Translations of Shakuntala and Other Works eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 243 pages of information about Translations of Shakuntala and Other Works.

If we compare The Dynasty of Raghu with Kalidasa’s other books, we find it inferior to The Birth of the War-god in unity of plot, inferior to Shakuntala in sustained interest, inferior to The Cloud-Messenger in perfection of every detail.  Yet passages in it are as high and sweet as anything in these works.  And over it is shed the magic charm of Kalidasa’s style.  Of that it is vain to speak.  It can be had only at first hand.  The final proof that The Dynasty of Raghu is a very great poem, is this:  no one who once reads it can leave it alone thereafter.{}


[Footnote 1:  If a king aspired to the title of emperor, or king of kings, he was at liberty to celebrate the horse-sacrifice.  A horse was set free to wander at will for a year, and was escorted by a band of noble youths who were not permitted to interfere with his movements.  If the horse wandered into the territory of another king, such king must either submit to be the vassal of the horse’s owner, or must fight him.  If the owner of the horse received the submission, with or without fighting, of all the kings into whose territories the horse wandered during the year of freedom, he offered the horse in sacrifice and assumed the imperial title.]

[Footnote 2:  This is not the place to discuss the many interesting questions of geography and ethnology suggested by the fourth canto.  But it is important to notice that Kalidasa had at least superficial knowledge of the entire Indian peninsula and of certain outlying regions.]

[Footnote 3:  A girl of the warrior caste had the privilege of choosing her husband.  The procedure was this.  All the eligible youths of the neighbourhood were invited to her house, and were lavishly entertained.  On the appointed day, they assembled in a hall of the palace, and the maiden entered with a garland in her hand.  The suitors were presented to her with some account of their claims upon her attention, after which she threw the garland around the neck of him whom she preferred.]

[Footnote 4:  See footnote, p. 128.]

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The Birth of the War-god is an epic poem in seventeen cantos.  It consists of 1096 stanzas, or about 4400 lines of verse.  The subject is the marriage of the god Shiva, the birth of his son, and the victory of this son over a powerful demon.  The story was not invented by Kalidasa, but taken from old mythology.  Yet it had never been told in so masterly a fashion as had been the story of Rama’s deeds by Valmiki.  Kalidasa is therefore under less constraint in writing this epic than in writing The Dynasty of Raghu.  I give first a somewhat detailed analysis of the matter of the poem.

First canto.  The birth of Parvati.—­The poem begins with a description of the great Himalaya mountain-range.

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Translations of Shakuntala and Other Works from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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