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Latter Cloud


The splendid heavenly city Alaka,

  Where palaces in much may rival thee--
  Their ladies gay, thy lightning's dazzling powers--
  Symphonic drums, thy thunder's melody--
  Their bright mosaic floors, thy silver showers--
  Thy rainbow, paintings, and thy height, cloud-licking towers.


where the flowers which on earth blossom at different seasons, are all found in bloom the year round.

    Where the autumn lotus in dear fingers shines,
  And lodh-flowers' April dust on faces rare,
    Spring amaranth with winter jasmine twines
  In women's braids, and summer siris fair,
  The rainy madder in the parting of their hair.


Here grows the magic tree which yields whatever is desired.

      Where men with maids whose charm no blemish mars
    Climb to the open crystal balcony
      Inlaid with flower-like sparkling of the stars,
    And drink the love-wine from the wishing-tree,
    And listen to the drums' deep-thundering dignity.


    Where maidens whom the gods would gladly wed
  Are fanned by breezes cool with Ganges' spray
    In shadows that the trees of heaven spread;
  In golden sands at hunt-the-pearl they play,
  Bury their little fists, and draw them void away.


    Where lovers' passion-trembling fingers cling
  To silken robes whose sashes flutter wide,
    The knots undone; and red-lipped women fling,
  Silly with shame, their rouge from side to side.
  Hoping in vain the flash of jewelled lamps to hide.


    Where, brought to balconies' palatial tops
  By ever-blowing guides, were clouds before
    Like thee who spotted paintings with their drops;
  Then, touched with guilty fear, were seen no more,
  But scattered smoke-like through the lattice' grated door.


Here are the stones from which drops of water ooze when the moon shines on them.

    Where from the moonstones hung in nets of thread
  Great drops of water trickle in the night--
    When the moon shines clear and thou, O cloud, art fled--
  To ease the languors of the women's plight
  Who lie relaxed and tired in love's embraces tight.


Here are the magic gardens of heaven.

    Where lovers, rich with hidden wealth untold,
  Wander each day with nymphs for ever young,
    Enjoy the wonders that the gardens hold,
  The Shining Gardens, where the praise is sung
  Of the god of wealth by choirs with love-impassioned tongue.


    Where sweet nocturnal journeys are betrayed
  At sunrise by the fallen flowers from curls
    That fluttered as they stole along afraid,
  By leaves, by golden lotuses, by pearls,
  By broken necklaces that slipped from winsome girls.


Here the god of love is not seen, because of the presence of his great enemy, Shiva. Yet his absence is not severely felt.

    Where the god of love neglects his bee-strung bow,
  Since Shiva's friendship decks Kubera's reign;
    His task is done by clever maids, for lo!
  Their frowning missile glances, darting plain
  At lover-targets, never pass the mark in vain.


Here the goddesses have all needful ornaments. For the Mine of Sentiment declares: "Women everywhere have four kinds of ornaments--hair-ornaments, jewels, clothes, cosmetics; anything else is local."

    Where the wishing-tree yields all that might enhance
  The loveliness of maidens young and sweet:
    Bright garments, wine that teaches eyes to dance,
  And flowering twigs, and rarest gems discrete,
  And lac-dye fit to stain their pretty lotus-feet.


And here is the home of the unhappy Yaksha,

    There, northward from the master's palace, see
  Our home, whose rainbow-gateway shines afar;
    And near it grows a little coral-tree,
  Bending 'neath many a blossom's clustered star,
  Loved by my bride as children of adoption are.


with its artificial pool;

    A pool is near, to which an emerald stair
  Leads down, with blooming lotuses of gold
    Whose stalks are polished beryl; resting there,
  The wistful swans are glad when they behold
  Thine image, and forget the lake they loved of old.


its hill of sport, girdled by bright hedges, like the dark cloud girdled by the lightening;

    And on the bank, a sapphire-crested hill
  Round which the golden plantain-hedges fit;
    She loves the spot; and while I marvel still
  At thee, my friend, as flashing lightnings flit
  About thine edge, with restless rapture I remember it.


its two favourite trees, which will not blossom while their mistress is grieving;

    The ashoka-tree, with sweetly dancing lines,
  The favourite bakul-tree, are near the bower
    Of amaranth-engirdled jasmine-vines;
  Like me, they wait to feel the winning power
  Of her persuasion, ere they blossom into flower.


its tame peacock;

    A golden pole is set between the pair,
  With crystal perch above its emerald bands
    As green as young bamboo; at sunset there
  Thy friend, the blue-necked peacock, rises, stands,
  And dances when she claps her bracelet-tinkling hands.


and its painted emblems of the god of wealth.

    These are the signs--recall them o'er and o'er,
  My clever friend--by which the house is known,
    And the Conch and Lotus painted by the door:
  Alas! when I am far, the charm is gone--
  The lotus' loveliness is lost with set of sun.


    Small as the elephant cub thou must become
  For easy entrance; rest where gems enhance
    The glory of the hill beside my home,
  And peep into the house with lightning-glance,
  But make its brightness dim as fireflies' twinkling dance.


The Yaksha's bride.

    The supremest woman from God's workshop gone--
  Young, slender; little teeth and red, red lips,
    Slight waist and gentle eyes of timid fawn,
  An idly graceful movement, generous hips,
  Fair bosom into which the sloping shoulder slips--


    Like a bird that mourns her absent mate anew
  Passing these heavy days in longings keen,
    My girlish wife whose words are sweet and few,
  My second life, shall there of thee be seen--
  But changed like winter-blighted lotus-blooms, I ween.


    Her eyes are swol'n with tears that stream unchidden;
  Her lips turn pale with sorrow's burning sighs;
    The face that rests upon her hand is hidden
  By hanging curls, as when the glory dies
  Of the suffering moon pursued by thee through nightly skies.


The passion of love passes through ten stages, eight of which are suggested in this stanza and the stanzas which follow. The first stage is not indicated; it is called Exchange of Glances.

    Thou first wilt see her when she seeks relief
  In worship; or, half fancying, half recalling,
    She draws mine image worn by absent grief;
  Or asks the caged, sweetly-singing starling:
  "Do you remember, dear, our lord? You were his darling."


In this stanza and the preceding one is suggested the second stage: Wistfulness.

    Or holds a lute on her neglected skirt,
  And tries to sing of me, and tries in vain;
    For she dries the tear-wet string with hands inert,
  And e'er begins, and e'er forgets again,
  Though she herself composed it once, the loving strain.


Here is suggested the third stage: Desire.

    Or counts the months of absence yet remaining
  With flowers laid near the threshold on the floor,
    Or tastes the bliss of hours when love was gaining
  The memories recollected o'er and o'er--
  woman's comforts when her lonely heart is sore.


Here is suggested the fourth stage: Wakefulness.

    Such daytime labours doubtless ease the ache
  Which doubly hurts her in the helpless dark;
    With news from me a keener joy to wake,
  Stand by her window in the night, and mark
  My sleepless darling on her pallet hard and stark.


Here is suggested the fifth stage: Emaciation.

    Resting one side upon that widowed bed,
  Like the slender moon upon the Eastern height,
    So slender she, now worn with anguish dread,
  Passing with stifling tears the long, sad night
  Which, spent in love with me, seemed but a moment's flight.


Here is suggested the sixth stage: Loss of Interest in Ordinary Pleasures.

    On the cool, sweet moon that through the lattice flashes
  She looks with the old delight, then turns away
    And veils her eyes with water-weighted lashes,
  Sad as the flower that blooms in sunlight gay,
  But cannot wake nor slumber on a cloudy day.


Here is suggested the seventh stage: Loss of Youthful Bashfulness.

    One unanointed curl still frets her cheek
  When tossed by sighs that burn her blossom-lip;
    And still she yearns, and still her yearnings seek
  That we might be united though in sleep--
  Ah! Happy dreams come not to brides that ever weep.


Here is suggested the eighth stage: Absent-mindedness. For if she were not absent-minded, she would arrange the braid so as not to be annoyed by it.

    Her single tight-bound braid she pushes oft--
  With a hand uncared for in her lonely madness--
    So rough it seems, from the cheek that is so soft:
  That braid ungarlanded since the first day's sadness,
  Which I shall loose again when troubles end in gladness.


Here is suggested the ninth stage: Prostration. The tenth stage, Death, is not suggested.

    The delicate body, weak and suffering,
  Quite unadorned and tossing to and fro
    In oft-renewing wretchedness, will wring
  Even from thee a raindrop-tear, I know--
  Soft breasts like thine are pitiful to others' woe.


    I know her bosom full of love for me,
  And therefore fancy how her soul doth grieve
    In this our first divorce; it cannot be
  Self-flattery that idle boastings weave--
  Soon shalt thou see it all, and seeing, shalt believe.


Quivering of the eyelids

    Her hanging hair prevents the twinkling shine
  Of fawn-eyes that forget their glances sly,
    Lost to the friendly aid of rouge and wine--
  Yet the eyelids quiver when thou drawest nigh
  As water-lilies do when fish go scurrying by.


and trembling of the limbs are omens of speedy union with the beloved.

    And limbs that thrill to thee thy welcome prove,
  Limbs fair as stems in some rich plantain-bower,
    No longer showing marks of my rough love,
  Robbed of their cooling pearls by fatal power,
  The limbs which I was wont to soothe in passion's hour.


    But if she should be lost in happy sleep,
  Wait, bear with her, grant her but three hours' grace,
    And thunder not, O cloud, but let her keep
  The dreaming vision of her lover's face--
  Loose not too soon the imagined knot of that embrace.


    As thou wouldst wake the jasmine's budding wonder,
  Wake her with breezes blowing mistily;
    Conceal thy lightnings, and with words of thunder
  Speak boldly, though she answer haughtily
  With eyes that fasten on the lattice and on thee.


The cloud is instructed how to announce himself

    "Thou art no widow; for thy husband's friend
  Is come to tell thee what himself did say--
    A cloud with low, sweet thunder-tones that send
  All weary wanderers hastening on their way,
  Eager to loose the braids of wives that lonely stay."


in such a way as to win the favour of his auditor.

    Say this, and she will welcome thee indeed,
  Sweet friend, with a yearning heart's tumultuous beating
    And joy-uplifted eyes; and she will heed
  The after message: such a friendly greeting
  Is hardly less to woman's heart than lovers' meeting.


The message itself.

    Thus too, my king, I pray of thee to speak,
  Remembering kindness is its own reward;
    "Thy lover lives, and from the holy peak
  Asks if these absent days good health afford--
  Those born to pain must ever use this opening word.


    With body worn as thine, with pain as deep,
  With tears and ceaseless longings answering thine,
    With sighs more burning than the sighs that keep
  Thy lips ascorch--doomed far from thee to pine,
  He too doth weave the fancies that thy soul entwine.


    He used to love, when women friends were near,
  To whisper things he might have said aloud
    That he might touch thy face and kiss thine ear;
  Unheard and even unseen, no longer proud,
  He now must send this yearning message by a cloud.


According to the treatise called "Virtues Banner," a lover has four solaces in separation: first, looking at objects that remind him of her he loves;

    'I see thy limbs in graceful-creeping vines,
  Thy glances in the eyes of gentle deer,
    Thine eyebrows in the ripple's dancing lines,
  Thy locks in plumes, thy face in moonlight clear--
  Ah, jealous! But the whole sweet image is not here.


second, painting a picture of her;

    And when I paint that loving jealousy
  With chalk upon the rock, and my caress
    As at thy feet I lie, I cannot see
  Through tears that to mine eyes unbidden press--
  So stern a fate denies a painted happiness.


third, dreaming of her;

    And when I toss mine arms to clasp thee tight,
  Mine own though but in visions of a dream--
    They who behold the oft-repeated sight,
  The kind divinities of wood and stream,
  Let fall great pearly tears that on the blossoms gleam.


fourth, touching something which she has touched.

    Himalaya's breeze blows gently from the north,
  Unsheathing twigs upon the deodar
    And sweet with sap that it entices forth--
  I embrace it lovingly; it came so far,
  Perhaps it touched thee first, my life's unchanging star!


    Oh, might the long, long night seem short to me!
  Oh, might the day his hourly tortures hide!
    Such longings for the things that cannot be,
  Consume my helpless heart, sweet-glancing bride,
  In burning agonies of absence from thy side.


The bride is besought not to lose heart at hearing of her lover's wretchedness,

    Yet much reflection, dearest, makes me strong,
  Strong with an inner strength; nor shouldst thou feel
    Despair at what has come to us of wrong;
  Who has unending woe or lasting weal?
  Our fates move up and down upon a circling wheel.


and to remember that the curse has its appointed end, when the rainy season is over and the year of exile fulfilled. Vishnu spends the rainy months in sleep upon the back of the cosmic serpent Shesha.

    When Vishnu rises from his serpent bed
  The curse is ended; close thine eyelids tight
    And wait till only four months more are sped;
  Then we shall taste each long-desired delight
  Through nights that the full autumn moon illumines bright.


Then is added a secret which, as it could not possibly be known to a third person, assures her that the cloud is a true messenger.

    And one thing more: thou layest once asleep,
  Clasping my neck, then wakening with a scream;
    And when I wondered why, thou couldst but weep
  A while, and then a smile began to beam:
  "Rogue! Rogue! I saw thee with another girl in dream."


    This memory shows me cheerful, gentle wife;
  Then let no gossip thy suspicions move:
    They say the affections strangely forfeit life
  In separation, but in truth they prove
  Toward the absent dear, a growing bulk of tenderest love.'"


The Yaksha then begs the cloud to return with a message of comfort.

    Console her patient heart, to breaking full
  In our first separation; having spoken,
    Fly from the mountain ploughed by Shiva's bull;
  Make strong with message and with tender token
  My life, so easily, like morning jasmines, broken.


    I hope, sweet friend, thou grantest all my suit,
  Nor read refusal in thy solemn air;
    When thirsty birds complain, thou givest mute
  The rain from heaven: such simple hearts are rare,
  Whose only answer is fulfilment of the prayer.


and dismisses him, with a prayer for his welfare.

    Thus, though I pray unworthy, answer me
  For friendship's sake, or pity's, magnified
    By the sight of my distress; then wander free
  In rainy loveliness, and ne'er abide
  One moment's separation from thy lightning bride.