The Cloud-Messenger contains one hundred and fifteen four-line stanzas, in a majestic metre called the “slow-stepper.” The English stanza which has been chosen for the translation gives perhaps as fair a representation of the original movement as may be, where direct imitation is out of the question. Though the stanza of the translation has five lines to four for the slow-stepper, it contains fewer syllables; a constant check on the temptation to padding.
The analysis which accompanies the poem, and which is inserted in Italics at the beginning of each stanza, has more than one object. It saves footnotes; it is intended as a real help to comprehension; and it is an eminently Hindu device. Indeed, it was my first intention to translate literally portions of Mallinatha’s famous commentary; and though this did not prove everywhere feasible, there is nothing in the analysis except matter suggested by the commentary.
One minor point calls for notice. The word Himalaya has been accented on the second syllable wherever it occurs. This accent is historically correct, and has some foothold in English usage; besides, it is more euphonious and better adapted to the needs of the metre.
A Yaksha, or divine attendant on Kubera, god of wealth, is exiled for a year from his home in the Himalayas. As he dwells on a peak in the Vindhya range, half India separates him from his young bride.
On Rama’s shady peak
where hermits roam,
Mid streams by Sita’s bathing sanctified,
An erring Yaksha made his hapless home,
Doomed by his master humbly to abide,
And spend a long, long year of absence from his bride.
After eight months of growing emaciation, the first cloud warns him of the approach of the rainy season, when neglected brides are wont to pine and die.
Some months were gone; the
lonely lover’s pain
Had loosed his golden bracelet day by day
Ere he beheld the harbinger of rain,
A cloud that charged the peak in mimic fray,
As an elephant attacks a bank of earth in play.
Before this cause of lovers’
hopes and fears
Long time Kubera’s bondman sadly bowed
In meditation, choking down his tears—
Even happy hearts thrill strangely to the cloud;
To him, poor wretch, the loved embrace was disallowed.
Unable to send tidings otherwise of his health and unchanging love, he resolves to make the cloud his messenger.
Longing to save his darling’s
With joyous tidings, through the rainy days,
He plucked fresh blossoms for his cloudy guest,
Such homage as a welcoming comrade pays,
And bravely spoke brave words of greeting and of praise.
Nor did it pass the lovelorn
How all unfitly might his message mate
With a cloud, mere fire and water, smoke and wind—
Ne’er yet was lover could discriminate
’Twixt life and lifeless things, in his love-blinded state.