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

Rādhā and Krishna

By Jayadeva (c. Twelfth Century)

From ‘Gīta-Govinda’: Translation of Sir William Jones

I. 7.RĀDHĀ long sought her love Krishna in vain, and her thoughts were confounded by the fever of desire; she roved in the vernal morning among the twining Vāsantis covered with soft blossoms, when a damsel thus addressed her with youthful hilarity: “The gale that has wantoned round the beautiful clove-plants breathes now from the hills of Malaya; the circling arbors resound with the notes of the Kokila [cuckoo] and the murmurs of the honey-making swarms. Now the hearts of damsels whose lovers travel at a distance are pierced with anguish; while the blossoms of Bakul are conspicuous among the flowerets covered with bees. The Tamāla, with leaves dark and odorous, claims a tribute from the musk which it vanquishes; and the clustering flowers of the Palāça resemble the nails of Kāma [Cupid], with which he rends the hearts of the young. The full-blown Keçara gleams like the sceptre of the world’s monarch, Love; and the pointed Thyrse of the Ketaka resembles the darts by which lovers are wounded. See the bunches of the Pātali-flowers [trumpet flowers] filled with bees, like the quiver of Smara full of shafts; while the tender blossom of the Karuna smiles to see the whole world laying shame aside. The far-scented Mādhavī [spring creeper] beautifies the trees round which it twines; and the fresh Mallikā [jasmine] seduces with rich perfume even the hearts of hermits; while the Amra-tree with blooming tresses is embraced by the gay creeper Atimucta, and the blue streams of Yamunā wind round the groves of Vrindāvan. In this charming season, which gives pain to separated lovers, young Krishna sports and dances with young damsels.”

[The jealous Rādhā gives no answer, and the maid continues by describing how the forgetful Krishna disports with the gay shepherdesses.]

I. 12.“With a garland of wild flowers descending even to the yellow mantle that girds his azure limbs, distinguished by smiling cheeks and by earrings that sparkle as he plays, Krishna exults in the assemblage of amorous damsels. One of them presses him to her swelling breast, while she warbles with exquisite melody. Another, affected by a glance from his eye, stands meditating on the lotos of his face. A third, on pretense of whispering a secret in his ear, approaches his temples and kisses them with ardor. One seizes his mantle and draws him toward her, pointing to the bower on the banks of Yamunā, where elegant Vanjulas interweave their branches. He applauds another, who dances in the sportive circle, whilst her bracelets ring and she beats time with her palms. Now he caresses one, and kisses another, smiling on a third with complacency; and now he chases her whose beauty has most allured him. Thus the wanton Krishna frolics, in the season of sweets, among the maids of Vraja, who rush to his embraces as if he were Pleasure itself assuming a human form; and one of them, under a pretext of hymning his divine perfections, whispers in his ear: ‘Thy lips, my beloved, are nectar.’”

II. 1.Rādhā remains in the forest: but resenting the promiscuous passion of Krishna, and his neglect of her beauty which he once thought superior, she retires to a bower of twining plants, the summit of which resounds with the humming of swarms engaged in their sweet labors; and there, falling languid on the ground, she thus addresses her female companion: “Though he take recreation in my absence, and smile on all around him, yet my soul remembers him.”

[And the deserving and grieving Rādhā portrays in fairest colors the depth of her love for the errant Krishna, and she begs the maid to bring him to her bower.]

III. 1. Meantime the destroyer of Kansa, having brought to his remembrance the amiable Rādhā, forsook the beautiful damsels of Vraja: he sought his devoted Rādhā in all parts of the forest; his old wound from love’s arrow bled again; he repented his levity, and seated in a bower near the bank of the Yamunā, the blue daughter of the sun, thus poured forth his lamentation.

“She is departed: she saw me, no doubt, surrounded by the wanton shepherdesses; yet, conscious of my fault, I durst not intercept her flight. Woe is me! She feels a sense of injured honor, and is departed in wrath. How will she conduct herself? How will she express her pain in so long a separation? What is wealth to me? What are numerous attendants? What are the pleasures of the world? What joy can I receive from a heavenly abode? I seem to behold her face with eyebrows contracting themselves through her just resentment; it resembles a fresh lotos over which two black bees are fluttering: I seem, so present is she to my imagination, even now to caress her with eagerness. Why then do I seek her in this forest? Why do I lament without cause? O slender damsel! anger, I know, has torn thy soft bosom; but whither thou art retired I know not. How can I invite thee to return? Thou art seen by me, indeed, in a vision; thou seemest to move before me. Ah! why dost thou not rush, as before, to my embrace? Do but forgive me: never again will I commit a similar offense. Grant me but a sight of thee, O lovely Rādhā, for my passion torments me.”

IV. 1. The damsel [as confidante] commissioned by Rādhā [to seek the erring Krishna] found the disconsolate god under an arbor of spreading Vaniras by the side of Yamunā; where, presenting herself gracefully before him, she thus described the affliction of his beloved:—

“She despises essence of sandalwood, and even by moonlight sits brooding over her gloomy sorrow; she declares the gale of Malaya to be venom, and the sandal-trees through which it has breathed to have been the haunt of serpents. Thus, O Mādhava, is she afflicted in thy absence with the pain which love’s dart has occasioned; her soul is fixed on thee. Fresh arrows of desire are continually assailing her, and she forms a net of lotos-leaves as armor for her heart, which thou alone shouldst fortify. She makes her own bed of the arrows darted by the flowery-shafted god; but when she hoped for thy embrace, she had formed for thee a couch of soft blossoms. Her face is like a water-lily veiled in the dews of tears, and her eyes appear like moons eclipsed.”

[Krishna now sends a message in return by the damsel, who pictures to Rādhā the longing of her lover’s heart as follows:—]

V. 2.“Whilst a sweet breeze from the hills of Malaya comes wafting on his plumes the young god of Desire; while many a flower points his extended petals to pierce the bosoms of separated lovers, the deity crowned with sylvan blossoms laments, O friend, in thy absence. Even the dewy rays of the moon burn him; and as the shaft of love is descending, he mourns inarticulately with increasing distraction. When the bees murmur softly, he covers his ears; misery sits fixed in his heart, and every returning night adds anguish to anguish. He quits his radiant palace for the wild forest, where he sinks on a bed of cold clay, and frequently mutters thy name. In yon bower, to which the pilgrims of love are used to repair, he meditates on thy form, repeating in silence some enchanting word which once dropped from thy lips, and thirsting for the nectar which they alone can supply. Delay not, O loveliest of women; follow the lord of thy heart: behold, he seeks the appointed shade, bright with the ornaments of love, and confident of the promised bliss. Having bound his locks with forest flowers, he hastens to yon arbor, where a soft gale breathes over the banks of Yamunā; there, again pronouncing thy name, he modulates his divine reed. Oh! with what rapture doth he gaze on the golden dust which the breeze shakes from expanded blossoms; the breeze which has kissed thy cheek! With a mind languid as a dropping wing, feeble as a trembling leaf, he doubtfully expects thy approach, and timidly looks on the path which thou must tread.”

[The damsel returns, and narrates to Krishna the love-born misery and weakness of Rādhā.]

VI. 1.“She mourns, O sovereign of the world, in her verdant bower; she looks eagerly on all sides in hope of thy approach; then, gaining strength from the delightful idea of the proposed meeting, she advances a few steps, and falls languid on the ground. When she rises, she weaves bracelets of fresh leaves; she dresses herself like her beloved, and looking at herself in sport, exclaims, ‘Behold the vanquisher of Madhu!’ Then she repeats again and again the name of Krishna, and catching at a dark blue cloud, strives to embrace it, saying, ‘It is my beloved who approaches.’ Thus, while thou art dilatory, she lies expecting thee; she mourns; she weeps; she puts on her gayest ornaments to receive her lord.”

VII. 1.By this time the moon spread out a net of beams over the groves of Vrindāvan, and looked like a drop of liquid sandal on the face of the sky, which smiled like a beautiful damsel; while its orb with many spots betrayed, as it were, a consciousness of guilt, in having often attended amorous maids to the loss of their family honor. The moon, with a black fawn couched on its disk, advanced in its nightly course; but Mādhava had not advanced to the bower of Rādhā, who thus bewailed his delay with notes of varied lamentation.

VII. 3.“The appointed moment is come; but Krishna, alas! comes not to the grove. Must the season of my unblemished youth pass thus idly away? Oh! what refuge can I seek, deluded as I am by the guile of my female adviser? The god with five arrows has wounded my heart; and I am deserted by him for whose sake I have sought at night the darkest recess of the forest. Since my best beloved friends have deceived me, it is my wish to die; since my senses are disordered, and my bosom is on fire, why stay I longer in this world?”

[And as Krishna does not accompany the damsel, Rādhā supposes him to be false; and fired by jealousy, she passes in anguish a sleepless night imagining her Krishna reposing in a rival’s arms.]

VII. 5.Her form is transfigured by the touch of her divine lover; her garland quivers over her swelling bosom; her face like the moon is graced with clouds of dark hair, and trembles, while she quaffs the nectarous dew on his lip; her bright earrings dance over her cheeks, which they radiate; and the small bells on her girdle tinkle as she moves.

[But Krishna is faithful now to his true love, whom he fears he has lost. His prolonged trial is at an end, and penitent he seeks Rādhā and falls weeping at her feet.]

X. 2.“Speak but one mild word, and the rays of thy sparkling teeth will dispel the gloom of my fears. My trembling lips, like thirsty Chakoras, long to drink the moonbeams of thy cheek. O my darling, who art naturally so tender-hearted, abandon thy causeless indignation. At this moment the flame of desire consumes my heart: oh, grant me a draught of honey from the lotos of thy mouth! Or, if thou beëst inexorable, grant me death from the arrows of thy keen eyes; make thy arms my chains; and punish me according to thy pleasure. Thou art my life; thou art my ornament; thou art a pearl in the ocean of my mortal birth: oh! be favorable now, and my heart shall eternally be grateful.”

[And the reconciliation takes place in a beautiful moonlit bower, as described above.]