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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Faithfulness of Yudhisthira

By Sir Edwin Arnold (1832–1904)

From ‘The Great Journey,’ in the Mahābhārata

THENCEFORTH alone the long-armed monarch strode,

Not looking back,—nay, not for Bhima’s sake,—

But walking with his face set for the mount;

And the hound followed him,—only the hound.

After the deathly sands, the Mount; and lo!

Sâkra shone forth, the God, filling the earth

And heavens with thunder of his chariot-wheels.

“Ascend,” he said, “with me, Pritha’s great son!”

But Yudhisthira answered, sore at heart

For those his kinsfolk, fallen on the way:—

“O Thousand-eyed, O Lord of all the gods,

Give that my brothers come with me, who fell!

Not without them is Swarga sweet to me.

She, too, the dear and kind and queenly,—she

Whose perfect virtue Paradise must crown,—

Grant her to come with us! Dost thou grant this?”

The God replied:—“In heaven thou shalt see

Thy kinsman and the Queen—these will attain—

And Krishna. Grieve no longer for thy dead,

Thou chief of men! their mortal covering stripped,

These have their places: but to thee the gods

Allot an unknown grace; Thou shalt go up,

Living and in thy form, to the immortal homes.”

But the King answered:—“O thou Wisest One,

Who know’st what was, and is, and is to be,

Still one more grace! This hound hath ate with me,

Followed me, loved me: must I leave him now?”

“Monarch,” spake Indra, “thou art now as we,—

Deathless, divine; thou art become a god;

Glory and power and gifts celestial,

And all the joys of heaven are thine for aye:

What hath a beast with these? Leave here thy hound.”

Yet Yudhisthira answered:—“O Most High,

O, Thousand-eyed and wisest! can it be

That one exalted should seem pitiless?

Nay, let me lose such glory; for its sake

I cannot leave one living thing I loved.”

Then sternly Indra spake:—“He is unclean,

And into Swarga such shall enter not.

The Krodhavasha’s wrath destroys the fruits

Of sacrifice, if dogs defile the fire.

Bethink thee, Dharmaraj; quit now this beast!

That which is seemly is not hard of heart.”

Still he replied:—“’Tis written that to spurn

A suppliant equals in offense to slay

A twice-born; wherefore, not for Swarga’s bliss

Quit I, Mahendra, this poor clinging dog,—

So without any hope or friend save me,

So wistful, fawning for my faithfulness;

So agonized to die, unless I help

Who among men was called steadfast and just.”

Quoth Indra:—“Nay, the altar-flame is foul

Where a dog passeth; angry angels sweep

The ascending smoke aside, and all the fruits

Of offering, and the merit of the prayer

Of him whom a hound toucheth. Leave it here!

He that will enter heaven must enter pure.

Why didst thou quit thy brethren on the way,

And Krishna, and the dear-loved Draupadí,

Attaining, firm and glorious, to this Mount

Through perfect deeds, to linger for a brute?

Hath Yudhisthira vanquished self, to melt

With one poor passion at the door of bliss?

Stay’st thou for this, who didst not stay for them,—

Draupadí, Bhima?”

But the King yet spake:—

“’Tis known that none can hurt or help the dead.

They, the delightful ones, who sank and died,

Following my footsteps, could not live again

Though I had turned,—therefore I did not turn;

But could help profit, I had stayed to help.

There be four sins, O Sâkra, grievous sins:

The first is making suppliants despair,

The second is to slay a nursing wife,

The third is spoiling Brahmans’ goods by force,

The fourth is injuring an ancient friend.

These four I deem not direr than the crime,

If one, in coming forth from woe to weal,

Abandon any meanest comrade then.”

Straight as he spake, brightly great Indra smiled;

Vanished the hound, and in its stead stood there

The Lord of Death and Justice, Dharma’s self!

Sweet were the words which fell from those dread lips,

Precious the lovely praise:—“O thou true King,

Thou that dost bring to harvest the good seed

Of Pandu’s righteousness; thou that hast ruth

As he before, on all which lives!—O son!

I tried thee in the Dwaita wood, what time

They smote thy brothers, bringing water; then

Thou prayedst for Nakula’s life—tender and just—

Nor Bhima’s nor Arjuna’s, true to both,

To Madri as to Kunti, to both queens.

Hear thou my word! Because thou didst not mount

This car divine, lest the poor hound be shent

Who looked to thee, lo! there is none in heaven

Shall sit above thee, King!—Bhârata’s son!

Enter thou now to the eternal joys,

Living and in thy form. Justice and Love

Welcome thee, Monarch! thou shalt throne with us.”