THE PARIAH.

 

I.  THE PARIAH' S PRAYER.

DREADED Brama, lord of might!

All proceed from thee alone;
Thou art he who judgeth right!

Dost thou none but Brahmins own?
Do but Rajahs come from thee?

None but those of high estate?

Didst not thou the ape create,
Aye, and even such as we?

We are not of noble kind,

For with woe our lot is rife;
And what others deadly find

Is our only source of life.
Let this be enough for men,

Let them, if they will, despise us;

But thou, Brama, thou shouldst prize us,
All are equal in thy ken.

Now that, Lord, this prayer is said,

As thy child acknowledge me;
Or let one be born in-stead,

Who may link me on to thee!
Didst not thou a Bayadere

As a goddess heavenward raise?

And we too to swell thy praise,
Such a miracle would hear.

                                1821.
-----
II. LEGEND.

[The successful manner in which Goethe employs the simple
rhymeless trochaic metre in this and in many other Poems will
perhaps be remarked by the reader.]

WATER-FETCHING goes the noble
Brahmin's wife, so pure and lovely;
He is honour'd, void of blemish.
And of justice rigid, stern.
Daily from the sacred river
Brings she back refreshments precious;--
But where is the pail and pitcher?
She of neither stands in need.
For with pure heart, hands unsullied,
She the water lifts, and rolls it
To a wondrous ball of crystal
This she bears with gladsome bosom,
Modestly, with graceful motion,
To her husband in the house.

She to-day at dawn of morning
Praying comes to Ganges' waters,
Bends her o'er the glassy surface--
Sudden, in the waves reflected,
Flying swiftly far above her,
From the highest heavens descending,
She discerns the beauteous form
Of a youth divine, created
By the God's primeval wisdom
In his own eternal breast.

When she sees him, straightway feels she
Wondrous, new, confused sensations
In her inmost, deepest being;
Fain she'd linger o'er the vision,
Then repels it,--it returneth,--
And, perplex'd, she bends her flood-wards
With uncertain hands to draw it;
But, alas, she draws no more!
For the water's sacred billows
Seem to fly, to hasten from her;
She but sees the fearful chasm
Of a whirlpool black disclosed.

Arms drop down, and footsteps stumble,
Can this be the pathway homewards?
Shall she fly, or shall she tarry?
Can she think, when thought and counsel,
When assistance all are lost?
So before her spouse appears she--
On her looks he--look is judgment--
Proudly on the sword he seizes,
To the hill of death he drags her,
Where delinquents' blood pays forfeit.
What resistance could she offer?
What excuses could she proffer,
Guilty, knowing not her guilt?

And with bloody sword returns he,
Musing, to his silent dwelling,
When his son before him stands:
"Whose this blood? Oh, father! father!"
"The delinquent woman's!"--"Never!
For upon the sword it dries not,
Like the blood of the delinquent;
Fresh it flows, as from the wound.
Mother! mother! hither hasten!
Unjust never was my father,
Tell me what he now hath done."--
"Silence! silence! hers the blood is!"
"Whose, my father?"--"Silence! Silence!"
"What! oh what! my mother's blood!
What her crime? What did she? Answer!
Now, the sword! the sword now hold I;
Thou thy wife perchance might'st slaughter,
But my mother might'st not slay!
Through the flames the wife is able
Her beloved spouse to follow,
And his dear and only mother
Through the sword her faithful son."
"Stay! oh stay!" exclaim'd the father:
"Yet 'tis time, so hasten, hasten!
Join the head upon the body,
With the sword then touch the figure,
And, alive she'll follow thee."

Hastening, he, with breathless wonder,
Sees the bodies of two women
Lying crosswise, and their heads too;
Oh, what horror! which to choose!
Then his mother's head he seizes,--
Does not kiss it, deadly pale 'tis,--
On the nearest headless body
Puts it quickly, and then blesses
With the sword the pious work.
Then the giant form uprises,--
From the dear lips of his mother,
Lips all god-like--changeless--blissful,
Sound these words with horror fraught:
"Son, oh son! what overhast'ning!
Yonder is thy mother's body,
Near it lies the impious head
Of the woman who hath fallen
Victim to the judgment-sword!
To her body I am grafted
By thy hand for endless ages;
Wise in counsel, wild in action,
I shall be amongst the gods.
E'en the heav'nly boy's own image,
Though in eye and brow so lovely,
Sinking downwards to the bosom
Mad and raging lust will stir.

"'Twill return again for ever,
Ever rising, ever sinking,
Now obscured, and now transfigur'd,--
So great Brama hath ordain'd.
He 'twas sent the beauteous pinions,
Radiant face and slender members
Of the only God-begotten,
That I might be proved and tempted;
For from high descends temptation,
When the gods ordain it so.
And so I, the Brahmin woman,
With my head in Heaven reclining,
Must experience, as a Pariah,
The debasing power of earth.

Son, I send thee to thy father!
Comfort him! Let no sad penance,
Weak delay, or thought of merit,
Hold thee in the desert fast
Wander on through ev'ry nation,
Roam abroad throughout all ages,
And proclaim to e'en the meanest,
That great Brama hears his cry!

"None is in his eyes the meanest--
He whose limbs are lame and palsied,
He whose soul is wildly riven,
Worn with sorrow, hopeless, helpless,
Be he Brahmin, be he Pariah,
If tow'rd heaven he turns his gaze,
Will perceive, will learn to know it:
Thousand eyes are glowing yonder,
Thousand ears are calmly list'ning,
From which nought below is hid.

"If I to his throne soar upward,
If he sees my fearful figure
By his might transform'd to horror,
He for ever will lament it,--
May it to your good be found!
And I now will kindly warn him,
And I now will madly tell him
Whatsoe'er my mind conceiveth,
What within my bosom heaveth.
But my thoughts, my inmost feelings--
Those a secret shall remain."

                                1821.
-----
III.  THE PARIAH'S THANKS.

MIGHTY Brama, now I'll bless thee!

'Tis from thee that worlds proceed!
As my ruler I confess thee,

For of all thou takest heed.

All thy thousand ears thou keepest

Open to each child of earth;
We, 'mongst mortals sunk the deepest,

Have from thee received new birth.

Bear in mind the woman's story,

Who, through grief, divine became;
Now I'll wait to view His glory,

Who omnipotence can claim.

                                1821.
-----
DEATH-LAMENT OF THE NOBLE WIFE OF ASAN AGA.

[From the Morlack.)

WHAT is yonder white thing in the forest?
Is it snow, or can it swans perchance be?
Were it snow, ere this it had been melted,
Were it swans, they all away had hastend.
Snow, in truth, it is not, swans it is not,
'Tis the shining tents of Asan Aga.
He within is lying, sorely wounded;
To him come his mother and his sister;
Bashfully his wife delays to come there.
When the torment of his wounds had lessen'd,
To his faithful wife he sent this message:
"At my court no longer dare to tarry,
At my court, or e'en amongst my people."

When the woman heard this cruel message,
Mute and full of sorrow stood that true one.
At the doors she hears the feet of horses,
And bethinks that Asan comes--her husband,
To the tower she springs, to leap thence headlong,
Her two darling daughters follow sadly,
And whilst weeping bitter tears, exclaim they:
These are not our father Asan's horses;
'Tis thy brother Pintorowich coming!"

So the wife of Asan turns to meet him,
Clasps her arms in anguish round her brother:
"See thy sister's sad disgrace, oh brother!
How I'm banish'd--mother of five children!"
Silently her brother from his wallet,
Wrapp'd in deep red-silk, and ready written,
Draweth forth the letter of divorcement,
To return home to her mother's dwelling,
Free to be another's wife thenceforward.

When the woman saw that mournful letter,
Fervently she kiss'd her two sons' foreheads,
And her two girls' cheeks with fervour kiss'd she,
But she from the suckling in the cradle
Could not tear herself, so deep her sorrow!
So she's torn thence by her fiery brother,
On his nimble steed he lifts her quickly,
And so hastens, with the heart-sad woman,
Straightway tow'rd his father's lofty dwelling.

Short the time was--seven days had pass'd not,--
Yet enough 'twas; many mighty princes
Sought the woman in her widow's-mourning.
Sought the woman,--as their wife they sought her.
And the mightiest was Imoski's Cadi,
And the woman weeping begg'd her brother:
By thy life, my brother, I entreat thee,
Let me not another's wife be ever,
Lest my heart be broken at the image
Of my poor, my dearly-cherish'd children!"

To her prayer her brother would not hearken,
Fix'd to wed her to Imoski's Cadi.
Yet the good one ceaselessly implored him:
"Send, at least a letter, oh, my brother,
With this message to Imoski's Cadi:
'The young widow sends thee friendly greeting;
Earnestly she prays thee, through this letter,
That, when thou com'st hither, with thy Suatians,
A long veil thou'lt bring me, 'neath whose shadow
I may hide, when near the house of Asan,
And not see my dearly cherish'd orphans.'"

Scarcely had the Cadi read this letter,
Than he gather'd all his Suatians round him,
And then tow'rd the bride his course directed,
And the veil she ask'd for, took he with him.

Happily they reach'd the princess' dwelling,
From the dwelling happily they led her.
But when they approach'd the house of Asan,
Lo! the children saw from high their mother,
And they shouted: "To thy halls return thou!
Eat thy supper with thy darling children!"
Mournfully the wife of Asan heard it,
Tow'rd the Suatian prince then turn'd she, saying:
"Let, I pray, the Suatians and the horses
At the loved ones' door a short time tarry,
That I may give presents to my children."

And before the loved ones' door they tarried,
And she presents gave to her poor children,
To the boys gave gold-embroider'd buskins,
To the girls gave long and costly dresses,
To the suckling, helpless in the cradle,
Gave a garment, to be worn hereafter.

This aside saw Father Asan Aga,--
Sadly cried he to his darling children:
"Hither come, ye dear unhappy infants,
For your mother's breast is turn'd to iron,
Lock'd for ever, closed to all compassion!"

When the wife of Asan heard him speak thus,
On the ground, all pale and trembling, fell she,
And her spirit fled her sorrowing bosom,
When she saw her children flying from her.

                                1775.

 

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