Chitra, a Play in One Act
Scanned and edited by Elliot S. Wheeler, email@example.com
MRS. WILLIAM VAUGHN MOODY
THIS lyrical drama was written about twenty-five years ago. It
is based on the following story from the Mahabharata.
In the course of his wanderings, in fulfilment of a vow of
penance, Arjuna came to Manipur. There he saw Chitrangada, the
beautiful daughter of Chitravahana, the king of the country.
Smitten with her charms, he asked the king for the hand of his
daughter in marriage. Chitravahana asked him who he was, and
learning that he was Arjuna the Pandara, told him that Prabhanjana,
one of his ancestors in the kingly line of Manipur, had long been
childless. In order to obtain an heir, he performed severe
penances. Pleased with these austerities, the god Shiva gave him
this boon, that he and his successors should each have one child.
It so happened that the promised child had invariably been a son.
He, Chitravahana, was the first to have only a daughter Chitrangada
to perpetuate the race. He had, therefore, always treated her as a
son and had made her his heir.
Continuing, the king said:
"The one son that will be born to her must be the perpetuator of
my race. That son will be the price that I shall demand for this
marriage. You can take her, if you like, on this condition."
Arjuna promised and took Chitrangada to wife, and lived in her
father's capital for three years. When a son was born to them, he
embraced her with affection, and taking leave of her and her
father, set out again on his travels.
GODS: MADANA (Eros). VASANTA (Lycoris).
MORTALS: CHITRA, daughter of the King of Manipur. ARJUNA, a
prince of the house of the Kurus. He is of the Kshatriya or
"warrior caste," and during the action is living as a Hermit
retired in the forest.
VILLAGERS from an outlying district of Manipur.
NOTE.—The dramatic poem "Chitra" has been performed in India
without scenery—the actors being surrounded by the audience.
Proposals for its production here having been made to him, he went
through this translation and provided stage directions, but wished
these omitted if it were printed as a book.
ART thou the god with the five darts, the Lord of Love?
I am he who was the first born in the heart of the Creator. I
bind in bonds of pain and bliss the lives of men and women!
I know, I know what that pain is and those bonds.—And who art
thou, my lord?
I am his friend—Vasanta—the King of the Seasons. Death and
decrepitude would wear the world to the bone but that I follow them
and constantly attack them. I am Eternal Youth.
I bow to thee, Lord Vasanta.
But what stern vow is thine, fair stranger? Why dost thou wither
thy fresh youth with penance and mortification? Such a sacrifice is
not fit for the worship of love. Who art thou and what is thy
I am Chitra, the daughter of the kingly house of Manipur. With
godlike grace Lord Shiva promised to my royal grandsire an unbroken
line of male descent. Nevertheless, the divine word proved
powerless to change the spark of life in my mother's womb —so
invincible was my nature, woman though I be.
I know, that is why thy father brings thee up as his son. He has
taught thee the use of the bow and all the duties of a king.
Yes, that is why I am dressed in man's attire and have left the
seclusion of a woman's chamber. I know no feminine wiles for
winning hearts. My hands are strong to bend the bow, but I have
never learnt Cupid's archery, the play of eyes.
That requires no schooling, fair one. The eye does its work
untaught, and he knows how well, who is struck in the heart.
One day in search of game I roved alone to the forest on the
bank of the Purna river. Tying my horse to a tree trunk I entered a
dense thicket on the track of a deer. I found a narrow sinuous path
meandering through the dusk of the entangled boughs, the foliage
vibrated with the chirping of crickets, when of a sudden I came
upon a man lying on a bed of dried leaves, across my path. I asked
him haughtily to move aside, but he heeded not. Then with the sharp
end of my bow I pricked him in contempt. Instantly he leapt up with
straight, tall limbs, like a sudden tongue of fire from a heap of
ashes. An amused smile flickered round the corners of his mouth,
perhaps at the sight of my boyish countenance. Then for the first
time in my life I felt myself a woman, and knew that a man was
At the auspicious hour I teach the man and the woman this
supreme lesson to know themselves. What happened after that?
With fear and wonder I asked him "Who are you?" "I am Arjuna,"
he said, "of the great Kuru clan." I stood petrified like a statue,
and forgot to do him obeisance. Was this indeed Arjuna, the one
great idol of my dreams! Yes, I had long ago heard how he had vowed
a twelve-years' celibacy. Many a day my young ambition had spurred
me on to break my lance with him, to challenge him in disguise to
single combat, and prove my skill in arms against him. Ah, foolish
heart, whither fled thy presumption? Could I but exchange my youth
with all its aspirations for the clod of earth under his feet, I
should deem it a most precious grace. I know not in what whirlpool
of thought I was lost, when suddenly I saw him vanish through the
trees. O foolish woman, neither didst thou greet him, nor speak a
word, nor beg forgiveness, but stoodest like a barbarian boor while
he contemptuously walked away! . . . Next morning I laid aside my
man's clothing. I donned bracelets, anklets, waist-chain, and a
gown of purple red silk. The unaccustomed dress clung about my
shrinking shame; but I hastened on my quest, and found Arjuna in
the forest temple of Shiva.
Tell me the story to the end. I am the heart-born god, and I
understand the mystery of these impulses.
Only vaguely can I remember what things I said, and what answer
I got. Do not ask me to tell you all. Shame fell on me like a
thunderbolt, yet could not break me to pieces, so utterly hard, so
like a man am I. His last words as I walked home pricked my ears
like red hot needles. "I have taken the vow of celibacy. I am not
fit to be thy husband!" Oh, the vow of a man! Surely thou knowest,
thou god of love, that unnumbered saints and sages have surrendered
the merits of their life-long penance at the feet of a woman. I
broke my bow in two and burnt my arrows in the fire. I hated my
strong, lithe arm, scored by drawing the bowstring. O Love, god
Love, thou hast laid low in the dust the vain pride of my manlike
strength; and all my man's training lies crushed under thy feet.
Now teach me thy lessons; give me the power of the weak and the
weapon of the unarmed hand.
I will be thy friend. I will bring the world-conquering Arjuna a
captive before thee, to accept his rebellion's sentence at thy
Had I but the time needed, I could win his heart by slow
degrees, and ask no help of the gods. I would stand by his side as
a comrade, drive the fierce horses of his war-chariot, attend him
in the pleasures of the chase, keep guard at night at the entrance
of his tent, and help him in all the great duties of a Kshatriya,
rescuing the weak, and meting out justice where it is due. Surely
at last the day would have come for him to look at me and wonder,
"What boy is this? Has one of my slaves in a former life followed
me like my good deeds into this?" I am not the woman who nourishes
her despair in lonely silence, feeding it with nightly tears and
covering it with the daily patient smile, a widow from her birth.
The flower of my desire shall never drop into the dust before it
has ripened to fruit. But it is the labour of a life time to make
one's true self known and honoured. Therefore I have come to thy
door, thou world-vanquishing Love, and thou, Vasanta, youthful Lord
of the Seasons, take from my young body this primal injustice, an
unattractive plainness. For a single day make me superbly
beautiful, even as beautiful as was the sudden blooming of love in
my heart. Give me but one brief day of perfect beauty, and I will
answer for the days that follow.
Lady, I grant thy prayer.
Not for the short span of a day, but for one whole year the
charm of spring blossoms shall nestle round thy limbs.
WAS I dreaming or was what I saw by the lake truly there?
Sitting on the mossy turf, I mused over bygone years in the sloping
shadows of the evening, when slowly there came out from the folding
darkness of foliage an apparition of beauty in the perfect form of
a woman, and stood on a white slab of stone at the water's brink.
It seemed that the heart of the earth must heave in joy under her
bare white feet. Methought the vague veilings of her body should
melt in ecstasy into air as the golden mist of dawn melts from off
the snowy peak of the eastern hill. She bowed herself above the
shining mirror of the lake and saw the reflection of her face. She
started up in awe and stood still; then smiled, and with a careless
sweep of her left arm unloosed her hair and let it trail on the
earth at her feet. She bared her bosom and looked at her arms, so
flawlessly modelled, and instinct with an exquisite caress. Bending
her head she saw the sweet blossoming of her youth and the tender
bloom and blush of her skin. She beamed with a glad surprise. So,
if the white lotus bud on opening her eyes in the morning were to
arch her neck and see her shadow in the water, would she wonder at
herself the livelong day. But a moment after the smile passed from
her face and a shade of sadness crept into her eyes. She bound up
her tresses, drew her veil over her arms, and sighing slowly,
walked away like a beauteous evening fading into the night. To me
the supreme fulfilment of desire seemed to have been revealed in a
flash and then to have vanished. . . . But who is it that pushes
Enter CHITRA, dressed as a woman.
Ah! it is she. Quiet, my heart! . . . Fear me not, lady! I am a
Honoured sir, you are my guest. I live in this temple. I know
not in what way I can show you hospitality.
Fair lady, the very sight of you is indeed the highest
hospitality. If you will not take it amiss I would ask you a
You have permission.
What stern vow keeps you immured in this solitary temple,
depriving all mortals of a vision of so much loveliness?
I harbour a secret desire in my heart, for the fulfilment of
which I offer daily prayers to Lord Shiva.
Alas, what can you desire, you who are the desire of the whole
world! From the easternmost hill on whose summit the morning sun
first prints his fiery foot to the end of the sunset land have I
travelled. I have seen whatever is most precious, beautiful and
great on the earth. My knowledge shall be yours, only say for what
or for whom you seek.
He whom I seek is known to all.
Indeed! Who may this favourite of the gods be, whose fame has
captured your heart?
Sprung from the highest of all royal houses, the greatest of all
heroes is he.
Lady, offer not such wealth of beauty as is yours on the altar
of false reputation. Spurious fame spreads from tongue to tongue
like the fog of the early dawn before the sun rises. Tell me who in
the highest of kingly lines is the supreme hero?
Hermit, you are jealous of other men's fame. Do you not know
that all over the world the royal house of the Kurus is the most
The house of the Kurus!
And have you never heard of the greatest name of that far-famed
From your own lips let me hear it.
Arjuna, the conqueror of the world. I have culled from the
mouths of the multitude that imperishable name and hidden it with
care in my maiden heart. Hermit, why do you look perturbed? Has
that name only a deceitful glitter? Say so, and I will not hesitate
to break this casket of my heart and throw the false gem to the
Be his name and fame, his bravery and prowess false or true, for
mercy's sake do not banish him from your heart—for he kneels at
your feet even now.
Yes, I am he, the love-hungered guest at your door.
Then it is not true that Arjuna has taken a vow of chastity for
twelve long years?
But you have dissolved my vow even as the moon dissolves the
night's vow of obscurity.
Oh, shame upon you! What have you seen in me that makes you
false to yourself? Whom do you seek in these dark eyes, in these
milk-white arms, if you are ready to pay for her the price of your
probity? Not my true self, I know. Surely this cannot be love, this
is not man's highest homage to woman! Alas, that this frail
disguise, the body, should make one blind to the light of the
deathless spirit! Yes, now indeed, I know, Arjuna, the fame of your
heroic manhood is false.
Ah, I feel how vain is fame, the pride of prowess! Everything
seems to me a dream. You alone are perfect; you are the wealth of
the world, the end of all poverty, the goal of all efforts, the one
woman! Others there are who can be but slowly known. While to see
you for a moment is to see perfect completeness once and for
Alas, it is not I, not I, Arjuna! It is the deceit of a god. Go,
go, my hero, go. Woo not falsehood, offer not your great heart to
an illusion. Go.
No, impossible. To face that fervent gaze that almost grasps you
like clutching hands of the hungry spirit within; to feel his heart
struggling to break its bounds urging its passionate cry through
the entire body—and then to send him away like a beggar—no,
Enter MADANA and VASANTA.
Ah, god of love, what fearful flame is this with which thou hast
enveloped me! I burn, and I burn whatever I touch.
I desire to know what happened last night.
At evening I lay down on a grassy bed strewn with the petals of
spring flowers, and recollected the wonderful praise of my beauty I
had heard from Arjuna;—drinking drop by drop the honey that I had
stored during the long day. The history of my past life like that
of my former existences was forgotten. I felt like a flower, which
has but a few fleeting hours to listen to all the humming
flatteries and whispered murmurs of the woodlands and then must
lower its eyes from the Sky, bend its head and at a breath give
itself up to the dust without a cry, thus ending the short story of
a perfect moment that has neither past nor future.
A limitless life of glory can bloom and spend itself in a
Like an endless meaning in the narrow span of a song.
The southern breeze caressed me to sleep. From the flowering
Malati bower overhead silent kisses dropped over my body. On my
hair, my breast, my feet, each flower chose a bed to die on. I
slept. And, suddenly in the depth of my sleep, I felt as if some
intense eager look, like tapering fingers of flame, touched my
slumbering body. I started up and saw the Hermit standing before
me. The moon had moved to the west, peering through the leaves to
espy this wonder of divine art wrought in a fragile human frame.
The air was heavy with perfume; the silence of the night was vocal
with the chirping of crickets; the reflections of the trees hung
motionless in the lake; and with his staff in his hand he stood,
tall and straight and still, like a forest tree. It seemed to me
that I had, on opening my eyes, died to all realities of life and
undergone a dream birth into a shadow land. Shame slipped to my
feet like loosened clothes. I heard his call—"Beloved, my most
beloved!" And all my forgotten lives united as one and responded to
it. I said, "Take me, take all I am!" And I stretched out my arms
to him. The moon set behind the trees. One curtain of darkness
covered all. Heaven and earth, time and space, pleasure and pain,
death and life merged together in an unbearable ecstasy. . . . With
the first gleam of light, the first twitter of birds, I rose up and
sat leaning on my left arm. He lay asleep with a vague smile about
his lips like the crescent moon in the morning. The rosy red glow
of the dawn fell upon his noble forehead. I sighed and stood up. I
drew together the leafy lianas to screen the streaming sun from his
face. I looked about me and saw the same old earth. I remembered
what I used to be, and ran and ran like a deer afraid of her own
shadow, through the forest path strewn with shephali flowers. I
found a lonely nook, and sitting down covered my face with both
hands, and tried to weep and cry. But no tears came to my eyes.
Alas, thou daughter of mortals! I stole from the divine
Storehouse the fragrant wine of heaven, filled with it one earthly
night to the brim, and placed it in thy hand to drink— yet still I
hear this cry of anguish!
Who drank it? The rarest completion of life's desire, the first
union of love was proffered to me, but was wrested from my grasp?
This borrowed beauty, this falsehood that enwraps me, will slip
from me taking with it the only monument of that sweet union, as
the petals fall from an overblown flower; and the woman ashamed of
her naked poverty will sit weeping day and night. Lord Love, this
cursed appearance companions me like a demon robbing me of all the
prizes of love—all the kisses for which my heart is athirst.
Alas, how vain thy single night had been! The barque of joy came
in sight, but the waves would not let it touch the shore.
Heaven came so close to my hand that I forgot for a moment that
it had not reached me. But when I woke in the morning from my dream
I found that my body had become my own rival. It is my hateful task
to deck her every day, to send her to my beloved and see her
caressed by him. O god, take back thy boon!
But if I take it from you how can you stand before your lover?
To snatch away the cup from his lips when he has scarcely drained
his first draught of pleasure, would not that be cruel? With what
resentful anger he must regard thee then?
That would be better far than this. I will reveal my true self
to him, a nobler thing than this disguise. If he rejects it, if he
spurns me and breaks my heart, I will bear even that in
Listen to my advice. When with the advent of autumn the
flowering season is over then comes the triumph of fruitage. A time
will come of itself when the heat-cloyed bloom of the body will
droop and Arjuna will gladly accept the abiding fruitful truth in
thee. O child, go back to thy mad festival.
WHY do you watch me like that, my warrior?
I watch how you weave that garland. Skill and grace, the twin
brother and sister, are dancing playfully on your finger tips. I am
watching and thinking.
What are you thinking, sir?
I am thinking that you, with this same lightness of touch and
sweetness, are weaving my days of exile into an immortal wreath, to
crown me when I return home.
Home! But this love is not for a home!
Not for a home?
No. Never talk of that. Take to your home what is abiding and
strong. Leave the little wild flower where it was born; leave it
beautifully to die at the day's end among all fading blossoms and
decaying leaves. Do not take it to your palace hall to fling it on
the stony floor which knows no pity for things that fade and are
Is ours that kind of love?
Yes, no other! Why regret it? That which was meant for idle days
should never outlive them. Joy turns into pain when the door by
which it should depart is shut against it. Take it and keep it as
long as it lasts. Let not the satiety of your evening claim more
than the desire of your morning could earn. . . . The day is done.
Put this garland on. I am tired. Take me in your arms, my love. Let
all vain bickerings of discontent die away at the sweet meeting of
Hush! Listen, my beloved, the sound of prayer bells from the
distant village temple steals upon the evening air across the
I CANNOT keep pace with thee, my friend! I am tired. It is a
hard task to keep alive the fire thou hast kindled. Sleep overtakes
me, the fan drops from my hand, and cold ashes cover the glow of
the fire. I start up again from my slumber and with all my might
rescue the weary flame. But this can go on no longer.
I know, thou art as fickle as a child. Ever restless is thy play
in heaven and on earth. Things that thou for days buildest up with
endless detail thou dost shatter in a moment without regret. But
this work of ours is nearly finished. Pleasure-winged days fly
fast, and the year, almost at its end, swoons in rapturous
I WOKE in the morning and found that my dreams had distilled a
gem. I have no casket to inclose it, no king's crown whereon to fix
it, no chain from which to hang it, and yet have not the heart to
throw it away. My Kshatriya's right arm, idly occupied in holding
it, forgets its duties.
Tell me your thoughts, sir!
My mind is busy with thoughts of hunting today. See, how the
rain pours in torrents and fiercely beats upon the hillside. The
dark shadow of the clouds hangs heavily over the forest, and the
swollen stream, like reckless youth, overleaps all barriers with
mocking laughter. On such rainy days we five brothers would go to
the Chitraka forest to chase wild beasts. Those were glad times.
Our hearts danced to the drumbeat of rumbling clouds. The woods
resounded with the screams of peacocks. Timid deer could not hear
our approaching steps for the patter of rain and the noise of
waterfalls; the leopards would leave their tracks on the wet earth,
betraying their lairs. Our sport over, we dared each other to swim
across turbulent streams on our way back home. The restless spirit
is on me. I long to go hunting.
First run down the quarry you are now following. Are you quite
certain that the enchanted deer you pursue must needs be caught?
No, not yet. Like a dream the wild creature eludes you when it
seems most nearly yours. Look how the wind is chased by the mad
rain that discharges a thousand arrows after it. Yet it goes free
and unconquered. Our sport is like that, my love! You give chase to
the fleet-footed spirit of beauty, aiming at her every dart you
have in your hands. Yet this magic deer runs ever free and
My love, have you no home where kind hearts are waiting for your
return? A home which you once made sweet with your gentle service
and whose light went out when you left it for this wilderness?
Why these questions? Are the hours of unthinking pleasure over?
Do you not know that I am no more than what you see before you? For
me there is no vista beyond. The dew that hangs on the tip of a
Kinsuka petal has neither name nor destination. It offers no answer
to any question. She whom you love is like that perfect bead of
Has she no tie with the world? Can she be merely like a fragment
of heaven dropped on the earth through the carelessness of a wanton
Ah, that is why I always seem about to lose you. My heart is
unsatisfied, my mind knows no peace. Come closer to me,
unattainable one! Surrender yourself to the bonds of name and home
and parentage. Let my heart feel you on all sides and live with you
in the peaceful security of love.
Why this vain effort to catch and keep the tints of the clouds,
the dance of the waves, the smell of the flowers?
Mistress mine, do not hope to pacify love with airy nothings.
Give me something to clasp, something that can last longer than
pleasure, that can endure even through suffering.
Hero mine, the year is not yet full, and you are tired already!
Now I know that it is Heaven's blessing that has made the flower's
term of life short. Could this body of mine have drooped and died
with the flowers of last spring it surely would have died with
honour. Yet, its days are numbered, my love. Spare it not, press it
dry of honey, for fear your beggar's heart come back to it again
and again with unsated desire, like a thirsty bee when summer
blossoms lie dead in the dust.
TONIGHT is thy last night.
The loveliness of your body will return tomorrow to the
inexhaustible stores of the spring. The ruddy tint of thy lips
freed from the memory of Arjuna's kisses, will bud anew as a pair
of fresh asoka leaves, and the soft, white glow of thy skin will be
born again in a hundred fragrant jasmine flowers.
O gods, grant me this my prayer! Tonight, in its last hour let
my beauty flash its brightest, like the final flicker of a dying
Thou shalt have thy wish.
WHO will protect us now?
Why, by what danger are you threatened?
The robbers are pouring from the northern hills like a mountain
flood to devastate our village.
Have you in this kingdom no warden?
Princess Chitra was the terror of all evil doers. While she was
in this happy land we feared natural deaths, but had no other
fears. Now she has gone on a pilgrimage, and none knows where to
Is the warden of this country a woman?
Yes, she is our father and mother in one.
Why are you sitting all alone?
I am trying to imagine what kind of woman Princess Chitra may
be. I hear so many stories of her from all sorts of men.
Ah, but she is not beautiful. She has no such lovely eyes as
mine, dark as death. She can pierce any target she will, but not
our hero's heart.
They say that in valour she is a man, and a woman in
That, indeed, is her greatest misfortune. When a woman is merely
a woman; when she winds herself round and round men's hearts with
her smiles and sobs and services and caressing endearments; then
she is happy. Of what use to her are learning and great
achievements? Could you have seen her only yesterday in the court
of the Lord Shiva's temple by the forest path, you would have
passed by without deigning to look at her. But have you grown so
weary of woman's beauty that you seek in her for a man's
With green leaves wet from the spray of the foaming waterfall, I
have made our noonday bed in a cavern dark as night. There the cool
of the soft green mosses thick on the black and dripping stone,
kisses your eyes to sleep. Let me guide you thither.
Not today, beloved.
Why not today?
I have heard that a horde of robbers has neared the plains.
Needs must I go and prepare my weapons to protect the frightened
You need have no fear for them. Before she started on her
pilgrimage, Princess Chitra had set strong guards at all the
Yet permit me for a short while to set about a Kshatriya's work.
With new glory will I ennoble this idle arm, and make of it a
pillow more worthy of your head.
What if I refuse to let you go, if I keep you entwined in my
arms? Would you rudely snatch yourself free and leave me? Go then!
But you must know that the liana, once broken in two, never joins
again. Go, if your thirst is quenched. But, if not, then remember
that the goddess of pleasure is fickle, and waits for no man. Sit
for a while, my lord! Tell me what uneasy thoughts tease you. Who
occupied your mind today? Is it Chitra?
Yes, it is Chitra. I wonder in fulfilment of what vow she has
gone on her pilgrimage. Of what could she stand in need?
Her needs? Why, what has she ever had, the unfortunate creature?
Her very qualities are as prison walls, shutting her woman's heart
in a bare cell. She is obscured, she is unfulfilled. Her womanly
love must content itself dressed in rags; beauty is denied her. She
is like the spirit of a cheerless morning, sitting upon the stony
mountain peak, all her light blotted out by dark clouds. Do not ask
me of her life. It will never sound sweet to man's ear.
I am eager to learn all about her. I am like a traveller come to
a strange city at midnight. Domes and towers and garden-trees look
vague and shadowy, and the dull moan of the sea comes fitfully
through the silence of sleep. Wistfully he waits for the morning to
reveal to him all the strange wonders. Oh, tell me her story.
What more is there to tell?
I seem to see her, in my mind's eye, riding on a white horse,
proudly holding the reins in her left hand, and in her right a bow,
and like the Goddess of Victory dispensing glad hope all round her.
Like a watchful lioness she protects the litter at her dugs with a
fierce love. Woman's arms, though adorned with naught but
unfettered strength, are beautiful! My heart is restless, fair one,
like a serpent reviving from his long winter's sleep. Come, let us
both race on swift horses side by side, like twin orbs of light
sweeping through space. Out from this slumbrous prison of green
gloom, this dank, dense cover of perfumed intoxication, choking
Arjuna, tell me true, if, now at once, by some magic I could
shake myself free from this voluptuous softness, this timid bloom
of beauty shrinking from the rude and healthy touch of the world,
and fling it from my body like borrowed clothes, would you be able
to bear it? If I stand up straight and strong with the strength of
a daring heart spurning the wiles and arts of twining weakness, if
I hold my head high like a tall young mountain fir, no longer
trailing in the dust like a liana, shall I then appeal to man's
eye? No, no, you could not endure it. It is better that I should
keep spread about me all the dainty playthings of fugitive youth,
and wait for you in patience. When it pleases you to return, I will
smilingly pour out for you the wine of pleasure in the cup of this
beauteous body. When you are tired and satiated with this wine, you
can go to work or play; and when I grow old I will accept humbly
and gratefully whatever corner is left for me. Would it please your
heroic soul if the playmate of the night aspired to be the helpmeet
of the day, if the left arm learnt to share the burden of the proud
I never seem to know you aright. You seem to me like a goddess
hidden within a golden image. I cannot touch you, I cannot pay you
my dues in return for your priceless gifts. Thus my love is
incomplete. Sometimes in the enigmatic depth of your sad look, in
your playful words mocking at their own meaning, I gain glimpses of
a being trying to rend asunder the languorous grace of her body, to
emerge in a chaste fire of pain through a vaporous veil of smiles.
Illusion is the first appearance of Truth. She advances towards her
lover in disguise. But a time comes when she throws off her
ornaments and veils and stands clothed in naked dignity. I grope
for that ultimate you, that bare simplicity of truth.
Why these tears, my love? Why cover your face with your hands?
Have I pained you, my darling? Forget what I said. I will be
content with the present. Let each separate moment of beauty come
to me like a bird of mystery from its unseen nest in the dark
bearing a message of music. Let me for ever sit with my hope on the
brink of its realization, and thus end my days.
CHITRA and ARJUNA
My lord, has the cup been drained to the last drop? Is this,
indeed, the end? No, when all is done something still remains, and
that is my last sacrifice at your feet.
I brought from the garden of heaven flowers of incomparable
beauty with which to worship you, god of my heart. If the rites are
over, if the flowers have faded, let me throw them out of the
temple [unveiling in her original male attire]. Now, look at your
worshipper with gracious eyes.
I am not beautifully perfect as the flowers with which I
worshipped. I have many flaws and blemishes. I am a traveller in
the great world-path, my garments are dirty, and my feet are
bleeding with thorns. Where should I achieve flower-beauty, the
unsullied loveliness of a moment's life? The gift that I proudly
bring you is the heart of a woman. Here have all pains and joys
gathered, the hopes and fears and shames of a daughter of the dust;
here love springs up struggling toward immortal life. Herein lies
an imperfection which yet is noble and grand. If the flower-service
is finished, my master, accept this as your servant for the days to
I am Chitra, the king's daughter. Perhaps you will remember the
day when a woman came to you in the temple of Shiva, her body
loaded with ornaments and finery. That shameless woman came to
court you as though she were a man. You rejected her; you did well.
My lord, I am that woman. She was my disguise. Then by the boon of
gods I obtained for a year the most radiant form that a mortal ever
wore, and wearied my hero's heart with the burden of that deceit.
Most surely I am not that woman.
I am Chitra. No goddess to be worshipped, nor yet the object of
common pity to be brushed aside like a moth with indifference. If
you deign to keep me by your side in the path of danger and daring,
if you allow me to share the great duties of your life, then you
will know my true self. If your babe, whom I am nourishing in my
womb be born a son, I shall myself teach him to be a second Arjuna,
and send him to you when the time comes, and then at last you will
truly know me. Today I can only offer you Chitra, the daughter of a
Beloved, my life is full.
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