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A History of Sanskrit Literature by MacDonell

While a bee thus mused within the calyx


Beside the lamp, the flaming hearth, In light of sun or moon and stars, Without my dear one's lustrous eyes This world is wholly dark to me.

At the same time he warns the unwary against reflecting over-much on female beauty--

Let not thy thoughts, O Wanderer, Roam in that forest, woman's form: For there a robber ever lurks, Ready to strike--the God of Love.

In another stanza the Indian Cupid appears as a fisherman, who, casting on the ocean of this world a hook called woman, quickly catches men as fishes eager for the bait of ruddy lips, and bakes them in the fire of love.

Strange are the contradictions in which the poet finds himself involved by loving a maiden--

Remembered she but causes pain; At sight of her my madness grows; When touched, she makes my senses reel: How, pray, can such an one be loved?

So towards the end of the Century the poet's heart begins to turn from the allurements of love. "Cease, maiden," he exclaims, "to cast thy glances on me: thy trouble is in vain. I am an altered man; youth has gone by and my thoughts are bent on the forest; my infatuation is over, and the whole world I now account but as a wisp of straw." Thus Bhartrihari prepares the way for his third collection, the "Century of Renunciation."

style="text-align: justify;">A short but charming treasury of detached erotic verses is the Cringara-tilaka, which tradition attributes to Kalidasa. In its twenty-three stanzas occur some highly imaginative analogies, worked out with much originality. In one of them, for instance, the poet asks how it comes that a maiden, whose features and limbs resemble various tender flowers, should have a heart of stone. In another he compares his mistress to a hunter--

This maiden like a huntsman is; Her brow is like the bow he bends; Her sidelong glances are his darts; My heart's the antelope she slays.

The most important lyrical work of this kind is the Amarucataka, or "Hundred stanzas of Amaru." The author is a master in the art of painting lovers in all their moods, bliss and dejection, anger and devotion. He is especially skilful in depicting the various stages of estrangement and reconciliation. It is remarkable how, with a subject so limited, in situations and emotions so similar, the poet succeeds in arresting the attention with surprising turns of thought, and with subtle touches which are ever new. The love which Amaru as well as other Indian lyrists portrays is not of the romantic and ideal, but rather of the sensuous type. Nevertheless his work often shows delicacy of feeling and refinement of thought. Such, for instance, is the case when he describes a wife watching in the gloaming for the return of her absent husband.

Many lyrical gems are to be found preserved in the Sanskrit treatises on poetics. One such is a stanza on the red acoka. In this the poet asks the tree to say whither his mistress has gone; it need not shake its head in the wind, as if to say it did not know; for how could it be flowering so brilliantly had it not been touched by the foot of his beloved? [12]

In all this lyrical poetry the plant and animal world plays an important part and is treated with much charm. Of flowers, the lotus is the most conspicuous. One of these stanzas, for example, describes the day-lotuses as closing their calyx-eyes in the evening, because unwilling to see the sun, their spouse and benefactor, sink down bereft of his rays. Another describes with pathetic beauty the dream of a bee: "The night will pass, the fair dawn will come, the sun will rise, the lotuses will laugh;" while a bee thus mused within the calyx, an elephant, alas! tore up the lotus plant.


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