which shields the saint
Lets sinners sin without restraint.
The youthful freshness of my heart is worn with old decay,
The beauty of my limbs hath passed unrecognized away,
Grim Fate brings nigh with giant strides the unrelenting hour;
What hope but in the feet of him who smote Love's wanton power?
If parching thirst dries up the throat,
How sweet the brimming stream;
If hunger pinches, rice and herbs
Imperial dainties seem.
We hug this fond belief--that we
A solid pleasure gain,
When all we've done is to remove
The momentary pain.
When shall I bathe in Gangâ's stream and please Thee, Lord, with fruits and flowers,
Thinking of that one worthy theme, on beds of stone through midnight hours.
Honouring my Father in the faith, striving to lift my heart above?
When shall I fling my woes aside? Help me, thou enemy of Love.
The man whose bed is made of rock, whose mansion's but a cave,
Who's clothed in bark and fed on fruits, who drinks the crystal wave,
Whose friends are deer, alone can boast of splendour on this earth;
For he alone ne'er bows the head to power, or wealth, or birth.
Out of Banâras who can live that boasts the sage's name,
Where rags are counted splendid clothes, and begging held no blame.
Where gardens yield to all who need their bounteous supplies,
Where saints subdue the flesh, where Death's the gate of Paradise?
Leave those proud doors where surly slaves growl out "our lord's asleep,
"We cannot wake him: if we do, his wrath no bounds will keep,"
But haunt the temple of that god who rules this mighty whole,
Whose gate no ill-bred porter keeps, who fills with bliss the soul.
Our mind is but a lump of clay
That Fate, grim potter, holds
On sorrow's wheel that rolls away,
And, as he pleases, moulds.
Siva controls earth, heav'n, and hell,
Vishnu pervades each part,
Their rank in being who can tell?
But Siva has my heart.
Why, Cupid, wound thy hand with twanging still the bow?
Why, cuckoo, sound for nought thy soft love-moving strain?
Why bashful maiden, still thy sidelong glances throw?
My soul the nectarous wine of Siva's love doth drain.
What though the hermit's cloak be torn with many a rent,
What though he sleep in tombs or under forest trees,
Heeding not friend or foe, on self-communion bent,
From pride and anger free, his mind is still at ease.
Enjoyments quickly lose their zest; of them our life is made;
Then why extend the hand to grasp these flowers that bloom to fade?
If for my words you care at all, then fix your constant soul
On that eternal Fount of light whose beams can Love control.
Happy who dwell in mountain caves, praising the One Supreme,
Upon whose breasts sleep fearless birds that drink their tears of joy,
While we are sporting in the groves, and wandering by the stream
Of some aërial pleasure ground, our wayward fancy's toy.
Death swallows Birth, and Youth's brief flash the jaws of Age devour,
Desire of wealth eats up Content, and Love the peaceful hour,
Fell Envy's tooth gnaws Virtue's bud, and snakes infest the wood,
Kings' courts are overrun with knaves: thus bad things feed on good.
Hundreds of various pains and griefs uproot the health of man,
Where Fortune takes up her abode mishaps soon crowd the gate,
Nothing is born with Death makes not subject of his state,
How full of faults is Destiny! how ill-conceived her plan!
Hard is our lot within th'imprisoning womb,
Our youth beset with separation's doom,
Loathsome our age, the theme of woman's mirth,
Say then, ye men, what joy ye find on earth?
A hundred years complete our span, half that is passed in night:
Childhood and age devour the half of what belongs to light:
The rest is torn with parting pangs, of ceaseless toil the slave;
What profit is our human life, unstable as the wave?
Those who distinguish that which is from fleeting outward shows,
Do well to give up wealth and joys to gain secure repose;
What therefore must be said of us who cannot bear to part
From that which never can be ours, on which we've set our heart?
Eld like a tiger threats our careless bliss.
Diseases wound our frame like angry foes,
As water from a broken pitcher, flows
Our life away; and yet men do amiss.
Once in a way Dame Nature makes
A perfect crystal free from stain,
And then, like careless workman, breaks
The piece which cost her so much pain.
The limbs contract, the gait's infirm, the teeth drop from the gums,
The eyesight dims, the hearing fails, and senile drivelling comes;
No more relations heed our words, our wife e'en disobeys,
Our son becomes a foe: alas! what ills in length of days!
Man is an actor who plays various parts:--
First comes a boy, then out a lover starts,
His garb is changed for, lo! the beggar's rags!
Then he's a merchant with full money-bags;
Anon an aged sire, wrinkled and lean;
At last death drops his curtain on the scene.
Night, day, friend, foe, dross, gems, are all the same to me,
Twixt stones and rose-strewn beds no difference I see;
In some lone hermitage I let the hours glide by,
And loud on Siva call with thrice-repeated cry.