My arrow, flying when the bow is bent,
Shall slay the wretch and spare the innocent;
When milk is mixed with water in a cup,
Swans leave the water, and the milk drink up.
(He takes aim. Enter MATALI and the clown.)
Matali. O King, as Indra, king of the gods, commands,
Seek foes among the evil powers alone;
For them your bow should bend;
Not cruel shafts, but glances soft and kind
Should fall upon a friend.
King (hastily withdrawing the arrow). It is Matali. Welcome to the charioteer of heaven’s king.
Clown. Well! He came within an inch of butchering me. And you welcome him.
Matali (smiling). Hear, O King, for what purpose Indra sends me to you.
King. I am all attention.
Matali. There is a host of demons who call themselves Invincible—the brood of Kalanemi.
King. So Narada has told me.
Heaven’s king is powerless; you
His foes in battle soon;
Darkness that overcomes the day,
Is scattered by the moon.
Take your bow at once, enter my heavenly chariot, and set forth for victory.
King. I am grateful for the honour which Indra shows me. But why did you act thus toward Madhavya?
Matali. I will tell you. I saw that you were overpowered by some inner sorrow, and acted thus to rouse you. For
The spurned snake will swell his hood;
Fire blazes when ’tis stirred;
Brave men are roused to fighting mood
By some insulting word.
King. Friend Madhavya, I must obey the bidding of heaven’s king. Go, acquaint the minister Pishuna with the matter, and add these words of mine:
Your wisdom only shall control
The kingdom for a time;
My bow is strung; a distant goal
Calls me, and tasks sublime.
Clown. Very well. (Exit.)
Matali. Enter the chariot. (The king does so. Exeunt omnes.)
(Enter, in a chariot that flies through the air, the king and MATALI.)
King. Matali, though I have done what Indra commanded, I think myself an unprofitable servant, when I remember his most gracious welcome.
Matali. O King, know that each considers himself the other’s debtor. For
You count the service given
Small by the welcome paid,
Which to the king of heaven
Seems mean for such brave aid.
King. Ah, no! For the honour given me at parting went far beyond imagination. Before the gods, he seated me beside him on his throne. And then
He smiled, because his son Jayanta’s
Beat quicker, by the self-same wish oppressed,
And placed about my neck the heavenly wreath
Still fragrant from the sandal on his breast.