As still Savitri sat beside Her husband dying,--dying fast, She saw a stranger slowly glide Beneath the boughs that shrunk aghast. Upon his head he wore a crown That shimmered in the doubtful light; His vestment scarlet reached low down, His waist, a golden girdle dight. His skin was dark as bronze; his face Irradiate, and yet severe; His eyes had much of love and grace, But glowed so bright, they filled with fear. A string was in the stranger's hand Noosed at its end. Her terrors now Savitri scarcely could command. Upon the sod beneath a bough, She gently laid her husband's head, And in obeisance bent her brow. "No mortal form is thine,"--she said, "Beseech thee say what god art thou? And what can be thine errand here?" "Savitri, for thy prayers, thy faith, Thy frequent vows, thy fasts severe, I answer,--list,--my name is Death. "And I am come myself to take Thy husband from this earth away, And he shall cross the doleful lake In my own charge, and let me say To few such honours I accord, But his pure life and thine require No less from me." The dreadful sword Like lightning glanced one moment dire; And then the inner man was tied, The soul no bigger than the thumb, To be borne onwards by his side:-- Savitri all the while stood dumb. But when the god moved slowly on To gain his own dominions dim, Leaving the body there--anon Savitri meekly followed him, Hoping against all hope; he turned And looked surprised. "Go back, my child!" Pale, pale the stars above them burned, More weird the scene had grown and wild; "It is not for the living--hear! To follow where the dead must go, Thy duty lies before thee clear, What thou shouldst do, the Shasters show. "The funeral rites that they ordain And sacrifices must take up Thy first sad moments; not in vain Is held to thee this bitter cup; Its lessons thou shall learn in time! All that thou canst do, thou hast done For thy dear lord. Thy love sublime My deepest sympathy hath won. Return, for thou hast come as far As living creature may. Adieu! Let duty be thy guiding star, As ever. To thyself be true!" "Where'er my husband dear is led, Or journeys of his own free will, I too must go, though darkness spread Across my path, portending ill, 'Tis thus my duty I have read! If I am wrong, oh! with me bear; But do not bid me backward tread My way forlorn,--for I can dare All things but that; ah! pity me, A woman frail, too sorely tried! And let me, let me follow thee, O gracious god,--whate'er betide. "By all things sacred, I entreat, By Penitence that purifies, By prompt Obedience, full, complete, To spiritual masters, in the eyes Of gods so precious, by the love I bear my husband, by the faith That looks from earth to heaven above, And by thy own great name O Death, And all thy kindness, bid me not To leave thee, and to go my way, But let me follow as I ought Thy steps and his, as best I may. "I know that in this transient world All is delusion,--nothing true; I know its shows are mists unfurled To please and vanish. To renew Its bubble joys, be magic bound In Maya's network frail and fair, Is not my aim! The gladsome sound Of husband, brother, friend, is air To such as know that all must die, And that at last the time must come, When eye shall speak no more to eye And Love cry,--Lo, this is my sum. "I know in such a world as this No one can gain his heart's desire, Or pass the years in perfect bliss; Like gold we must be tried by fire; And each shall suffer as he acts And thinks,--his own sad burden bear; No friends can help,--his sins are facts That nothing can annul or square, And he must bear their consequence. Can I my husband save by rites? Ah, no,--that were a vain pretence, Justice eternal strict requites. "He for his deeds shall get his due As I for mine: thus here each soul Is its own friend if it pursue The right, and run straight for the goal; But its own worst and direst foe If it choose evil, and in tracks Forbidden, for its pleasure go. Who knows not this, true wisdom lacks, Virtue should be the turn and end Of every life, all else is vain, Duty should be its dearest friend If higher life, it would attain." "So sweet thy words ring on mine ear, Gentle Savitri, that I fain Would give some sign to make it clear Thou hast not prayed to me in vain. Satyavan's life I may not grant, Nor take before its term thy life, But I am not all adamant, I feel for thee, thou faithful wife! Ask thou aught else, and let it be Some good thing for thyself or thine, And I shall give it, child, to thee, If any power on earth be mine." "Well be it so. My husband's sire, Hath lost his sight and fair domain, Give to his eyes their former fire, And place him on his throne again." "It shall be done. Go back, my child, The hour wears late, the wind feels cold, The path becomes more weird and wild, Thy feet are torn, there's blood, behold! Thou feelest faint from weariness, Oh try to follow me no more; Go home, and with thy presence bless Those who thine absence there deplore." "No weariness, O Death, I feel, And how should I, when by the side Of Satyavan? In woe and weal To be a helpmate swears the bride. This is my place; by solemn oath Wherever thou conductest him I too must go, to keep my troth; And if the eye at times should brim, 'Tis human weakness, give me strength My work appointed to fulfil, That I may gain the crown at length The gods give those who do their will. "The power of goodness is so great We pray to feel its influence For ever on us. It is late, And the strange landscape awes my sense; But I would fain with thee go on, And hear thy voice so true and kind; The false lights that on objects shone Have vanished, and no longer blind, Thanks to thy simple presence. Now I feel a fresher air around, And see the glory of that brow With flashing rubies fitly crowned. "Men call thee Yama--conqueror, Because it is against their will They follow thee,--and they abhor The Truth which thou wouldst aye instil. If they thy nature knew aright, O god, all other gods above! And that thou conquerest in the fight By patience, kindness, mercy, love, And not by devastating wrath, They would not shrink in childlike fright To see thy shadow on their path, But hail thee as sick souls the light." "Thy words, Savitri, greet mine ear As sweet as founts that murmur low To one who in the deserts drear With parchèd tongue moves faint and slow, Because thy talk is heart-sincere, Without hypocrisy or guile; Demand another boon, my dear, But not of those forbad erewhile, And I shall grant it, ere we part: Lo, the stars pale,--the way is long, Receive thy boon, and homewards start, For ah, poor child, thou art not strong." "Another boon! My sire the king Beside myself hath children none, Oh grant that from his stock may spring A hundred boughs." "It shall be done. He shall be blest with many a son Who his old palace shall rejoice." "Each heart-wish from thy goodness won, If I am still allowed a choice, I fain thy voice would ever hear, Reluctant am I still to part, The way seems short when thou art near And Satyavan, my heart's dear heart. "Of all the pleasures given on earth The company of the good is best, For weariness has never birth In such a commerce sweet and blest; The sun runs on its wonted course, The earth its plenteous treasure yields, All for their sake, and by the force Their prayer united ever wields. Oh let me, let me ever dwell Amidst the good, where'er it be, Whether in lowly hermit-cell Or in some spot beyond the sea. "The favours man accords to men Are never fruitless, from them rise A thousand acts beyond our ken That float like incense to the skies; For benefits can ne'er efface, They multiply and widely spread, And honour follows on their trace. Sharp penances, and vigils dread, Austerities, and wasting fasts, Create an empire, and the blest Long as this spiritual empire lasts Become the saviours of the rest." "O thou endowed with every grace And every virtue,--thou whose soul Appears upon thy lovely face, May the great gods who all control Send thee their peace. I too would give One favour more before I go; Ask something for thyself, and live Happy, and dear to all below, Till summoned to the bliss above. Savitri ask, and ask unblamed."-- She took the clue, felt Death was Love, For no exceptions now he named, And boldly said,--"Thou knowest, Lord, The inmost hearts and thoughts of all! There is no need to utter word, Upon thy mercy sole, I call. If speech be needful to obtain Thy grace,--oh hear a wife forlorn, Let my Satyavan live again And children unto us be born, Wise, brave, and valiant." "From thy stock A hundred families shall spring As lasting as the solid rock, Each son of thine shall be a king." As thus he spoke, he loosed the knot The soul of Satyavan that bound, And promised further that their lot In pleasant places should be found Thenceforth, and that they both should live Four centuries, to which the name Of fair Savitri, men would give,-- And then he vanished in a flame. "Adieu, great god!" She took the soul, No bigger than the human thumb, And running swift, soon reached her goal, Where lay the body stark and dumb. She lifted it with eager hands And as before, when he expired, She placed the head upon the bands That bound her breast which hope new-fired, And which alternate rose and fell; Then placed his soul upon his heart Whence like a bee it found its cell, And lo, he woke with sudden start! His breath came low at first, then deep, With an unquiet look he gazed, As one awaking from a sleep Wholly bewildered and amazed.