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

Grishma; or The Season of Heat

By Sir Edwin Arnold (1832–1904)

Translated from Kālidāsa’s ‘Ritu Sanhâra’

WITH fierce noons beaming, moons of glory gleaming,

Full conduits streaming, where fair bathers lie,

With sunsets splendid, when the strong day, ended,

Melts into peace, like a tired lover’s sigh—

So cometh summer nigh.

And nights of ebon blackness, laced with lustres

From starry clusters; courts of calm retreat,

Where wan rills warble over glistening marble;

Cold jewels, and the sandal, moist and sweet—

These for the time are meet

Of “Suchi,” dear one of the bright days, bringing

Love songs for singing which all hearts enthrall,

Wine cups that sparkle at the lips of lovers,

Odors and pleasures in the palace hall:

In “Suchi” these befall.

For then, with wide hips richly girt, and bosoms

Fragrant with blossoms, and with pearl strings gay,

Their new-laved hair unbound, and spreading round

Faint scents, the palace maids in tender play

The ardent heats allay

Of princely playmates. Through the gates their feet,

With lac-dye rosy and neat, and anklets ringing,

In music trip along, echoing the song

Of wild swans, all men’s hearts by subtle singing

To Kama’s service bringing;

For who, their sandal-scented breasts perceiving,

Their white pearls—weaving with the saffron stars

Girdles and diadems—their gold and gems

Linked upon waist and thigh, in Love’s soft snares

Is not caught unawares?

Then lay they by their robes—no longer light

For the warm midnight—and their beauty cover

With woven veil too airy to conceal

Its dew-pearled softness; so, with youth clad over,

Each seeks her eager lover.

And sweet airs winnowed from the sandal fans,

Faint balm that nests between those gem-bound breasts,

Voices of stream and bird, and clear notes heard

From vina strings amid the songs’ unrests,

Wake passion. With light jests,

And sidelong glances, and coy smiles and dances,

Each maid enhances newly sprung delight;

Quick leaps the fire of Love’s divine desire,

So kindled in the season when the Night

With broadest moons is bright;

Till on the silvered terraces, sleep-sunken,

With Love’s draughts drunken, those close lovers lie;

And—all for sorrow there shall come To-morrow—

The Moon, who watched them, pales in the gray sky,

While the still Night doth die.


THEN breaks fierce Day! The whirling dust is driven

O’er earth and heaven, until the sun-scorched plain

Its road scarce shows for dazzling heat to those

Who, far from home and love, journey in pain,

Longing to rest again.

Panting and parched, with muzzles dry and burning,

For cool streams yearning, herds of antelope

Haste where the brassy sky, banked black and high,

Hath clouded promise. “There will be”—they hope—

“Water beyond the tope!”

Sick with the glare, his hooded terrors failing,

His slow coils trailing o’er the fiery dust,

The cobra glides to nighest shade, and hides

His head beneath the peacock’s train: he must

His ancient foeman trust!

The purple peafowl, wholly overmastered

By the red morning, droop with weary cries;

No stroke they make to slay that gliding snake

Who creeps for shelter underneath the eyes

Of their spread jewelries!

The jungle lord, the kingly tiger, prowling,

For fierce thirst howling, orbs a-stare and red,

Sees without heed the elephants pass by him,

Lolls his lank tongue, and hangs his bloody head,

His mighty forces fled.

Nor heed the elephants that tiger, plucking

Green leaves, and sucking with a dry trunk dew;

Tormented by the blazing day, they wander,

And, nowhere finding water, still renew

Their search—a woful crew!

With restless snout rooting the dark morasses,

Where reeds and grasses on the soft slime grow,

The wild-boars, grunting ill-content and anger,

Dig lairs to shield them from the torturing glow,

Deep, deep as they can go.

The frog, for misery of his pool departing—

’Neath that flame-darting ball—and waters drained

Down to their mud, crawls croaking forth, to cower

Under the black-snake’s coils, where there is gained

A little shade; and, strained

To patience by such heat, scorching the jewel

Gleaming so cruel on his venomous head,

That worm, whose tongue, as the blast burns along,

Licks it for coolness—all discomfited—

Strikes not his strange friend dead!

The pool, with tender-growing cups of lotus

Once brightly blowing, hath no blossoms more!

Its fish are dead, its fearful cranes are fled,

And crowding elephants its flowery shore

Tramp to a miry floor.

With foam-strings roping from his jowls, and dropping

From dried drawn lips, horns laid aback, and eyes

Mad with the drouth, and thirst-tormented mouth,

Down-thundering from his mountain cavern flies

The bison in wild wise,

Questing a water channel. Bare and scrannel

The trees droop, where the crows sit in a row

With beaks agape. The hot baboon and ape

Climb chattering to the bush. The buffalo

Bellows. And locusts go

Choking the wells. Far o’er the hills and dells

Wanders th’ affrighted eye, beholding blasted

The pleasant grass: the forest’s leafy mass

Wilted; its waters waned; its grace exhausted;

Its creatures wasted.

Then leaps to view—blood-red and bright of hue—

As blooms sprung new on the Kusumbha-Tree—

The wild-fire’s tongue, fanned by the wind, and flung

Furiously forth; the palms, canes, brakes, you see

Wrapped in one agony

Of lurid death! The conflagration, driven

In fiery levin, roars from jungle caves;

Hisses and blusters through the bamboo clusters,

Crackles across the curling grass, and drives

Into the river waves

The forest folk! Dreadful that flame to see

Coil from the cotton-tree—a snake of gold—

Violently break from root and trunk, to take

The bending boughs and leaves in deadly hold

Then passing—to enfold

New spoils! In herds, elephants, jackals, pards,

For anguish of such fate their enmity

Laying aside, burst for the river wide

Which flows between fair isles: in company

As friends they madly flee!


BUT Thee, my Best Beloved! may “Suchi” visit fair

With songs of secret waters cooling the quiet air,

Under blue buds of lotus beds, and pâtalas which shed

Fragrance and balm, while Moonlight weaves over thy happy head

Its silvery veil! So Nights and Days of Summer pass for thee

Amid the pleasure-palaces, with love and melody!